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Hello pets, Goodbye rentals

Our housing landscape relies on private rental owners, with a third of Tasmanian households renting and around 50,000 private rental properties providing housing for others.  Given the seriousness of our housing situation, the focus should be on protecting and growing our rental stock by ensuring the rights of owners and tenants are fair and balanced.

The Government’s decision to remove an owner’s ability to decide whether they accept the additional risk of animals in their property or not is not fair. It is also illogical as pushing rental properties from the market is never a good idea, but especially not when property investment activity in Tasmania is already trending downwards, sitting at around half of what it was only a few years ago.

The removal of this fair right from owners will be too much for some who will instead leave their property vacant, switch to visitor accommodation or sell. And while some may celebrate the sale of an investment property, it is twice as likely that this property will be sold to an owner-occupier rather than returning to the rental market which further depletes the number of rental properties available for those who choose to rent or cannot afford to buy.

Fundamentally, animals in property creates additional risk that does not exist otherwise. For instance, a dog cannot chew and destroy timber windowsills or wear deep grooves into timber floors with their persistent scratching if there is no dog present. A cat cannot destroy carpet and underlay with urine and have the odour locked into the subfloor if there is no cat present.

Most rental owners are animal-loving people, and many have pets of their own so they know first-hand the damage that can easily and quickly occur. Most rental owners also have stories to tell about their stressful and costly experiences when it comes to animals in their property. The cost of replacing carpets, refinishing floors, fixing doors, windowsills and decking reaches into the tens of thousands, and restoring gardens and lawns annihilated by bored dogs is expensive work.

Sadly, not all animal owners are responsible people. We need to look at this situation with the rose-coloured glasses off. Of course, there are many happy and respectful rental households with pets, but there are also too many that end in horror and repairs the tenant cannot afford.

For example, I have spoken to a distraught owner who had tenants abandon their property, driving off with thousands owed in rent and leaving behind an almighty mess and animals inside the premises that starved to death. In another case, a tenant had three large dogs in a town house and permitted the dogs to routinely use the third bedroom of the property as their inside toilet. That is where the baseline is for care, respect and welfare for some.

It is undeniable that more animals in rental properties – especially when they are forced on owners – will result in more significantly more property damage, more tension between owners and tenants, more stress and expense on owners, and a considerably higher burden on whichever body is tasked with receiving, assessing and manage exemptions and the endless stream of disputes over damage.

A fairer compromise which preserves owners’ fair rights and protects rental stock is the introduction of a pet bond. This will achieve the same goal of increasing the number of rental properties that accept animals. With a pet bond, tenants can have an animal if the owner accepts this and if the tenant is prepared to have extra financial security held. This would help achieve the goal of having more tenants with animals able to secure a rental property while balancing fair rights for owners and the need to maintain privately owned rental stock.

 The removal of an owner’s right to decide whether they accept animals in their property is so significant that, if implemented, will undoubtedly see rental properties removed from the market. The removal of such an important right from rental owners that this will be the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ for many owners.  This will compound the current situation where the number of investors selling their Tasmanian rental property has more than doubled in the past year.

No one is denying we have a major housing crisis that demands action. That said, the temptation to remove owners' fair rights in attempts to compensate for government failures at all levels to provide the homes we need must be avoided. Ultimately, the more unattractive the legislative environment is for rental owners, the less private rental properties there will be available.



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