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Who needs a doorbell when you’ve got a golden retriever to let you know someone’s at the door? How else could the humans possibly know that the postman has arrived with the parcel they’ve been waiting for? Well, if you’re a tenant, there’s every chance that the golden retriever isn’t in the house because he’s not allowed to be. He’s probably not in the garden either, because you aren’t allowed him on your lease. Luckily, if you’re a fan of the floof, yet more changes are being tabled which may allow your furry friends to live alongside you! If you’re a landlord, this might be something that scares you. Surely this means animal fluff all over the house, damaged property and chattels and absolutely the distinct smell of animal when it comes to re-renting your property to new tenants, right? Well, maybe you don’t need to be so fearful of housing the four legged after all!
There are plenty of other countries around the world that successfully allow animals in rentals, so should New Zealand follow the trend? Or is it all just a pipe dream for tenants to expect to be allowed an animal in the house? What does it mean for the marketplace? Luckily, we’ve got a pretty good idea of how it might look, so don’t panic just yet!
The proposed changes which would see animals allowed in rental properties across the country come as a part of the continuous rental reforms being introduced into the marketplace. It is almost weekly that a new proposed change is tabled, and it seems as though there is a common trend amongst the changes. A majority of the proposed changes that have been recently discussed allow tenants more flexibility to make a house a home and to enjoy a longer tenure in a property. Whether that be the ability to make minor cosmetic changes to a property or the ban on no-cause terminations, tenants seem to be shaping up to take on longer term leases across the country. With this in mind, the changes would dictate that landlords could no longer refuse to accept a tenant on the basis that they have pets. For example, if a landlord had to choose between two tenants, one with a dog and one without, the landlord must be able to provide a reasonable excuse to not select the tenant with the dog aside from the addition of the four-legged friend.
Exceptions to this of course are where it would be unreasonable to house an animal in such a property. For example, no one wants to see a Great Dane in a one bedroom apartment. Yet the changes that are proposed would well lend themselves to a longer tenure as tenants with dogs are conscious of finding appropriate properties for their animals and this would allow them to do so.
One option for landlords to protect themselves however, is the concept of a pet bond; similar to the bond that the human pays, but for the protection of the property directly against the animal. The animal would be listed on the tenancy and an additional bond collected. This could protect a landlord from the additional wear and tear from having pets live in the property and may also guarantee that the carpets in the property are flea treated and shampooed at the end of a tenancy. However, this could create a grey area where landlords collect the additional bond and don’t release it at the end of tenancy, citing damage from the animal when that is difficult to prove. It could result in increased disputes at the end of tenancy and consequently more tribunal cases.
If tenants agree to pay a pet bond, it would not be unreasonable to assume that there would have to be a separate contract specific to the property which would require additional inspections looking entirely for wear and tear caused by the animal. The rental market now is used to across the board changes. Flexibility has become a staple of being a good landlord, and tenants now are accustomed to being able to adapt quickly when searching for homes. The reasonable expectation in this scenario is that the landlord would increase the rent to address the additional wear and tear caused by the animals. One would assume, as landlords would no longer be able to guarantee whether there would be an animal in the property or not follows on from the lack of ability to reject a tenant based on the inclusion of their animal in the lease. However, what can be certain is that this encourages longer tenancies which provides both landlord and tenants with increased security and stability.
If you want to know how the inclusion of pets in rentals might affect you, or if you’re curious to know whether your property would benefit from allowing animals ahead of the change in legislation, feel free to give one of our property managers a call anytime, obligation free on 04 381 8600.