How To Ask Your Landlord For a Pet
Renting and pet ownership have never really gone hand in hand (or is it paw in paw?). Ask any property owner, and they'll likely tell you that they simply won't allow pets in a property due to the lack of responsibility of owners.
But why should a few bad apples ruin the experience of pet ownership for the rest of us? If we have to suffer through ridiculous rental prices, at least let us own a cat or dog to get through the stress!
Owning a pet and renting a property isn't impossible, though - in fact, plenty of people in the Pet Circle office have pulled it off. We even have a team member who owns and leases an apartment and happily allows pets. So, how did our staff go about this mythical task?
Know your rights
This is a bit of a longer read, but totally worth it to put some frustrations at ease.
First off, know that tenant laws differ from state to state: many people will be aware that in 2017, Victoria took a big step forward by changing the rights of renters across the state. Now, real estate agents and their landlords can no longer include a no pets clause in rental agreements, and while renters will still have to ask for consent, landlords can only refuse in certain circumstances. In Western Australia, landlords may legally ask for a pet bond in order to accept a pet. In most states, you'll need to gain written permission to get around the "no pets" clause that's more than likely been written in to your rental agreement.
It's worth noting though, that the decision may not come down to your real estate agent or even landlord: it might come down to the strata (also known as strata corporations, corporations, body corporates and strata companies) that owns your apartment complex. If they have implemented a strict "no pets" policy, then things might get complicated. However, generally speaking, no strata can deny you of pet ownership without a good cause (and any of their by-laws that work around this must be presented to you 7 days before you move in to a new property). If you have an assistance animal, you outright cannot be refused that animal.
With this knowledge in hand, let's see how you can convince a particularly stubborn real estate agent, landlord or strata into letting you own that cat...
Give your pet (and yourself!) a sparkling resume
Act as though you're trying to get your pet a high-paying job: tell your landlord what type of animal you have, along with their breed, temperament, age, and any training they've received. Provide documents if you can, and definitely let the landlord know about that time your dog saved little Timmy who fell down the well. If you don't yet own an animal but are excited to get one, also give yourself some credit: let the landlord know you've always paid rent on time, always kept the property clean, and are a responsible adult that won't let your cat scratch up the carpet. That's what cat posts are for.
Get some references
Again, pretend that your pet is going for a job: get a letter from your veterinarian or even past landlord stating that your pet was well-behaved. If you have any of your dog's obedience class certificates, include those as well.
One of our team members, Jess, included this letter to her landlord:
"...we own a pet, a Chihuahua. Our dog currently lives with our parents and we would love to be able to have him come and live with us if possible. He is a very sweet natured dog, is fully toilet trained and barks minimally. However, we understand that you may not wish to have pets occupying the residence and our dog is able to remain with our parents if this is so."
Recognise the landlord's concerns
As Jess did, it's important to address your landlord's concerns regarding property damage or disturbance. Actively reassure your landlord that you will take full responsibility for any damages, and have it written in to your rental agreement. You can offer to have the carpets professionally cleaned regularly, or promise to clip your pet's nails to prevent scratching on floorboards. You can even offer to have your entire apartment professionally cleaned and any pests (e.g. fleas) eradicated once you vacate the property.
Be prepared to negotiate
If you have been renting in your current residence for a while and are looking to invite a new furry critter into your life, you may still have to negotiate some terms with your landlord. For example, your landlord may allow you to get a dog, but it may need to be a small breed such as a pug - even though you really wanted a Labrador...
Offer to pay a pet bond, or extra rent
This one could be tricky, as many renters are already strapped for cash come rent due. Legally, a landlord cannot ask for a pet bond (unless in WA), but if you're willing to pay it may be a good option. If your landlord agrees, make sure to get the updated payment written up in a new rental agreement, to avoid any nasty surprises.
But, what if I want a pet other than a cat or dog?
If you're looking to own a family of rats, mice, a ferret, a rabbit or bird, you may find that the definition of "no pets" means "no cats or dogs" - so you may very well be allowed to get them, with minimal fuss. Some landlords and body corporates do not count caged animals in their policy, or animals weighing less than 5 kilograms for example. However, we strongly urge you to seek permission regardless, as you can face fines and/or eviction if you smuggle in a budgie or two...
All in all, approaching your landlord to ask about a pet is all about communication, a willingness to accept responsibility, and trust. If you can prove that you're a responsible owner with a history of excellent apartment upkeep and rental payments, you're likely well on your way to being able to bring an animal companion in to your everyday life.
Empty the shelters!
One of the top reasons that Australian pet shelters and rescues are so over-populated, according to the RSPCA, is due to people being unable to take their pets with them when they move into a non pet-friendly property. When this happens, pets are surrendered or abandoned completely.
If tennants were free to take in animals, the number of pets in shelters would likely fall dramatically. At Pet Circle, we advocate adoption of a pet whenever possible, and assist over 50 shelters around the country with donation of food, bedding and more. Please click the button below to view our rescues.