Renting with Pets

“I got my dog, Rylie, about two-and-a-half years ago,” explains Alex, a Queensland tenant and pet owner. “I was very lucky to live in a house where pet ownership was permitted. After I moved out of that house, I encountered difficulties. Almost every rental  advertisement said, ‘no pets’. It took two months to find a new pet-friendly house, and it was right down to the wire. I was accepted into a new home just days before my lease ended.”

After months of searching, Alex was fortunate to move into a share-house with his friend, Lauren, and her poodle, Lottie. The two dogs get along well, and their lessor is willing to have tenants with pets.

Unfortunately, many pet owners don’t find pet-friendly rentals. Despite having one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, only around 10% of rental properties in Queensland allow pets. This disparity contributes to the rate of animals being surrendered. The Animal Welfare League claims 25% of pets were surrendered last financial year due to an inability by renters to find pet-friendly homes.

“I had another dog a few years ago, his name was Chief,” says Lauren. “I had him for six years, but because he was so big, I struggled to find a house for him. Eventually, I made the difficult decision to re-home him to a family who owned a large property. I know he is happier there and the family continue to send me photos and messages.”

Lauren’s previous experience with Chief made her very selective when it came to choosing Lottie, years later. As a student, she knew homeownership wasn’t an achievable goal in the near future. She deliberately selected a poodle because of their small size and inability to shed fur. Lauren hopes these traits will improve her likelihood of securing future rental homes with Lottie.

“My dog is my best mate. It doesn’t matter the time of day, she’s always there for me, and I never feel alone,” says Lauren. “It just doesn’t seem fair that people should be discriminated against in their rental housing for owning a pet.”

“My dog promotes a healthy lifestyle for me,” continues Lauren. “Lottie encourages me to take daily walks, and pet ownership also gives me a higher sense of responsibility that carries into other areas of my life.”

Numerous studies have shown the positive effects of pet ownership on people’s health, happiness and resilience. For the elderly, chronically ill, children or those with mental health difficulties, a pet can indeed be a lifeline, providing a reason to get out of bed each day.

When we know just how important pets are to Australians, it seems unfair that tenants are expected to surrender their pets or forego the opportunity of pet ownership.

While Lauren, Alex and their dogs enjoy their current home, knowing how few rental properties accept pets, does play on their minds.

“I’m heading overseas soon, and my Mum will mind Riley while I am away,” says Alex. “But when I get back, I’m in for some trouble trying to find a new home.”

“I try to live day-to-day and not worry,” says Lauren. “Because I already had problems renting with a large dog, I’ve chosen a breed that can fit with my lifestyle and should make finding a rental home possible. But you just never know.”

Both Alex and Lauren would like to see improved pet-ownership rights for tenants. “It would be nice to be given a chance from lessors and agents, instead of just being condemned from the start,” says Lauren.

“We give up thousands of dollars in bond money to live in a rental home, so it seems unreasonable that pet owners are denied an opportunity flat out,” agrees Alex. “It also encourages tenants to sneak pets onto a property and breaks down communication between tenants and lessors.”

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