When you’re a landlord, it’s necessary to balance the needs and comfort of your tenants and maintain your property’s value. But a big concern around this often comes down to pet damage and how to deal with it.
Minor pet damage typically includes occasional messes like pet hair scattered about, tiny scraps of chewed-up toys, or light scratches on woodwork. But more serious pet damage can range from chewed-up carpets and torn fabrics to severe destruction.
So, what do you do when pet ownership on your rental property becomes an issue?
How to Spot Pet Damage During Property Inspections
From scratches on the hardwood floors to pet urine stains on carpets, identifying pet damage during property inspections may depend on your keen observance and knowledge of common damage types. Remember that some damages may not be visible right away, making thorough inspections periodically crucial.
- Begin with a thorough visual scan. Rounded corners, chewed door frames, or claw marks on wooden surfaces indicate pet damage. Often, these damages are manifested by dogs. Remember that smaller pets, like cats, can inflict equal disruption. Damage from cats often involves scratched upholstery or torn window screens.
- A keen sense of smell can also prove handy. If the property emits a strong odour of pet urine or faeces, this could be a sign that not only the appearance but also the health of your rental property might be at stake. Keep in mind that removing pet odours, especially from carpets and rugs, requires professional cleaning services, which can be expensive.
- Lastly, don’t overlook the outdoor areas. Many pets, especially dogs, can substantially damage landscaping and gardens. Be alert for signs of digging, damaged plants, or ruined fences.
The sooner you notice and address pet damage to your rental property, the less time and money you’ll need to spend on extensive repairs or gaps in your landlord insurance policy.
Recognising Types of Pet Damage to a Rental
Before looking for remedies for pet damage to your rental property, you should know how to identify the various types of damage. Apart from visible damage, don’t overlook hidden ones like:
- Odour and stains from pet urine or faeces
- Scratched and torn upholstery
- Damaged doors, floors, or walls from scratching or chewing
- Flea infestation
- Garden or yard damage.
All of these instances may differ in terms of what landlord insurance policies cover or may not cover.
Accountability of the Landlord for Rental Properties
As a landlord, you are responsible for maintaining a habitable living environment for your tenant, including managing potential risks associated with pets.
Your liability might come into play if a pet can cause damage due to inadequate property maintenance or neglect on your end. For example, if a rickety fence unable to withstand a dog’s rough play falls apart, the costs might fall under your accountability.
Plus, implementing a clear, enforceable pet policy is a fundamental role any landlord should take to prevent pet damage. We touch on this further along in this article.
The Tenant’s Responsibility for Keeping Pets
On the flip side, accountability also rests on the shoulders of the tenant. Regardless of the pet’s behaviour, the tenant is typically responsible for any pet ownership damage that exceeds normal wear and tear of the rental property.
This can range from chewed furniture and scratched walls to stains on the carpet or the need to replace infested floorboards.
The responsibility also extends to the safety of the community. If a pet is aggressive or is on the restricted breed dogs list, the tenant may be held accountable in the event of injury.
Finally, a tenant should always notify the landlord of any damage immediately. This is not just true for pet-related cases, but even other instances like water damage.
Lease Agreements and Pet Policies: Establishing Ground Rules
Landlords in Australia can’t refuse a tenant to keep a pet on the property, but they can make it clear of the tenant’s obligations and responsibilities in the tenancy agreement.
It’s also important to note that certain types of pets aren’t allowed within residential premises, rental or not, as enforced by local council laws – for example, roosters.
Other regulations may exist if your rental property falls under strata or body corporate by-laws. You may need to obtain approval from your body corporate, for example.
When you consider allowing prospective tenants to keep pets in your rental property, lay down clear rules regarding any pet damage to the rental property within the lease agreement. This will then be considered written approval within specific terms and conditions.
Ensuring that both parties are on the same page will protect the property and potentially avoid discord in the future.
Note: Keep in mind that some pets may be necessary, like an assistance dog or emotional support animal.
Specifying Pet Damages in the Lease
So, what should you put in your tenancy agreement relating to pet damage to your rental?
Adequate lease documentation outlines the kind of pet damage that the tenant will be held responsible for. We recommend carefully cataloguing types of potential pet destruction, from scratches on floors and torn carpets to odours or infestations.
This will make sure the tenant understands what a significant breach is and what a minor offence is.
Maintenance Measures for Pet Owners
In the lease agreement, landlords should spell out the tenant’s duties as a pet owner. This includes compliance with regular cleanup and sanitation requirements that help prevent damage and appropriate flea and pest control.
Charging an Additional Rent or Rental Bond
Landlords can ask for a ‘pet fee’ (pet bond) to cover potential damages. This separate, non-refundable fee could be used in addition to a regular security deposit.
Note that pet bonds are not mandatory in Australia, and tenants are not required to pay one.
Enforcing a Pet Policy
Implementing rigorous enforcement measures is key in handling cases of pet damage to rental property. After a strict pet policy has been established, it is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure the rules are observed.
You can do this by sending a warning notice to the tenant if damage is apparent. This allows the tenant to rectify the situation before further action is taken, serving as a fair initial reaction to offences.
Financial penalties may be enforced for repeat offenders, or those who fail to comply after being warned. This can include withdrawing a significant proportion from the security deposit or even requesting reimbursement for repair costs and clean-up services.
We recommend seeking advice from a legal professional or your real estate agent before going down this route.
In more extreme cases, where significant pet damage to rental property occurs despite prior warnings and financial penalties, eviction procedures may be initiated.
Evictions should be seen as a last resort, given they are both time-consuming and potentially costly. Still, they may become necessary if the tenant continues to be non-compliant with the pet policy.
Does Landlord Insurance Cover Pet Damage to a Rental Property?
Specifically, with landlord insurance, it’s essential to understand that not all policies automatically cover pet damage to rental property. Thoroughly read your coverage details or consult with your insurance provider to gain a comprehensive understanding.
For example, at Duo Insurance, we can help you understand what your policy covers and whether tenant damage falls under your existing policy. If it isn’t covered, we can guide you on the best options for your needs.
Some landlord insurance policies might not cover pet-related damage on a rental property unless it falls under the category of a catastrophic event, such as a fire caused by a knocked-over candle.
On the other hand, insurance policies are specifically tailored to accommodate pet damage to a rental property. These pet damage-specific policies typically come at a higher premium but offer the peace of mind that potential damage will be covered.
Get a Quote from our team now to see how we can keep your rental property safe from tenant pets.
- Pet damage during property inspections can include soiled carpets, damaged flooring, chewed furniture, clogged drains, and intense pet odours.
- The landlord is not responsible for pet damages caused by tenants but should state all expectations in the lease agreement. Note that some tenants may need an assistance animal as part of their tenancy.
- Tenants are liable for compensating for pet damages as specified in the lease agreement.
- Specifying pet damage clauses in the lease and imposing additional pet fees can help define the tenant’s liability and avoid disputes or damages caused by pets.
- Landlord insurance typically doesn’t cover pet damage to rental property but some may – we recommend speaking to our team for specific information and guidelines.
Not convinced you need landlord insurance? Here’s why you do.