Call for more pet-friendly complexes
According to Insight Survey’s 2019 South African Pet Care Industry Landscape Report, pets are increasingly being treated as part of the family, with owners spending more and aligning their pet’s lifestyle with their own, yet for many the biggest challenge is finding pet-friendly homes and complexes.
“There are not nearly enough pet-friendly rental properties to meet the high demand as a growing number of landlords and bodies corporate across the board are adopting a ‘no pet’ policy, even when the home is spacious with large grounds,” says Yael Geffen, CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty.
“It has also become an issue in the purchase market where we are seeing more and more sectional title and cluster developments imposing an outright ban on pets, severely limiting buyer’s choices, especially in the lower to mid-markets.
“People assume that because the suburbs are traditionally family oriented, there would be more pet-friendly accommodation available but this is simply not the case anymore.
“Densification has led to a growing number of clusters and complexes in suburban areas and even those with homes with small gardens often restrict or ban pets and it seems landlords are increasingly equating animals with damage, and this sometimes even extends to smaller pets like birds.”
However, Geffen says that the decision to not allow pets in a complex or rental property is usually based on envisioned problems rather than actual issues.
Little difference in damage with or without pets
“According to a recent American study ‘Companion Animal Renters and Pet-Friendly Housing in the US’, there is little, if any, difference in damage resulting from tenants with or without pets.
“And, interestingly, the cost of damage from pets was much smaller than the costs associated with tenants with children – and we all know that kids can be a lot noisier than animals.”
Lorraine-Marie Delbridge, Rental Manager for the group in Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs says that whilst at least 60% of their prospective tenant’s request pet-friendly accommodation, only 20% of their rental properties cater to this need.
“Even in the current market with many more available rental properties, people often continue the search until the 24th hour, but sadly it’s no longer uncommon for desperate home seekers to eventually resort to re-homing or even surrendering their pets when they fail to find pet-friendly accommodation in time.”
She adds that many clusters and complexes have become extremely strict regarding pets and that the few that do allow them have to approve them first which means that agents have to make a plea on the prospective tenant’s behalf, sometimes even having to supply photos.
How landlords benefit by allowing pets
Geffen believes that many landlords only consider the possible drawbacks of having pets in their investment properties, failing to weigh them against the benefits of offering pet-friendly accommodation, of which there are many:
- Increased demand – With far demand exceeding supply, this usually means shorter vacancy periods, thereby ensuring a steady cash flow from rent payments;
- More applications – Which allows your Property Manager to be very selective in choosing the best tenants for your property;
- Higher rentals – Pet-friendly properties usually achieve higher rentals as most pet owners are happy to pay premium for suitable accommodation;
- Pet owners are long-term – Pet-friendly rentals are hard to come by, especially for people who need gardens for dogs or have multiple pets, and moving is also much harder with pets, so once they secure a suitable property they are generally inclined to sign a longer lease and/or renew their lease.
- This is supported by the US research which found that that tenants with pets stayed an average of 23 to 46 months compared to just 15 to 18 months for tenants without pets;
- Pet owners are generally responsible – Pets come with many needs and if someone chooses to have a pet long-term, it shows that they are generally a responsible person overall, which often transfers to their management of other key aspects like paying rent on time and taking care of the property.
Ways landlords can protect themselves
Dellbridge says that although it may seem like they are putting their properties at risk by allowing tenants with pets, there are ways that landlords can protect themselves and their properties, all the while opening up their investments to a whole new market:
- Additional deposit – Landlords can raise the deposit to cover additional damage that may occur;
- Setting rules – These can include limiting the number of pets allowed on the property, only allowing approved pets to live on the property, establishing how clean the yard must be kept and setting approved spaces for the pet in shared properties;
- Adjust the inspection criteria – And ensure the tenant understands that even slight damage to interior features like flooring or holes or dead grass in the garden will be included in the exit inspection and the property will need to be left in the same condition as when entering the lease;
- Amend the lease – To include the specific pet deposit and other relevant terms like requiring a flea treatment inside and out when vacating the property.