Does your renter’s insurance policy cover your pet?
If you’re a pet owner, renting a home can be a difficult proposition. Not only do you face the battle of finding a landlord who is willing to accept your furry friend, but you also need to consider the possibility of your pet damaging the rental property. Let’s take a closer look at whether your renter’s insurance or pet insurance will cover accidental property damage, as well as how you can enjoy a stress-free rental experience.
Want to protect your pet?
Are pets covered under renter’s insurance?
If you take out renter’s insurance to cover your contents, there are several ways in which your policy may cover pets:
- Pet insurance. Many insurers offer optional pet insurance or an optional pet lover’s pack that can be added to your policy for an additional premium. This provides cover for your vet bills when your dog or cat suffers an accidental injury. There’s a limit to the cover available, with most insurers imposing a maximum benefit of around $1,500 or $2,000.
- Property damage. Some policies will cover you if your pet causes damage to your contents. However, many insurers do not cover pet damage so you’ll need to read the fine print closely before purchasing a policy. Of course, if your dog or cat causes damage to the building or to the landlord’s fixtures and fittings, this may be covered by the landlord’s insurance policy, but whether you or your landlord are responsible for paying for the damage will be determined by the terms of the tenancy agreement.
- Temporary accommodation. If your rental property or contents are unfit after being damaged by an insured event, your policy should cover temporary accommodation costs for your pet (ie, boarding kennel) until the property is ready for you to move back in.
However, keep in mind that cover differs widely between policies, so it’s essential to read the PDS to find out what is and isn’t covered. Also, make sure to check what sort of pets your insurer will cover – dogs and cats are usually fine, but anything more exotic than that may be excluded from cover.
Does pet insurance cover accidental damage?
No. Pet insurance policies don’t provide any cover for accidental damage your pet causes to your home or rental property. Instead, pet insurance is designed to provide financial protection for the vet bills that arise when your dog or cat suffers an illness or accidental injury.
What are my rights when it comes to owning pets?
Your rights when renting are set out in the Residential Tenancies Act in your state or territory. There are differences in legislation depending on where you live, so it’s worth checking the law locally before submitting a rental application. In NSW, for example, there’s nothing in the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW) that prohibits you from keeping a pet, or that requires you to get your landlord’s consent before you welcome a pet into your home. However, if the landlord doesn’t want you to keep pets in the property, they can include a “no pets” clause in the residential tenancy agreement. Meanwhile, Queensland tenants must get written permission from their landlord if they want to have pets in their home. Your landlord can also add terms and conditions relating to the keeping of pets, such as the type and number of pets allowed in the property. In addition, if you live in a strata-titled property, you’ll need to check the owners corporation by-laws about animal presence. Depending on the terms of these by-laws, you may be able to keep animals if you meet certain conditions, or pets may be excluded from the building altogether. Other issues to be aware of include:
- You have a responsibility not to allow your dog to cause any nuisance, or to interfere with a neighbour’s peace, comfort or privacy. Keeping a pet that makes excessive noise, such as a barking dog, could cause you to breach your tenancy agreement.
- If the landlord legally accesses the property when you are not there and allows harm to come to your pet, for example if they leave a gate open and your pet escapes, you may be entitled to compensation.
- It is illegal for your landlord or body corporate to refuse to allow you to keep an assistance animal.
- Pet bonds are not allowed in any state except WA.
Just because you think your dog is the most adorable creature to ever walk the planet doesn’t mean everyone else is as in love with it as you are. In fact, PropertyClub’s recent survey of landlords with vacant rental properties found that one in four discouraged tenants with pets from applying. There’s a widely held misconception among landlords that tenants with pets equals damage to a rental property, so pet owners are facing an uphill battle right from the get-go. One valuable weapon you can use in this battle is a pet CV. Just like your own CV that you use when applying for a job, a pet CV is designed to show your pet off in the best possible light. Not only can it eliminate any concerns about your pet’s behaviour or health, but it can also give a landlord confidence in your ability to keep the property clean and in immaculate condition.
What’s in a pet CV?
When creating your pet CV, think about what sort of information your landlord would like to know about your furry friend. Details you might want to include are:
- Your pet’s name and a photo
- Your pet’s breed and age
- Information about your pet’s temperament
- How long you have owned your pet
- Health information, for example that your pet is fully up to date with vaccinations, microchipped and desexed
- Details of how often you treat your pet for parasites such as fleas and worms
- Pet character references from previous property managers or even your vet
The Australian Companion Animal Council has developed a Pet Application Form that you can use as a template to help you get started.
Tips for renting with pets
What else can you do to make renting with pets an easier, less stressful experience? Keep the following tips in mind:
- Ask first. Rather than assuming that pets aren’t allowed, ask the landlord whether they’ll be willing to accept your fur-baby. If you’re prepared to show that you are a responsible pet owner and that your animal friend won’t have any adverse effect on the property, you might be surprised just how flexible some landlords are willing to be.
- Consider upping the rent. You may want to think about offering slightly more rent to cover the cost of your furry housemate. Money talks, so let your property manager know if this is a step you’re willing to take to get your pet under the same roof. Pet bonds or pet deposits are common in other parts of the world, but they’re not allowed in any Australian state or territory other than WA.
- Create a pet CV. The previous section explains all the reasons why, so prepare a profile that introduces your landlord to your animal companion in the best possible light.
- Propose a trial period. Landlord or property manager still wary of letting you rent with your pet? You might want to propose a trial period for a few months so you can show just how good a tenant your four-legged friend can be. Just make sure to get the terms and conditions of this trial in writing.
- Keep all your records. Make sure you keep all of your pet’s veterinary records, especially for procedures like vaccinations, desexing and microchipping. That way you’ll be able to produce those documents straight away if the property manager, landlord or neighbours have any concerns about your pet’s health.
- Cleaning concerns. You already have a responsibility to clean the property before you move out, but some landlords and property managers might require you to make an extra commitment before agreeing to let you move in. For example, by agreeing (in writing) to tasks such as steam cleaning carpets or deodorising the property when you leave, you might convince your landlord that you’re worth the risk.
- Pet-proof your home. Just like you would child-proof your home if you had a toddler coming to stay, make sure your home is as safe as possible for a pet. Get down to your furry friend’s height and look for any hazards they might encounter, and move any potential problems well out of harm’s way.
- Match the pet to the property. Make sure any pet you choose is suited to the property you want to rent. For example, if your large-breed pooch loves barking all day long, rolling in mud and exploring a huge backyard, an apartment obviously won’t be the right fit.
Renting with a pet doesn’t have to be hard. With a little preparation and forethought, you can find the perfect property for your furry friend and enjoy all the benefits of pet ownership.