Renting Guide

New government encouraging landlords to allow renting with pets

What is a pet bond and what could it mean for tenants with pets?

12 December 2023

An additional pet bond is to be introduced to rental home leases under the new Government with the aim of encouraging more landlords to allow renting with pets in NZ.

The ACT party policy, taken on by the new coalition Government, is being introduced in 2024 to allow ‘genuine negotiation’ between landlords and tenants, and to increase the number of rentals that allow pets.

At the moment, people with pets will often keep them with family or at a friend’s place, until the time comes when they have a landlord who’s open to pets, or until they own their own home.

Wellington couple, Hannah and Sam, would love their own dog, but they’ve resigned themselves that it won’t happen until they own their own home, which is some years down the track.

“We’d love to have our own dog but we know our landlady wouldn’t be up for it, so we’ll have to bide our time,” says Sam.

Darren Powell, CEO of Auckland-based Crockers Property Group has welcomed the new Government’s announcement on introducing pet bonds. “We see this as giving greater options to home occupiers. Hopefully the bond will provide a greater degree of comfort for landlords and they still have the right to choose,” he says.

The amount of pet-friendly rentals on Crockers’ books are in the minority but those that are, the company tries to publicise on Trade Me Property listings, for instance, with a Pets OK sign across the front of the ad, says Darren.

Pet Refuge, a charity which gives pets of families escaping domestic abuse, temporary shelter, suggests that tenants give their pets CVs describing their personalities and behaviour. The pet CVs should include previous landlord referrals if possible, suggests the animal refuge, which provides a template for tenants with pets.

The charity is right on the money, says Darren. Landlords open to tenants with pets want to know about the animals that will be living in their home, from the size of the pet, any character references, and relevant history that will put their mind at ease, he says.

How much will a pet bond cost?

Peter Lewis, Vice President of the New Zealand Property Investors’ Federation, (NZPIF) notes the organisation welcomes any action to make pets a more agreeable option and this is a step in the right direction though it’s not the full answer.

He expects a pet bond would cost perhaps two weeks of rent, though these details are yet to be confirmed and haven’t been laid out by the Government yet.

He stresses the pet bond will require a legislative change to the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, as it's currently illegal for landlords to take more than the maximum bond of four weeks rent. The legislative amendment is expected to happen in the first few months of 2024.

Why do tenants deserve to have pets?

There’s widespread sympathy in the housing industry for renters who have pets or would like them but would miss out on a rental if they asked to bring their animal with them. But there are some landlords who believe tenants should be able to have them. Long-term property investor, Helen O’Sullivan says she loves to have tenants with pets, especially cats, because their owners tend to be at the property long term. "Once the pet settles in, nobody is going anywhere,” says Helen.

Build-to-Rent developer and landlord, Simplicity Living, offers its tenants the option of bringing pets with some limits on numbers and size (a maximum of two cats in one home, or maximum two small dogs, or a combination of the two). Managing Director Shane Brealey says the company won’t be using a separate pet bond when it’s introduced because it already has a good bond system in place and a second bond would just add to administrative costs, but he likes the idea of a pet bond for other landlords.

The company always thought it was obvious to allow tenants to bring their pets to their build-to-rent developments, says Shane, the owner of a dog, two turtles, 11 chickens and 13 Peking ducks (he and his family live on Waiheke). At the Simplicity Living build-to-rent developments finished so far, a quarter of the residents have pets, with the cats outnumbering the dogs, 2:1

At Simplicity Living developments, they tend to put all the pet owners together, with all the dog owners in one part of the building, he says. It makes sense, there tends to be some shared dog walking that goes on. At an upcoming Mt Wellington development there will be pet wash facilities and plenty of gardens, adds Shane.

The developer also has very tough, animal-friendly vinyl floors, Luxury Vinyl Floor (LVF) from Jacobsen, throughout the Simplicity Living apartments which Shane recommends.

Response from tenants and landlords on the pet bond

From tenants and landlords, the announcement of the pet bond has received a mixed response. Renters United spokesman Geordie Rogers told Stuff that he didn’t think a pet was going to do more than four weeks’ rent worth of damage to a property or more than a landlord’s insurance would allow for, so he sees a pet bond as an unnecessary step.

NZPIF Vice President Peter Lewis says the pet bond raises some more questions. Could landlords also ask tenants to take out some kind of pet damage insurance on top of paying a bond?

The current Tenancy Tribunal ruling is, if you willingly allow a pet in the rental you must expect there to be extra damage and the damage is the landlords’ responsibility not the tenants, he explains.

It may be useful to amend the legislation so that it’s clear that if the damage is over and above a pet bond amount, it is also the tenant’s liability, he suggests. “It needs to be clearly stated in the legislation that if the animal does substantial damage then the tenant can be chased for the costs,” he explains.

How much damage can an animal do? “It varies, but an animal can do thousands of dollars worth of harm,” says the property investor. He remembers having a tenant with a cat and the cat scratched the wallpaper badly at ‘cat height’, so he had to re-wallpaper the entire wall, which took a week.

A full-time landlord, Peter is open to tenants having pets in the right property. He has one house which he says is perfectly set up for dogs, with some land for the animal to run around. If it’s an apartment in a block of flats it wouldn't be such an ideal option because the dog’s barking might annoy other neighbours.

The 90 day no-cause termination for landlords which is being reintroduced by the new Government on residential leases would be useful if this wasn’t resolved, he says.


Gill South
Gill South