Not so (pet) friendly South Africa

Private Property South Africa
Private Property Reporter

Finding a pet-friendly rental home is becoming increasingly tough as a “no pet” policy spreads across major metros in South Africa.

Many landlords and body corporates are adopting a “no pet” policy, making the hunt for pet-friendly accommodation a grim process for pet owners.

Pet owners house-hunting in South Africa are increasingly forced to choose between finding a home and keeping their beloved animals.

The shrinking pool of pet-friendly accommodation in Cape Town:

The swelling demand for rental accommodation in Cape Town, has triggered a shortage of stock as well as a significant increase in the pricing of homes for the lower and middle markets, which are located in the most sought-after suburbs.

The flood of semigration in these areas is making finding a home a progressively odious task, but even more so for pet-owners who are faced with a shrinking pool of animal-friendly accommodation.

This is especially true in the Atlantic Seaboard and in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town, where fewer than 10% of rental properties make provision for pets.

For other major metros like Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, the prospects of finding pet accommodation isn’t any better for those in search of a pet-friendly home.

According to veteran realtor Manny Testa, luxury estates’ pet policies are actually impacting property values.

Brendan Miller, Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty Atlantic Seaboard and City Bowl CEO, says: “There are not nearly enough pet-friendly rental properties to meet the high demand as the number of landlords and body corporates implementing a ‘no pet’ policy rises. We’re hitting this stumbling block even on unfurnished, spacious homes with large grounds”.

“It has also become an issue in the sales market where we are seeing more and more sectional title and cluster developments imposing an outright ban on pets. This severely limits buyers’ choices, especially in the lower to mid-markets, which on the Atlantic Seaboard means anything from around R2 million to R10m” says Miller.

According to Lorraine-Marie’ Dellbridge, Rental Manager for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty for Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs, “People assume that because the suburbs are traditionally family-oriented there would be more pet-friendly accommodation available, but it’s simply not the case anymore. Most landlords these days equate animals with damage, and this sometimes even extends to smaller pets like birds and fish.”

Dellbridge, reveals that of their pool of prospective tenants who are financially stable, at least 25% of them request pet-friendly accommodation.

Dellbridge adds that the request for a pet-friendly home is becoming increasingly difficult to meet as the availability of pet-friendly accommodation shrinks.

“Desperate people who love their pets often continue the search until the 11th hour, but sadly it’s no longer uncommon for accommodation-seekers to eventually resort to re-homing or even surrendering their animals when they fail to find somewhere to live that will allow pets” says Dellbridge.

The growing need for pet-friendly accommodation in Johannesburg:

While the need for pet-friendly accommodation isn’t a dire requirement in Johannesburg (as in the case of Cape Town), it is a trend that is noticeably starting to pick up in a few suburbs.

According to Shaun Groves, Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty Rental Manager in Gauteng, “Sandton landlords, in particular, are very wary when it comes to pets and Fourways is not far behind with yet another well-known complex’s body corporate recently amending its rules to a no pet policy.

“We are also seeing body corporates effectively granting ‘life rights’ to existing pets, meaning when your current animal passes you’re not allowed to replace it” says Groves.

Pet-friendly accommodation in KwaZulu-Natal:

According to Testa, Principal at Sotheby's International Realty in Durban North and Umhlanga, the availability of pet-friendly accommodation in the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal is proving to be just as tough as the many other metros who are experiencing difficulty.

“When you find a unit in a security complex or estate that allows pets – whether it’s to rent or sell – you’ll move it incredibly quickly simply because the demand for secure pet-friendly accommodation is so much greater than the supply,” says Testa.

One example that Testa refers to is the Mount Edgecombe Country Estate, where on Estate 1 residents are permitted to keep any breed of dog if they obtain permission, but on Estate 2 no dogs that weigh more than 22kg are allowed - with no exceptions granted.

“In my experience it’s a lot easier to move property on Estate 1 and we see more demand for homes there because people know they can live with their dogs, which they generally consider to be members of their family.

“I firmly believe landlords and body corporates are wrong in their approach; people who love animals and own pets put down deeper roots because pets tend to be a 15-year commitment. Most are not fly-by-nighters and they are usually more solid members of the community,” says Testa.

There are several advantages to accepting tenants with animals, like:

1. A larger prospective tenant pool:

Statistics provided by international market researchers, Euromonitor International, indicate that there are currently 5.3 million pet households in South Africa. With the significantly large number of pet owners, landlords have a wider range of prospective tenants to choose from if they allow pets on their property.

2. Pet owners are more financially stable:

Many prospective tenants who own pets are said to be in a better financial footing and are considered more suitable as they are less likely to skip out on their rent payment.

3. Longer tenancy:

Tenants with pets are likely to stay for lengthier periods of time because of how much harder it is to find other pet-friendly accommodation. This is beneficial for landlords as they don’t have to worry about the pressure of finding a new tenant every so often.

4. Responsible pet owners are responsible tenants:

A tenant who is mature enough to take good care of an animal is more likely to treat your property with the same level of respect.

According to Dellbridge “They’re likely to be more stable and responsible long-term tenants who will appreciate and take care of the property because they know that finding another suitable home wouldn’t be easy.”

5. Charge a higher rental fee:

“In the more sought-after suburbs, landlords can charge and achieve higher monthly rentals if they allow animals, as most pet owners are very happy to pay a premium for a pet-friendly home” says Dellbridge.

This is especially so for areas that don’t offer that many pet-friendly options. An increase in the demand for these types of properties versus the shortage of supply, works in the landlords favour as tenants have fewer options to choose from.

For many suburbs in Johannesburg, the situation is reversed, with the supply outweighing the demand. However, Groves believes it would also be financially beneficial for landlords and body corporates to consider their pet policies rather than lose money while they wait for suitable tenants without animals.

“We recently listed 28 units in Sandton and my immediate advice to the developer was to amend body corporate rules to make it pet-friendly as there are a plethora of rental units available in Sandton at the moment but very few that allow animals” says Groves.

6. Happier tenants:

Animals also help to reduce stress. Statistics from Euromonitor International reveal that 85% of pet owners regard their pets as part of the family and 81% of pet owners say they do not feel alone when in the company of their animals – making pet-friendly homes the more desirable option for many tenants.

According to Dellbridge, landlords who are willing to offer pet-friendly accommodation and include a pet-related addendum in their lease agreement are more likely to enjoy greater peace of mind.

“Both the tenant and the landlord should have clear expectations and it is reasonable for a landlord to restrict the type, size and number of the pets allowed.

“It should also be noted that the tenant agrees to maintain a high standard of cleanliness and sanitation, and to monitor noise or disturbances to neighbours” says Dellbridge.

Initially, for Lynn Stacey, a Bantry Bay resident who owns an investment property in Sea Point, the body corporate had a strict “no pets” policy for the complex, but after reaching an agreement, she is now able to rent out her property to pet owners.

“We now allow pets with prior permission, and we have a simple set of rules that tenants agree to adhere to. If they don't, we deal with it immediately and they are given three opportunities to comply after which they face eviction.

“However, so far we have had no problems at all. I really believe that it is an educational process and the anti-pet sentiment is often a result of ignorance” says Stacey.

Despite this, Lew Geffen, Chairman of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International realty says: “There is no doubt that densification is the future face of every city in South Africa, just as surely as people will continue to want to keep pets.

Geffen says that in such a tight national economy, a comprise will eventually need to be made as bonds will still have to be serviced and rental properties can’t stand vacant for months.

“If trustees and landlords want to maintain standards by having their choice of the most desirable residents out of the entire pool of home seekers rather than simply the best of those who don’t own animals, then more flexibility will be needed in the property marketplace” concludes Geffen.

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