Good dog. Melanie Tait’s dog Goldie. Picture: Supplied
Good dog. Melanie Tait’s dog Goldie. Picture: Supplied

Shameful mistake I made as a landlord

I'M LOOKING for a house to rent. My little family includes two adorable munchkins of the canine variety, Mabel and Goldie, and I know that's going to be a big negative for some landlords.

I know because I used to be one of them. I owned an investment property. I thought I was being a benevolent overlord by letting one of my tenants have a cat. I'm not sure I would have been cool about a dog, and I'm ashamed about that now.

But everything changed for me in 2015 when Mabel came into my life.

I was living alone in the middle of Sydney in a tiny flat I owned. Things weren't great, and I was starting to get depressed. Even though my neighbourhood was throbbing, I felt lonely and disconnected. I didn't pick up on this, but my mother did, and she suggested I get a dog for some company.

Enter Mabel Tami Taylor Tait, a black cavoodle so serious I wonder sometimes if she's actually a university student majoring in philosophy.


Melanie and Mabel on their way home for the first time. Picture: Supplied
Melanie and Mabel on their way home for the first time. Picture: Supplied

Mabel changed my life entirely. Every day we'd be out in the many dog parks near our home. Apparently it was for her social life, but really, it was for mine. Each day at the dog park, I'd talk with other dog owners - making fast friends over our oodles and schnauzers. I had someone to care for, get up every day and make me laugh at least once an hour.

Of course, toilet training Mabel in a carpeted flat was hard, but I also found there wasn't an accident that couldn't be sorted out by soda water and Urine Off.

When I sold my flat to move to Hobart, potential buyers wouldn't have known a dog had been there.

I rented a flat in Hobart that was in pretty bad condition. Mabel found a corner of ancient carpet and started scratching it while I was at work. She was obviously bored, so I doubled the amount of toys I left with her and my neighbour generously walked her each afternoon while I was at work.

A week before we moved out, worried that this landlord might never rent to a pet owner again, I had the whole carpet replaced. It cost me $300, but it's what a responsible pet owner does.

Did someone say dinner? Mabel, Goldie and friend Doris. Picture: Supplied
Did someone say dinner? Mabel, Goldie and friend Doris. Picture: Supplied

Since then, I've lived three years in a house I've owned with a backyard with my now two dogs (welcome, the gorgeous Goldie!) and we're about to negotiate the rental market.

According to the RSPCA, 15-30 per cent of the 45,000 dogs and 54,000 cats surrendered to them last year were because people weren't allowed take them into their rental property. Of those, 6000 dogs and 14,000 cats had to be put down.

To try and reverse the trend, First National Real Estate is now calling for landlords to allow tenants to have pets.

Victoria is the only state to introduce draft legislation to allow renters to keep pets as a default, although this has not yet been enshrined in law. In the other states and territories, pets are allowed only on a case-by-case basis.

In late 2016, NSW strata by-laws changed to remove any reference to a default pet ban, which means that while strata schemes can still choose to ban animals, they are no longer automatically prohibited.

But pets have been proven to decrease loneliness and increase our immune health, so a pet owner is more likely to be healthy and socially engaged and be able to pay their rent.

I don't ever want to be separated from Mabel and Goldie. They sleep on my bed each night, cuddled into my legs. We walk on the beach every morning and watch TV on the couch at night. They're my family.

So dear prospective landlords, please consider our little canine-human family. We'll take care of your yard, we'll take care of your home, we'll do everything we can be to be the model tenant so you won't think twice about renting again to people with pets.

Melanie Tait is a freelance journalist and playwright. Tweet her @melanietait.