A Tauranga widower faces a heart-wrenching decision to shift to Hamilton rather than be separated from his beloved pooch Abby.
Brett Morrison has two weeks left to find a rental that will accept a dog after the new owner of his tiny Papamoa Beach Rd bach hiked the rent by nearly 30 per cent to an unaffordable $420 a week.
His 11-year-old German shepherd/labrador cross belonged to deceased wife Sarah who succumbed to bowel cancer nine months ago.
"It is the last bit of Sarah I have that is still alive."
The contract concrete layer accepts it would always be harder to find a landlord prepared to accept a dog but his difficulties were magnified by the impact of Tauranga's dire shortage of affordable rentals.
His hopes were dashed yesterday when he looked over the only Tauranga house listed on Trade Me that accepted a dog but he said it was not suitable.
Mr Morrison said it would be a huge wrench to leave Tauranga because of its happy memories.
It was a place where he had put down deep roots, including becoming an ambassador for Bowel Cancer New Zealand to raise community awareness. He gives speeches all over town and has even appeared as a guest on the Breakfast TV show.
"I am really happy with where I am - I'm in a good place."
He liked the laid-back vibe of Tauranga and the months in which he dedicated himself to caring for his dying wife had given him a new perspective on life. Sarah's suffering saw the surfer swap his board for a camera, and he set about finding the best photos to show his wife.
"It taught me to see stuff rather than just looking, like water beading on bunny tails.
"I want to stay in the Bay because my life is building a momentum, even the MPs like me. But if I can't find somewhere that will take a dog, then I'll have to shift to Hamilton."
Sadly the sale of the house that he had lived in for two years had seen the new owner lift the rent by 27 per cent from $330 a week. He said it was a tiny house unsuited to sharing costs with a flatmate, with the rental agreement stipulating a maximum of two occupants. The new owner also wanted to tie him into a 12-month lease.
There was a marked difference in the markets between Tauranga and Hamilton where 40 per cent of rentals listed on Trade Me allowed dogs and rents were about $360, he said.
Dan Lusby of Tauranga Rentals said the rental market was still very tight, with only four rentals available on the company's books yesterday and properties being snapped up.
An average three-bedroom house in an average location fetched $400 a week while four bedrooms rented at about $450.
Mr Lusby said it was not always the case that if a property owner looked at two reliable prospective tenants, and one had a dog, they would always go for one without a dog. Some landlords treated their own dogs as part of the family and were prepared to accept a dog for another $10 a week.
"Some dogs are better behaved than children, they don't write on walls."
If the references stacked up, then he was happy to recommend a dog-owning tenant to clients.
However, dog breeds known to be aggressive were not acceptable because of the risks the dogs posed to property agents or owners.
Chief executive of Eves and Bayleys, Ross Stanway, was surprised by the size of the increase for such a small property. "I can appreciate why it would be pretty tough for someone used to paying $330 a week."
But he said if the rent had not increased in some time, the amount the new owners were asking for may simply be bringing it in line with the current market rate.
Mr Stanway said there was a glut of rentals in Hamilton, with nowhere near the same pressure from prospective tenants looking for properties. It was the opposite in Tauranga, and it was a statistical fact that the majority of landlords wanted tenants who did not have pets. The next level down were landlords who accepted a cat, narrowing further to those who accepted a dog. As the market tightened, so the opportunities for dog owners got smaller and smaller, Mr Stanway said.
Tauranga's rental market to January:
* Average rents up nearly 9 per cent on 12 months earlier
* Average rents increased by $20 to $30 a week
* A nice three-bedroom home fetched upwards of $440 a week
Source: Rentals BOP and Trade Me