Whether pets have a place in rentals looks set to remain a contentious issue as even this month the Property Council of Australia came out ahead of proposed Government reforms, suggesting that legislations did not provide an avenue for landlords to recoup the cost of damages caused by pets if it was greater than the rental bond.
Australia has one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world. According to the RSPCA, there are more than 29 million pets in Australia, with around 61 per cent of households including a pet.
Indeed, COVID-19 restrictions appear to have contributed to a huge spike in the number of people choosing a furry housemate.
A surge in pet adoptions from animal shelters has coincided with state and territory government reforms to tenancy legislation, which align to making it easier for renters to have pets.
Traditionally, it has been at the discretion of the property owner (and the body corporate in strata properties) as to whether a pet is allowed to live in a rental property – and only somewhere around 10 per cent of rentals allowed tenants to keep pets as a result.
Last year, almost every state and territory government put freedom of pet ownership on the rental reform agenda. Most agree that the changes have improved housing security for renters with pets.
New legislation in Victoria, for example, gives tenants the right to have a pet with written consent from the landlord, and a landlord wishing to refuse permission must can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for an order to do so.
The rules differ from state to state, which makes it vitally important that landlords stay in touch with their property managers about rental reforms, whether they are in relation to pets or otherwise. In March this year, for example, Victorian landlords had 130 new rules and regulations to be across!
In Queensland, under currently proposed reforms, landlords will still be able to block a tenant from keeping a pet, but only for prescribed reasons.
The debate about the right of a property owner to decide how their premises is used is a debate that is clearly not going to go away.
Landlords should keep open channels of communication with property managers to stay on top of reforms relating to pets and keep an open mind to both the both pros and cons associated with allowing pets in rentals.