Victorian Josh Anders’ heart broke when he had to give up his beloved Chihuahua, Shazza, because she wasn’t welcome in his shared rental house in Carlton.
“I just couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t take her in, but the other flatmates weren’t that keen and the landlord said ‘under no circumstances’,” he said.
Luckily for Mr Anders – and Shazza – his parents took her in and he can still visit his four-legged bestie whenever he wants to.
But stories like Shazza’s don’t always end so well. Landlords, worried about the damage pets might cause to their properties, frequently impose blanket bans.
In Victoria, the RSPCA says 15 per cent of dogs and cats surrendered are from renters who can’t take their pet to their new homes. Animal Welfare League Queensland says renters’ pets make up 25 per cent of its intake.
So it was good news for pet-loving tenants in Victoria when sweeping changes to the state’s Residential Tenancies Act were proposed in October 2017. The changes will give tenants more rights – including making life easier for those who have pets.
Under the new legislation, tenants would have the right to have pets, provided they have written consent from their landlord (which could not be unreasonably withheld). If consent was denied, the tenant would be able to take their case to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Legislation for the proposed changes is expected to be introduced to the Victorian Parliament in 2018.
Out west, Western Australian landlords are the only ones in the country allowed to charge pet bonds.
According to rent.com.au, this is a set charge of $260 to cover repairs to any pet damage. Landlords must not charge an extra bond for assistance dogs – across Australia, assistance animals (such as registered seeing-eye dogs) are excluded from pet legislation.
But residential tenancy laws in other states and territories do not mention pets. This means the landlord is free to insert a lease clause that bans pets altogether – or just those that might be a nuisance to neighbours or might break local government bylaws.
Tenants NSW says pet bonds are illegal in that state, but there is no specific ban on landlords refusing to allow pets in their properties.
“The Tenants’ Union believes that such a restriction is a breach of your reasonable peace, comfort and privacy. However, this has not been fully tested before a court or tribunal,” its guide to renting with pets states.
In Queensland, the Residential Tenancies Authority estimates that only 10 per cent of rentals are pet friendly. Even the Real Estate Institute of Queensland reportedly wants landlords to reconsider allowing pets.
Sydney landlord Sophie Dunbury clearly didn’t know about the pets that were sharing her dwelling with her tenants.
“I heard an odd rustling noise in the kitchen,” she says. “I couldn’t see anything but when I placed my glass of water on the table a full-sized ferret (named Vance, as it later turned out) came storming out of the rubbish bin and jumped up onto the table, then thrust his head into my glass of water.”
Ms Dunbury turned to see another ferret emerge from behind the TV.
“There was absolutely nothing I could do in terms of insisting my tenants get rid of them because, while they were making a mess, they weren’t damaging the property or upsetting the neighbours,” she said.