Pets and Rental Properties – The new rules – 2 March 2020.

Landlords struggle with pet ownership, on one hand pets can damage your property, increasing wear and tear, leaving the place smelly and incurring the wrath of neighbours. On the other, pet-owning tenants are usually more settled and permanent. Finding a pet-friendly residence to rent can prove difficult and competitive for tenants, so once they find an understanding landlord, they are keen to stay.

New pet ownership rules have been introduced, and they give tenants significant rights that they did not have before. Tenants know their rights and some landlords are worried.

In the past, keeping a pet on the premises was at the landlord’s discretion, although assistance pets, such as guide dogs, cannot be refused.

The new rules

There are differences in Australian states about pet ownership rules and regulations during a rental term.

Residential tenancy laws do not mention pet ownership, which leaves the landlord free to insert a ‘no pets’ clause. Landlords should re-examine their rental agreements and include such a clause if they want to exclude pets.

In Victoria however, new laws on pets and renting came into effect on 2 March 2020.

· Tenants must request their landlord’s consent before bringing a new pet onto the premises. This is lodged with the landlord via a Pet Request Form.

· Landlords in Victoria and the ACT must apply to a tribunal to prevent a tenant from keeping a pet.

As for other Australian states and territories, tenants with pets are generally subject to landlord whim, although many of these states are seeking to follow Victorian and ACT changes to pet-ownership rules. For now, landlords outside Victoria and ACT can refuse pet ownership without providing a reason for unsuitability.

In Western Australia, landlords are legally entitled to charge a separate pet rental bond to cover any potential damages to the property.

Of course, if renting with a pet, you should apply the same conditions of regular upkeep and cleanliness to a property as other household tenants. Other than general wear and tear, tenants are responsible for damage caused to a property by the pet.

Cat people or Dog people?

Some landlords may choose to allow cats but refuse dogs, due to a perception of higher maintenance costs and the likelihood of increased damage caused by certain dog breeds.

Strata titles also have their own body corporate rules and fees in place regarding pet ownership.

If you require further assistance about pet ownership rights and regulations while renting, contact your local councils or tenancy unions. Your Property Manager/Estate Agent should know exactly what you can and can’t do, and how to word it.