Changes to pets in tenancies rules, and what it means for landlords
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Changes to pets in tenancies rules, and what it means for landlords

tax-and-legal-advice
1 minute read

Changes to pets in tenancies rules, and what it means for landlords

November 07, 2018

Recent legislation in Victoria allowing pets in rental properties as the default position for all tenants is gaining momentum in other Australian states, but if you don’t want an animal living in your rental property, can you say no?

Many landlords don’t like to risk renting their properties to pet owners due to the various types of damage that can be done to the home by pets.

While pet owners are currently required to give a reasonable security deposit and are responsible for payment for repairs and damages done by pets, landlords often times do not want the hassle of going through the process of collecting additional monies to cover the cost of damages inflicted on their property by pets.

Currently, the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 does not prohibit renters from keeping a pet or require a renter to ask permission from their landlord to house a pet.

However, the majority of landlords include limiting clauses within their rental agreements to refuse rental to pet owners. These clauses can include:

  • Requiring a tenant to ask permission before having a pet in the residence;
  • A strict prohibition against all pets;
  • Additional security and cleaning deposits for the privilege of having a pet in the rental space; or
  • Strata schemes that specifically exclude pet ownership within their bylaws.

The only exception to this current standard is assistance animals. As such, landlords currently hold the control over the contingencies of their rental agreements and the inclusion or exclusion of pet allowances.

However, there is a movement afoot to alter the control of the situation and give pet owners additional rights.

Various states within Australia are looking to use legislation to change the current regulations or lack thereof. Examples include:

  • Greater restrictions placed on discriminating against pet owners;
  • Allowing written consent from landlords for pet occupancy; and
  • Protecting against unreasonable refusal (In Victoria pet owners will be able to take their case to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a fair ruling).

At the moment, landlords can still limit their rental agreements and refuse to rent to pet owners. Yet it is possible these laws will change, limiting a property owner’s right to refuse pet owners’ rental privileges.

If a landlord wants to continue to restrict renters with pets, they can resort to some of the following to help ensure their properties are well kept and the damages from pet occupancy are mitigated in their property:

  • Additional security deposits for pet owners, within reason;
  • Rental agreements that include additional clauses making it mandatory for pet owners to have the property professionally cleaned subsequent to vacating the premises. This can include:
    • Shampooing carpets;
    • Repairing chewed or damaged flooring, baseboards, cabinets faces, and supplied furniture;
    • Fumigating due to fleas and other possible rodents;
    • Deep cleaning of draperies and any other fabrics that might contain pet dander or hair; and
    • Pet smell removal via a professional company skilled in eradicating unpleasant odors.
  • Limitations to the size and type of pet depending upon the size of the rental and the yard space available for pets;
  • Written policies against loud and ongoing pet noises including but not limited to barking and bird squawking;
  • Nuisances such as pet urine and faeces being grounds for breach of the rental agreement;
  • Safety concerns that include prohibiting dogs that bite or chase neighbors and/or children; and
  • Medical issues including if the pet owner will be sharing the same home/space with a landlord or person, residing in the home, who exhibit allergies to pets. The new laws may find this to be a plausible reason for not renting to pet owners.

For now, while the law does not allow landlords to prohibit renting to pet owners, it does give unfettered decision-making power to landlords to restrict their rental agreements as they choose to and many rental property owners will continue to exercise this right via their lease agreements.

It is yet to be seen what types of legislation will be proposed and how it will affect the rights of landlords and pet owners, alike.

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About the Blogger

Rolf Howard

Rolf Howard

Rolf is Managing Partner of Owen Hodge Lawyers. He has been in the legal practice since 1986 and a partner of Owen Hodge Lawyers since 1992. Rolf focuses on assisting clients to proactively manage legal responsibilities and opportunities to achieve competitive advantage.

Rolf concentrates on business planning and formation, directors’ duties, corporate governance, fund raising and business succession. His major interest is to assist business owners and their financial advisers plan and implement strategies to build and exit from successful businesses.

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