New Laws Could See Your Pet M8s Legally Moving In To Your Rental Home Soon

Everyone who’s ever rented before has either done this dance, or knows someone who has. The dreaded house inspection is coming up, but your furry little mate isn’t exactly on the lease. So you’ve gotta scrub the house clean of all traces of dog or cat, and ship your mate off to a secure location for the day and just hope and pray your real estate agents aren’t allergic.
The hard default in the current rental laws means that landlords, almost universally, will deny renters the ability to have pets in the house practically by default.
But there’s a growing push, particularly among animal welfare officials, for laws to be changed to give renters more power and responsibility when it comes to pet ownership; changes that will see a rental property that allows pets become the rule, rather than the exception.
The RSPCA across multiple states is behind the push to get current laws softened, due to the large number of people giving up their beloved pets simply because their living arrangements suddenly change.
In Victoria, 340 cats and 290 dogs were handed in to the RSPCA in 2014/15 by owners who could not get permission to have the animals live with them in their rental home, and could not find alternative accomodation arrangements for them.
In New South Wales, that number shoots upwards to 584 dogs handed in over the past year, over a quarter of the 2,020 pooches surrendered to the organisation.
With the growing issue of housing affordability forcing many people into renting for longer and longer periods of time, the issue of keeping pets is starting to become more of a pressing one.
The NSW Residential Tenancies Act is currently up for review, and pet ownership is one of the issues being addressed. A report is due into NSW Parliament by late June.
The Tenants Union of NSW is firmly behind a shift in attitudes towards pet ownership in rental properties, particularly given the current housing affordability crisis, as policy office Ned Cutcher details:

“The decision to keep a pet should have no bearing on the legal or financial foundation on which your home is established.”

“Keeping a pet is a personal choice and adults shouldn’t have to ask permission for it. Landlords refusing pets is a common complaint and a growing issue.”

“The simple fact is more people are renting for longer, people are having to put off getting pets, having families, getting on with their lives because they haven’t managed to achieve the dream of home ownership.”

“This is something that is the new normal. Our national attitudes toward whether you own your home or rent your home sort of needs to catch up.”

RSPCA Victoria has suggested the possibility of introducing pet bonds as a means of relaxing landlord’s attitudes towards pets (paying over and above ticketed bond price as an surety; a thing which is currently very illegal).

Though a nice idea, it’s unlikely the extra money will change the mind of landlords by themselves, much in the same way that offering to pay overs on rent usually doesn’t secure you a property whilst house hunting.
Instead, softened laws are crucial to ending the stress of trying to find a pet-friendly property by shifting the default back in favour of the tenant, rather than the landlord. As Cutcher noted, the laws protecting landlords against damage to their property already exist. It’s merely a matter of trusting adult tenants with their own responsibilities.

“It should be up to the tenant to make the decision and wear the consequences of that decision, the rules are already adequate to protect landlords and their properties.”

Proposed laws being considered by the NSW Government could soon see people living in strata housing simply inform a body corporate of the presence of a resident pet via a written letter; timely, given that statistics suggest half of the NSW population will be living or working in strata buildings by 2040.

If the laws do indeed change, it’s obviously not going to change the mind of any stubborn landlord who is staunchly anti-pet; there’s always likely going to be loopholes in the lease agreement that allow landlords to veto pet residents.
However, shifting favour back to the tenant, in this particular instance, feels like the smart thing to do. Not only to improve people’s quality-of-life and allow them some semblance of life progress, even in the face of a growing housing crisis, but also to prevent more innocent animals from having to be surrendered simply because an investor isn’t super keen on a few extra paws.
For now, you’ll have to keep your four legged friends a secret. But with any luck, it won’t be for too much longer.
Photo: Rodin Eckenroth/Getty.