Renting with pets: What landlords need to know

Jul 2, 2018

Whether it’s a dog, a cat or something more exotic, millions of Australians are proud pet owners.

But despite the nation’s love affair with pets, it’s common for them to be banned from rental accommodation across the country in strata by-laws and tenancy agreements.

This can leave tenants in awkward situations, caught between a need to secure rental accommodation and loyalty to their faithful friends.

There are also issues for landlords, some of whom are currently in the firing line of proposed legal changes that would make it harder for them to refuse requests by tenants to have pets.

While the rules governing pets in rental properties vary from state to state, here are some simple things landlords need to know about this rapidly changing area.

Navigating the minefield of laws, renal agreements & strata schemes

There are three sets of rules you need to consider when it comes to pets in properties – the laws of your state, the rental agreement in place and the rules of the strata scheme if you live in an apartment building.

In some states, such Victoria and New South Wales, there are no laws that directly cover pets in tenancies. Hence, landlords opposed to allowing pets tend to include clauses in tenancy agreements banning renters from keeping them.

More pet friendly landlords, by contrast, may require renters to seek consent before they can bring their pet home.

The situation is similar when it comes to apartments. Strata schemes commonly include a by-law regulating if, and in what circumstances, residents – owners and tenants alike – can keep pets. These by-laws may prohibit it outright or allow it with the consent of the owners’ corporation.

In Victoria, however, the situation is set to change. Under proposed laws, landlords will only be able to refuse pet requests in certain circumstances.

These proposed changes — the first of their kind in Australia — means landlords will not be able to “unreasonably refuse” a request to own a pet in a rental property.

Meanwhile, Western Australia is the only state in Australia where landlords are allowed to charge pet bonds, which are a fixed charge of $260 to cover repairs to any pet damage.

Exceptions for assistance animals

While the legal context in Victoria is shifting, there are national laws making it illegal for assistance animals to be prohibited from rentals.

This means that certain animals, like guide dogs, which are specially trained to help people with disabilities can’t be refused from rental properties. These animals are commonly used to assist people with sight or hearing impairment and those susceptible to seizures.

Hiding pets in rentals

Desperate to stay with their furry friends, some tenants may attempt to hide pets from landlords in order to stay together in a rented home.

For this reason, real estate agents and landlords should be on the lookout for tell-tale signs of an animal such as smell, scratch marks and damage to the garden.

Pets can also cause nuisance, so there is also the chance that a disgruntled neighbor may report a tenant to the real estate agent or landlord, making hiding pets a high-risk strategy for tenants.