New laws making it easier for Victorian renters to have pets come into force

Other changes include long-term leases and allowing tenants to make minor changes, such as putting in picture hooks

New laws making it easier for Victorian renters to have pets come into forceLong-awaited laws to make it easier for renters in Victoria to have a pet come into force on Monday, and long-term renters such as Hayden Cribb are standing by to submit their applications. “I have wanted to get a dog for about five years,” Cribb said. “I asked for permission to get a dog at my last rental place but was refused. I am super excited about the new laws.”
The 38-year-old has been searching dog rescue websites and looking into the availability of German shorthaired pointers — his preferred breed — for months in anticipation. He intended to wait until he had bought a house to get a dog, but said property prices are so high that even well-paid professionals like him cannot afford to enter the property market on a single income.

“[The law change was] so close that I am better off waiting, rather than asking and having it refused beforehand,” he said. “At least I will have some support from the change of the laws.”

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The new laws have been welcomed by tenancy and animal welfare advocates.

RSPCA Victoria’s chief executive, Liz Walker, said 547 animals were surrendered to their shelters in 2017-18 because their owners moved properties. “The changes have the potential to make a real difference to the number of dogs and cats surrendered to Victoria shelters, and keep more pets with their owners for life,” she said. Warwick Rendell’s family had to rehome two pets when they moved to Melbourne from New South Wales in 2005 and were told that no rental properties would approve pets. They now have a dog and a cat with their landlord’s permission, but worry what would happen if they were forced to move.
“That’s always in the back of our minds: what happens if we have to move and we can’t find somewhere that will let us have pets?” Rendell said. “We got both our pets from a rescue and the idea of having to call them up and say ‘You have to take them back’ is just anxiety-inducing.” The Real Estate Institute of Victoria has called for the changes, which passed parliament in September 2018, to be put on hold. But the state’s consumer affairs minister, Marlene Kairouz, said the law will come into force as scheduled.

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“Pets are part of what makes a house feel like a home for many Victorians,” Kairouz said. “With more people renting now than ever before, it’s time to make this basic right accessible to all animal lovers.”

From Monday, renters will be able to fill in a form outlining the kind of pet they want and send it to their landlord, who will have 14 days to take it to the Victorian civil and administrative tribunal if they are opposed. In the absence of a tribunal order that the pet is not reasonable in that property, the request is taken to be approved.

Outside of the reasonableness requirement, renters will be subject to the rules set by their local council around the number and type of pets allowed, just as homeowners are.

Landlords who suspect tenants are keeping pets without asking for consent will be able to apply to the tribunal to order them to get rid of the pet.

“It is very important that renters understand the new rules correctly before getting a new pet,” Tenants Victoria’s chief executive, Jennifer Beveridge, said. “Failing to follow the right process could lead to eviction.”

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Tenants Victoria led the rental reform campaign, which includes other changes including long-term leases and allowing renters to make minor modifications to a property, such as putting in picture hooks without needing landlord approval. Those changes will come into force on 1 July. The Real Estate Institute has long opposed the new pet laws and warned this week that they could result in “a spike in the number of pets surrendered or abandoned” in a few months, and overload the tribunal with landlords objecting to pet applications.

Rendell said responsible tenants also made responsible pet owners.

Petra Elliott, who has been renting for 20 years and has had her cat for eight, said she had been waiting for the reforms to come through to find a new rental property. She has permission to keep her cat, but said many do not.

“I know so many people who have to take the day off work when they have a rental inspection to take the dog for a walk or cat for a drive so they are not discovered,” Elliott said. “My cat is my home. He is my family. We can’t put hooks in the wall so let us have a bloody pet!”

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