New rules help renters keep their pets

By Shannon Cole

For two and a half years Scott Baird has struggled to find a rental property in Langwarrin because he has always had pets.

But on March 2, the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 was officially changed so that tenants are allowed to have pets in their rental homes.

“We were told that we were allowed to rent our old house only if the dog was an outside dog”, Baird said. “Like, come on, I want a pet not a dependent neighbour”.

This new rule is a blessing as he now does not have to choose between a house and his 15-month old staffy puppy.

But there are a few loopholes for landlords.

A media release by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews stated, “the tribunal can take a number of things into account when determining whether it is appropriate for a pet to be kept in a rental property”.

Situations where it is not suitable to have a pet in a rental property are if the pet poses a threat to other people, the type of pet is not suitable for the property, or there are rules in place by the local council which prohibit the type of pet the tenant wants.

Tannaya Jessop, a property portfolio manager for The Hopkins Group, said if a request to have a pet was denied, tenants can appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

“A landlord then cannot unreasonably refuse the request for a pet unless a valid reason is given”, Jessop said.

Baird, however, believes that landlords will use this loophole in the law to say no to pets.

“I can see this being an opening for property managers and landlords to bend the law in ways it wasn’t intended”, he said.

Landlord Tania Carnie has bought three rental properties over the past 10 years.

She has always allowed her tenants to have pets and was pleased with the new law.

“I am of the opinion that humans can do more damage than any animal can,” Carnie said.

But, despite loving animals, she does think it is unfair to take the decision away from the landlords.

“I guess if you own something, you really should be entitled to choose what you do with it … I think landlords need to have the right to say yes and no,” Carnie said.

For landlords like Carnie, the rule is not all it’s cracked up to be, as it takes the final say away from them.

For renters like Baird though, the rule is a dream come true, as it ensures he can always include his puppy in his family.

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