'No pets' policies should be scrapped, according to NSW Tenants Union

Ken Rebetzke

Ken Rebetzke

The head of a Riverina animal rescue group has backed a campaign to outlaw the “no pets” policy on rentals.

Ken Rebetzke from Griffith-based rehoming group Needy Paws said he got constant calls from people wanting to surrender pets because they can’t have them in a rental property.

“It makes life difficult for us, most rentals don’t allow pets,” Mr Rebetzke said. “It results in a lot of animals abandoned. As a landlord myself I can understand not wanting a dog inside on the carpets, but if there’s damage then a tenant is liable.”

Tenancy advocacy groups have long called for reform on the issue. Under existing tenancy agreements, clause 43 of the standard tenancy agreement in NSW allows landlords to prohibit a tenant from keeping “animals on the residential premises without obtaining the landlord’s consent”.

A petition calling on the NSW Government to make it illegal for landlords to refuse pets has already gained more than 15,000 signatures.

Ned Cutcher, senior policy officer at the Tenants Union of New South Wales, said landlords shouldn’t be the ones deciding whether households can have a pet.

“That’s a decision the household should make, just as any other household who formed their home on a different legal or financial basis would,” Mr Cutcher said.

“We’re moving into uncharted territory in Australia with more people renting for longer, more families renting and people who are expected to rent well into the late stages of their life. The old notions about who’s in the rental market and what they should do in their homes needs to be revisited.”

Bowmans Real Estate director Maxine Bowman said many landlords were happy to allow pets, but they had a right to say what happened with their property.

“It all comes down to the merits, keeping a savage dog or having a pet in an apartment may not be suitable,” Ms Bowman said. “There needs to be a balance, but I don’t think these rules will be changed.”

Wendy Stone, associate professor in housing studies at Swinburne University, said it was time for a reappraisal.

“We have a real imbalance between the rights of landlords and tenants in Australia compared to some other countries, particularly in Europe,” she said.

“In those parts of the world renting is not plan B, it is a very attractive place to be. That’s obviously not the case here.”

Germany is sometimes held up as an ideal for renters, at the other end of the spectrum to Australia. Multi-year leases are common, rent increases are capped and new owners must honour existing agreements. Tenants are allowed to make alternations to the property, such as painting or hanging pictures, and to own pets.

In Australia, leases are mostly for a year, sometimes less, and pets are allowed only at the landlord’s discretion. RSPCA Victoria says it accepted 700 animals last financial year – nearly two a day – from people who said they had to give them up because their landlords would not allow them.

Anthony Sergi, a senior property manager at Elders Griffith, said landlords should have the right to decide what type of pet, if any, is allowed.

“While it is more common for landlords to accept pets, we still feel they should have the right to decide,” he said. “It does depend on the type and size of the rental property.”

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