Tenants guide to renting with pets
Finding a good home to rent can be hard enough,, but it can be twice as tricky when you also have a pet. Some landlords are adamant that pets should not be allowed and some apartment bylaws ban all animals – apart from guide dogs – in their buildings.
But with Australia having one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, attitudes are changing rapidly.
We think it’s certainly getting easier for renters with pets. Sixty-three per cent of households in Australia have pets, and the legislation is changing to accommodate that.
Many state governments are now promoting the idea that pets should be allowed by property managers, often with additional small bonds being charged in the case of any damage, and many apartments are relaxing their bylaws for suitable pets, like small dogs, cats and reptiles.
How to convince landlords to allow pets
There are plenty of tenants can do to help press their case to bring their pet along with them when they apply for a new rental, too. Graphic designer Nic Middenway’s elegant staffy-cross Sammy is well-known around Sydney’s eastern suburbs as she sashays around, carrying one of her favourite handbags from her 20-strong collection.
Friendly, well-behaved and always immaculately accessorised, she’s a firm favourite among landlords. “For me, Sammy is an immovable priority on my wishlist when looking for a home,” says Middenway, 59. “There are places that don’t allow pets, but I think, generally, there are more and more now that do.
“There’s usually a process you have to go through, with pet application forms to be filled in for apartment buildings and landlords, and rules to abide by. Of course, every dog and pet is different, but sometimes there are some dogs I’d much rather live with than people!”
Middenway helps his application along by providing a CV for seven-year-old Sammy and photographs and a number of references attesting to her character and impeccable manners. Currently renting an apartment in Rushcutters Bay, he says he’s found honesty is always the best policy.
“I’d recommend all pet owners be upfront and honest about your pet; don’t make them out to be anything they’re not,” he says. “And all rules are different from apartment building to building.
“One I know has a weight limit for a pet, which I always think is a little bizarre. A puppy might be quite light, but it could be a lot heavier when it grows up. What do you do then? Do you stop feeding it at some point?”
Often landlords may not list their property as pet-friendly but agree to the request when approached by a responsible pet-owner armed with glowing references from previous landlords. Some apartment buildings that have forbidden pets in the past are also now reviewing their strata rules to allow them in.
“From state to state the laws are different in regards to allowing pets into apartments and rental properties, so it’s always important for pet owners to check what rules could affect them and their beloved pet,” says Nadia Crighton of Pet Insurance Australia.
“Australia has one of the highest incidences of pet ownership in the world, so finding a good rental … is a very important issue facing a lot of hardworking and responsible pet owners. It’s time to see real change in thinking to allow more pet owners access to secure and reliable homes.”
She suggests offering to add an extra clause into a rental agreement that could include cleaning carpets once a year, fixing any possible damage or a pet bond, and developing a pet resume that talks about how well-trained your pet is, along with references from former landlords and neighbours.
Don’t be put off either by a home that’s not advertised as pet-friendly. “Ask, ask, ask,” she recommends. “Many times, owners will not advertise that they are pet-friendly when, in fact, they are – for the right owner. So always ask the question directly.
“And, of course, ensure your pet is not a problem. If you have any behavioural issues such as barking, digging or escaping, call in the experts for help.”
Laws for renting with pets in each state
Rules for renting with pets are different in each state, but it’s worth remembering that individual apartment complexes may have their own bylaws.
No laws prohibit owning pets, but the standard residential tenancy agreement issued by Fair Trading NSW includes an optional term requiring the landlord’s consent, restrictions on the type of animal, and whether carpets need to be professionally cleaned. Apartment and townhouse complexes have their own bylaws.
Every tenant in Victoria will soon have the right to keep a pet in their rental home after reforms were passed last year in the state’s tenancy rules that will come into effect later this year. Landlords will still need to give permission, but it will be much harder to refuse, and they’ll have to prove they have a good case with tenants able to appeal to VCAT.
The state government is also introducing significant reforms to the tenancy act by the middle of this year to make pet ownership in rental properties easier. Currently, landlords must give permission and are free to refuse requests, with an estimated one in 10 rentals being pet-friendly. It will be much more difficult to turn down requests under the new rules, except in special cases.
Landlords have to grant permission for pets to be kept by tenants, but an increasing number are now willing to accept animals. There’s no provision for pet bonds, but most landlords will ask for an agreement to be signed enforcing specific rules, such as no noisy barking.
New laws are being introduced this year by the ACT government to restrict landlords’ rights to ban pets – unless they can demonstrate “reasonable” grounds. The starting point is that renters should be allowed to keep pets in their home while ensuring that any damage is rectified at the end of the lease.
Pet bonds are a normal part of residential tenancy agreements where pets are allowed, and the law states that no more than $260 can be charged to meet the cost of fumigation at the end of the tenancy. The presence of a pet must be stated in the lease, and the landlord gave permission.
It’s up to the landlord whether pets are allowed in rented premises or not. Still, tenants can negotiate with their landlords when there’s a no-pet clause in the agreement, or can apply to NTCAT to remove or change the clause on the grounds of it being harsh or excessive. Some landlords may include a clause about flea and tick sprays at the end of the term. Pet bonds are illegal.
A tenant can only have a pet at the property if the owner has agreed or if it is in the lease, and the renter has to repair any damage inflicted by the pet at the end of the tenancy. Fumigation will often be included as a term in the lease, with pet bonds not allowed.
Tips for renting with pets
- If a property isn’t advertised as pet-friendly, ask anyway. Landlords may allow pets for the right tenant.
- Prepare a pet resume outlining training and references from past landlords and neighbours.
- Offer to have carpets professionally cleaned once a year.
- Be honest – don’t try and hide pets if they’re not allowed.
- Seek professional help for behavioural problems such as barking or digging.
Tenant’s right to keep a pet with the landlord’s consent
If you want to keep a pet, you must give your landlord a completed Pet request form.
Your landlord can only refuse a pet request if the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) orders that it is reasonable to do so.
A pet means any animal except an assistance dog (a dog trained to help a person with a disability). For information about assistance dogs and renting, view Discrimination in renting.
What tenants need to do
- Complete a Pet request form for each pet.
- Give the completed form/s to your landlord.
- Keep a copy for your own records.
The landlord has 14 days (starting the day after they received the form) to apply to VCAT if they want to refuse consent for a pet. If you do not hear from them within these 14 days, you are allowed to keep the pet.
Tips for completing a Pet request form
It’s a good idea to provide information that will help the landlord decide whether the pet is suitable to be kept on the premises. This could include:
- information about the pet’s age, temperament, training or other characteristics
- reference(s) from a vet, trainer, previous landlord and/or neighbour
- why you think the property is suitable for keeping your pet.
You should also check that the pet complies with local council laws and other laws about pet ownership. These laws will apply regardless of whether the landlord has given consent. For more information, visit the Pets section – Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions website.
What landlords need to do
To consent to a pet request, notify the tenant in writing. Use the tenant’s address for serving documents listed at 1 on the Pet request form.
Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, you must not unreasonably refuse consent for a tenant to keep a pet on the rented premises.
If you want to refuse consent, you must apply to VCAT within 14 days, starting the day after receiving the form. VCAT will consider the circumstances of your case and whether the pet is suitable for the property.
If you do not apply to VCAT within 14 days (starting the day after you receive the form), this will mean you have consented to the pet request.
If the landlord applies to VCAT
VCAT can order that either:
- the landlord’s refusal is reasonable and/, or the pet is excluded from the property, or
- the tenant can keep the pet on the rental property.
When making its decision, VCAT may consider:
- the type of pet the tenant wants to keep
- the type of property the tenant is renting
- appliances, fixtures and fittings in the property
- other relevant laws (for example, if a local council law prohibits the pet)
- anything else VCAT considers appropriate.
If VCAT makes an order excluding the pet from the premises, the tenant has 14 days to comply with the order after it takes effect. If the tenant has not complied with the order after 14 days, the landlord can serve them with a vacate notice, giving a minimum of 28 days’ notice.
If the landlord wants to restrict a pet to outdoors
The landlord can try to negotiate conditions for keeping a pet on the property; for example, not allowing the pet inside. If the tenant does not agree to the conditions, the landlord must apply to VCAT if they want to exclude the pet.
Any conditions the tenant and landlord agree to should be noted in writing.
If a pet causes damage or other problems
Tenants have duties under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, which include:
- taking care to avoid damaging the premises
- keeping the premises reasonably clean
- not causing a nuisance or interfering with the reasonable peace, comfort or privacy of neighbours.
If the tenant does not meet their duties, the landlord can breach duty notice. This notice tells the tenant to fix the breach or pay compensation for any damage and states that the tenant must not breach the same duty again.
If the tenant does not comply with this notice, the landlord can apply to VCAT for a compensation or compliance order.
When making a decision about damage caused by a pet, VCAT will take into account:
- fair wear and tear
- the age and condition of the damaged item(s).
If a tenant keeps a pet without the consent
If a landlord reasonably believes a tenant is keeping a pet on the premises without consent, the landlord can apply to VCAT for an order to exclude the pet from the premises.
Landlords and owners cannot ask for an additional bond as a ‘pet bond’.
Pets in apartments and units
If you rent an apartment or unit, there is likely to be an owners corporation that manages common areas such as gardens, driveways and foyers. An owners corporation may have its own rules about pets in these common areas, which you must follow.
Landlords or owners should give you a copy of the owners corporation rules when you first move in.
If the owners corporation decides your pet is dangerous or is causing a nuisance, it may require you to remove the pet.
Pets in specialist disability accommodation (SDA)
If you are an SDA resident under a residential tenancy agreement, you have the same rights and responsibilities as other tenants in relation to pets. To keep a pet, you must give your SDA provider a completed Pet request form. For more information, view What tenants need to do on this page.
Pets in rooming houses, caravan parks and residential parks
Rooming house residents can only keep a pet with the rooming house owner’s permission.
Residents of caravan parks and residential parks must follow their park rules in relation to pets. If you believe a rule is unreasonable, you can apply to VCAT to hear on the matter. VCAT may decide the rule is unfair and ask the park operator to amend or remove it, or it may find the rule is reasonable and can stay in force.