Pets in Rental Properties: Tenancy Law in Victoria Changes from 2 March 2020

Changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (RTA) come into effect on 2 March 2020 to allow a tenant to keep a pet at a rental property.  Tenants must apply to the landlord but the landlord can only refuse by proving at VCAT that it is reasonable to refuse the tenant to have a pet.

How the New Law Works

The amendment to the RTA means that a tenant who applies to keep a pet (using the required form which is available on the link to Consumer Affairs Victoria below) can only be refused consent by their landlord:

if the landlord applies to VCAT with 14 days of the application; and

VCAT determines that it is reasonable for the landlord to withhold consent.

In other words, the landlord must prove at VCAT that it is unreasonable for the tenant to keep the particular pet at the rented property.  The tenant does not need to satisfy their landlord that it’s reasonable for them to keep the pet at the rented premises.

Do I have to Pay Extra Bond on My Pets?

No.  Consumer Affairs Victorian advises that the landlord cannot ask you to pay a bond on the pets.

Three  Other Legal Aspects You Need to be Aware of

Firstly, what is a pet?  Under the RTA a pet is any animal except an assistance dog (as defined in the Equal Opportunity Act 2010).

Secondly, who does the new law apply to? Any tenant wanting to bring a new animal into a rental property from 2/3/2020.

Thirdly, what does “unreasonable” mean?  “Unreasonable” isn’t defined in the RTA.  The factors that VCAT will take into consideration in assessing the landlord’s application are: the type of pet, the type of rental property, the type of fittings, appliances and fixtures in the property, whether refusing consent is permitted under any other Act or any other matters VCAT considers relevant.

Fourthly, can a landlord ask a tenant to vacate if they make a request to have a pet?  Currently the RTA does still allow a landlord to issue a notice to vacate for no specified reason.  This specific provision is not due to be repealed until 1 July 2020.  There is potential for this to be used to oust a tenant who applies to have a pet.  If you think making an application for a pet could result in a notice to vacate, then think about whether to delay until after 1 July 2020.  The last thing you (or an animal) needs is an accommodation crisis!  If you are given notice to vacate without specified reason, get legal advice.

Finally,the latest version of the RTA with the pet and renting amendments can be found on the Victorian Government legislation website:

https://content.legislation.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-02/97-109aa090%20authorised.pdf

Where Can Tenants Get More Information About Having a Pet While Renting?

There is up-to-date guidance for tenants on the Tenants Victoria and Consumer Affairs Victoria websites – including pet application form in the second link below:

https://www.tenantsvic.org.au/advice/pets-and-your-tenancy/

https://www.consumer.vic.gov.au/housing/renting/applying-for-a-rental-property-or-room/pets-and-renting

https://www.consumer.vic.gov.au/housing/renting/changes-to-renting-laws/resources-for-practitioners/fact-sheet-14-pets

The LFA commends this development as a significant and overall positive step forward in responsible pet ownership.  It will allow tenants to keep their pets while renting. For tenants with the time and resources to adopt a pet from the many shelters and animal rescue groups that operate in Victoria, it is a welcome development.

Adopt Don’t Shop

LFA strongly supports “adopt don’t shop”.

Please consider adopting rather than buying from a breeder.  Breeding is ultimately profit driven and there are breeds where breeding “standards” are contrary to an animals long term interests and welfare (such as the brachycephalic breeds).

There are many, many animals in Victoria who need and deserve a second chance.  Of course, selecting an animal from a shelter requires you to consider what you can offer an animal and what an animal needs from his or her humans.

What to think about before adopting an animal from a shelter or rescue group:

  • will the shelter or rescue groups offer a trial period?
  • has the animal been in foster care before adoption?
  • if the shelter or rescue group has a website, what profile and information have they provided about the animal you are interested in and others they have in their care?
  • remember that pound environments can be stressful for animals so there may be distortion or suppression of behaviours
  • does the rescue group offer ongoing support to new adoptions?
  • what can the rescue or shelter tell you about the animal’s background?
  • ask questions and be realistic about what you can offer an animal to make sure you can provide all the animal needs to thrive and be happy
  • experience has shown that a positive foster experience can make the transition smoother for new carers and animals and enable the animal to thrive in a new “furever” home.

So, for all the tenants out there who have wanted a companion animal to share your life with and have read the guidance on the new laws, now might just be the time to visit your local animal shelter.

 

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Battery Hens

Australia is home to over ten million egg-laying hens, 90% of whom are held in battery cages.

Battery hens live in a space smaller than a sheet of A4 paper, restricting any freedom to express natural behaviours.

Numerous European countries – including Germany, Austria and Sweden – have banned battery cages, and the EU has a total ban set for 2012.

Unfortunately, Australian politicians have not followed this global shift.


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