Sunday, 4 October 2009

Feeding the hand that bites you

Are you renting your home? Do you have a pet? If so, then you are in the majority. More homes have pets than don't. Homes with pets are about double in number of homes with children, yet families with children make up the largest demographic of dog owners.

The real estate industry is slow to capitalise on this reality and 'no pets' is frequency seen in adds for rental homes. Many rental applications include questions about your pets. Legally, pets are no different than your TV, toaster or handbag. They are chattel - meaning property, legal property.

Each time a responsible tenant puts a case 'to have their pet' to a prospective landlord, including references for it or offering to pay an additional bond (the taking of which would be illegal), they are feeding the hand that bites them!

I know, it's hard when you need a home, love your pets and are an honest person and a good tenant - but letting someone decide if you are their suitable tenant has no more a relationship to your status as a pet owner, as it does to the brand of your toaster or the size of your TV!

So please, show that you are a responsible tenant, neighbour and pet owner by your actions, not by playing into the hands of the 'no pets allowed' brigdage or by letters written by people who happen to love your pet like you do.

In South Australia, NSW and most other states, there is no prohibition of pets in the residential tenancy laws - and why would there be? When renting, you gain a right to quiet enjoyment of the home for due consideration (rent) and you have a responsibility to act legally, take due care of the property and repair what you break or damage beyond reasonable wear and tear.

The Real Estate Institute of NSW has propagated a rental lease form used extensively and they have added a no pets clause as 'standard'. This is contrary to the residential tenancy law. We recommend you request your lease be based on the Act and Regulations, not the REI form.

We've started a case in NSW challenging the special conditions on a residential lease regarding a dog. This is based on contracting out the right to quiet enjoyment and/or the provision for normal wear and tear and/or a tenants' obligation to return the property in the same condition.

In South Australia, the tenancy tribunal can vary terms if they are found to be harsh or unconscionable. Of course, refusing pets in an otherwise pet suitable home with a good tenant is most unconscionable!

2 comments:

Helen J said...

I am about to move to South Australia and into rented accomodation for the first time for about ten years. I will be taking my two dogs and chooks with me and so will be testing my ability to get rental accomodation with my pets. I've had to move due to ill health so it wasn't planned! I'll keep you updated with progress

Lin said...

You can't imagine just how happy I am to read someone actually cares about this issue and is lobbying for change! I was homeless for 6 weeks (with a 2yo child and a dog) a couple of years ago because the vast majority of the rentals I looked at had a 'no pets' policy they wouldn't budge on! I ended up writing to the RSPCA and the Real Estate Institute to complain about this situation, but neither got back to me. Fortunately I did find lovely landlords who accept that my pet is my responsibility and not theirs.