Canberra was recently found to be one of the most ‘pet friendly’ cities in Australia. Overall the ACT took out the crown for the most dog-friendly place in Australia and the third most friendly for cats.
The survey looked at things like outdoor spaces for pets, such as off-leash dog areas and dog parks, animal welfare provisions, rights for tenants with pets and availability of businesses for pets like groomers and dog walkers.
A lot of this I would agree with, except for the point about rights for tenants with pets. Last week I decided to have a quick browse of rental properties out of curiosity, and about 95% of them said ‘no pets’ on the advertisement. I am constantly seeing people trying to rehome pets because their new home won’t allow pets.
The Residential Tenancies Act 1997 does not mention the word ‘pet’ once. Nor does it mention ‘cat’ or ‘dog’. It’s not in there at all. So, as far as the legislation is concerned, Canberra does look pretty pet friendly. However it seems that a lot of property managers and investment property owners are extremely anti-pet. Often new tenants are made to sign an additional clause by the real estate agent that they will not have a pet. I find this really, really disappointing.
A few years back, I was renting an apartment in Kingston. I lived by myself and I was so lonely, I really wanted a cat. But I had signed the clause to say I couldn’t have a pet. I checked out the legislation and found that there was nothing in there stopping me from having a pet, so I took this up with my property manager. I told her straight up that I wanted a cat, was aware of the clause I had signed, but the legislation says nothing about this. I had been a great tenant so far, so in my mind there was absolutely no reason why they could deny me the right to have a cat. Fortunately, I was lucky that the owner of my apartment allowed me to have a cat on the condition that I got the apartment fumigated when I moved out. And my little ginger Penny came into my life.
I don’t know why more property managers and property owners aren’t more reasonable. Isn’t the whole point of having a rental bond being to pay for any damage at the end of a lease? Isn’t the whole point of rental inspections to keep an eye on things and identify any damage along the way?
RSPCA ACT CEO Tammy Ven Dange recently wrote a blog about the benefits of allowing pets in rental properties, telling of the time she spoke at a property management conference here in Canberra and asked the audience how many times a pet has caused significant damage to a property, and only two people put their hands up.
It was easy enough for me, because I already lived in a property before I got the pet so I was able to negotiate. For people who already own a pet it is very tricky, especially when the rental market is so tough. The property manager will simply pick someone with no pets over someone with a cat or a dog.
I think that property managers shouldn’t be able to refuse reasonable requests to bring pets (obviously if someone has a lot of pets and wants to move into a one bedroom apartment there will be a bit of a problem). Pets should be accepted if the prospective tenant has good rental references. I think most tenants would be more than happy to pay for fumigation or similar at the end of their lease if they were able to bring their pets.
Until there’s a greater amount of pet-friendly properties available, I don’t think the ACT can claim to be a pet-friendly city.