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ACT is pet-friendly, unless you’re renting

By Alexandra Craig - 17 November 2015 54

cat

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.

What’s Your opinion?


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54 Responses to
ACT is pet-friendly, unless you’re renting
milkman 9:17 pm 17 Nov 15

Alexandra Craig said :

Grimm said :

I think your “right” to have a pet vanishes while you are occupying a very expensive asset owned by somebody else. Property managers and owners should definitely be able to refuse requests to move an animal into the property. They own the damn thing.

If you don’t like it, buy your own place. Otherwise live by the terms of the contract you have signed. Nobody held a gun to your head and forced you to sign it.

But if the costs of any potential damage can be covered by a bond, or an additional clause to have the place fumigated, re-turfed or whatever, then why say no? It’s just being intentionally difficult. If I was a landlord and someone wanted a pet, of course they can have one. But if they trash the place then yes of course I will want them to clean it up/repair it.

Children are far more likely to cause damage to a house, and as far as I know you can’t make people sign a clause saying “I will not have children here”, so why pets?

Sorry, but as a landlord what you propose is unworkable in the real world. I’ve let people have pets before, but I don’t make a blanket rule allowing it. Each case needs to be considered on its merits. It’s not being intentionally difficult, it’s mitigating risk.

JC 5:44 pm 17 Nov 15

Grimm said :

The bond is a pittance in comparison to, for instance, having to re carpet one or more rooms because of cat urine.

What’s being suggested is that landlords should have no right to decide upon the terms under which they offer use of THEIR property. It’s a ridiculous suggestion.

Indeed

Grimm 4:20 pm 17 Nov 15

The bond is a pittance in comparison to, for instance, having to re carpet one or more rooms because of cat urine.

What’s being suggested is that landlords should have no right to decide upon the terms under which they offer use of THEIR property. It’s a ridiculous suggestion.

madelini 3:44 pm 17 Nov 15

At the end of the day, if you are a tenant, you need to respect the landlord’s wishes as it is their property. If you don’t like it, then you need to be prepared to either rent elsewhere or save up to buy your own place. without the pet itself, you’d also be able to save up faster for a deposit (which costs much more than a bond). Hard line, maybe, but if ownership of the pet is the tenant’s choice, the landlord shouldn’t have to change their reasons for not wanting a pet just to make the tenant’s life easier. It wouldn’t be hard to find another tenant without a pet to take the house.

Also, in apartments and townhouses, it’s not up to the landlord. A lot of house rules as set out in the body corporate records restrict owners from having pets in the building and common property. For houses, many do not have the enclosed backyards necessary for dogs, or enclosed cat runs. If the costs incurred to establish these, or the damages caused by their removal exceed the bond, it is difficult to claim extra monies. It’s not unreasonable to bar animals from the premises.

Blen_Carmichael 3:37 pm 17 Nov 15

Charlotte Harper said :

I don’t think anyone is saying it’s OK to ignore or breach a tenancy agreement here. The argument is that perhaps more landlords should be open to allowing pets.

Actually, the argument was “I think that property managers shouldn’t be able to refuse reasonable requests to bring pets”. Markedly different.

JC 2:57 pm 17 Nov 15

Charlotte Harper said :

Also, describing bonds as “a pittance” doesn’t match with my experience as a renter. As a full-time student with casual jobs to scrape together money for rent and bills the bond amounts always seemed huge. Nothing compared to a house deposit, of course, which is why so many people are renting rather than “just buying their own place”.

Pittance is all relative I am afraid. Yes it is a lot for a renter, but by the same token it doesn’t take much damage to exceed the cost of a bond, and even then as the poster who first used that word said, the bond system is heavily skewed towards the tenant.

In my place the last tenant I had did about $5k worth of damage to a built in wardrobe and to a few walls that needed to be repaired after someone decided to use them as a boxing bag. It took me a year to get my money, when it was as clear as day the damage was not fair wear and tear which is what the tenant argued. I would have taken the matter to my insurance company, but the amount was not really significant enough and I would have lost out anyway.

Oh the damage to the wardrobe was for them using the bottom shelves as a ladder to get to the top shelf rather than buying a little stool. But the damage was so bad the whole thing needed replacing. Bond gone in one item, yet they argued wear and tear. Sadly whilst maybe not the majority this is the kind of person owners need to protect themselves from.

Solidarity 2:49 pm 17 Nov 15

Start your own property portfolio and let it all of the pets you want.

For my properties though – No.

Charlotte Harper 2:40 pm 17 Nov 15

I don’t think anyone is saying it’s OK to ignore or breach a tenancy agreement here. The argument is that perhaps more landlords should be open to allowing pets. We rented with cats and a dog and while it was always hard to find a place because most say no pets, when we did, we treated the house as though it were our own. I can’t think of any damage they caused aside from some scratches on a back door which we had repaired.
Also, describing bonds as “a pittance” doesn’t match with my experience as a renter. As a full-time student with casual jobs to scrape together money for rent and bills the bond amounts always seemed huge. Nothing compared to a house deposit, of course, which is why so many people are renting rather than “just buying their own place”.

JC 1:48 pm 17 Nov 15

Alexandra, as someone mentioned on the facebook page (and provided a linked to the tenancy tribunal FAQ on the matter), whilst there is nothing in the Residential Tenancies Act about pets, there is provision to put in place conditions of occupancy so long as they don’t contradict the act. Pet clauses are one that, rightly or wrongly passes this test so entirely legal and binding.

Additional clauses are mutual clauses agreed to by both owner and tenant. As the tenant if you don’t agree don’t sign, it is that simple. As a landlord if it costs money through less possible tenants then so be it also.

Now as someone who in the past has been a landlord I’ve always had no pet clauses. Mostly because the house I was renting was my own home I was going to move back into, not some rental property I had no emotional attachment to. You will find in Canberra there are a lot of private homes rented this way.

The way I approached it seemed to be like your landlord who allowed the cat. If the tenant asked I would consider what animal they were proposing and say yes or no. One tenant did exactly what you did and asked for a cat I said no problems. Had they asked for a dog the answer would have been no. However without that clause I wouldn’t have been able to choose what animal I would allow, unless of course I listed them in detail in an extra clause that was agreed to by both parties on signing.

Alexandra Craig said :

But if the costs of any potential damage can be covered by a bond, or an additional clause to have the place fumigated, re-turfed or whatever, then why say no? It’s just being intentionally difficult. If I was a landlord and someone wanted a pet, of course they can have one. But if they trash the place then yes of course I will want them to clean it up/repair it.

It is not that simple I am afraid. In an ideal world yes, but we don’t live in the ideal world.

Grimm 1:45 pm 17 Nov 15

Alexandra Craig said :

Grimm said :

I think your “right” to have a pet vanishes while you are occupying a very expensive asset owned by somebody else. Property managers and owners should definitely be able to refuse requests to move an animal into the property. They own the damn thing.

If you don’t like it, buy your own place. Otherwise live by the terms of the contract you have signed. Nobody held a gun to your head and forced you to sign it.

But if the costs of any potential damage can be covered by a bond, or an additional clause to have the place fumigated, re-turfed or whatever, then why say no? It’s just being intentionally difficult. If I was a landlord and someone wanted a pet, of course they can have one. But if they trash the place then yes of course I will want them to clean it up/repair it.

Children are far more likely to cause damage to a house, and as far as I know you can’t make people sign a clause saying “I will not have children here”, so why pets?

Because the pittance of a bond is unlikely to cover the cost of major damage and the process of withholding that bond is tedious and heavily geared against landlords. If the bond doesn’t cover the costs to repair, do you have any idea how long and costly the process is to be awarded further costs? Then there is the issue of getting blood from a stone.

In the end, it is somebody elses property. If you don’t like the conditions set out in the rental agreement, don’t sign it and find a place offering conditions you do agree with. Pretty simple.

Why is it ok for a tenant to ignore or breach a tenancy agreement? Would you be cool with your landlord breaching the bits of the agreement they don’t like too?

Alexandra Craig 1:26 pm 17 Nov 15

Grimm said :

I think your “right” to have a pet vanishes while you are occupying a very expensive asset owned by somebody else. Property managers and owners should definitely be able to refuse requests to move an animal into the property. They own the damn thing.

If you don’t like it, buy your own place. Otherwise live by the terms of the contract you have signed. Nobody held a gun to your head and forced you to sign it.

But if the costs of any potential damage can be covered by a bond, or an additional clause to have the place fumigated, re-turfed or whatever, then why say no? It’s just being intentionally difficult. If I was a landlord and someone wanted a pet, of course they can have one. But if they trash the place then yes of course I will want them to clean it up/repair it.

Children are far more likely to cause damage to a house, and as far as I know you can’t make people sign a clause saying “I will not have children here”, so why pets?

Ezy 1:24 pm 17 Nov 15

Grimm said :

If you don’t like it, buy your own place. Otherwise live by the terms of the contract you have signed. Nobody held a gun to your head and forced you to sign it.

Totally agree with this one. As a pet owner you shouldn’t just assume that they are able to move from rental to rental with you. This is why I won’t have an animal until I have my own place – it would be irresponsible otherwise.

Grimm 12:57 pm 17 Nov 15

I think your “right” to have a pet vanishes while you are occupying a very expensive asset owned by somebody else. Property managers and owners should definitely be able to refuse requests to move an animal into the property. They own the damn thing.

If you don’t like it, buy your own place. Otherwise live by the terms of the contract you have signed. Nobody held a gun to your head and forced you to sign it.

Blen_Carmichael 12:38 pm 17 Nov 15

Disclaimer: I am an ACT landlord.

>>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.<>I think that property managers shouldn’t be able to refuse reasonable requests to bring pets.<<

Put it this way, if you go to a friend's house, do you believe your desire for your pet to accompany you should prevail over their objection? Incidentally, I do allow our current tenants to have a dog. They are exceptionally good tenants and I'm confident they'll do the right thing. But that discretion should remain with the owner/property manager.

Paul0075 12:09 pm 17 Nov 15

I ran into this issue several times, but not just in the ACT. When I lived in NSW and WA, it was always a mission to have pets. I did find though, that the WA set up for Pet Bonds a great idea. Basically you pay a bit of extra security when you sign the lease to have a pet. And that is designed to cover any issues such as pest control or damage if the need arises, otherwise it is refunded with your normal bond when you move out.

I am very lucky to have the cruisiest landlord ever here in Canberra. She lets me have my cat, doesn’t care if the place looks lived in or not, and is happy for me to do my car restoration in the yard too.

And the best part is that when I’ve been without a car on 2 occasions (this time around it was written off), she’s lent me her spare car. All I have to do is maintain it like I would my own, and I’ve paid for 3 months rego and insurance on it this time as she let the rego lapse. It was cheaper than hiring something, and it also meant her car wasn’t sitting unused for months like it usually is, which is better for the vehicle.

I also found when I lived in Dubbo that the real estate was causing most of the grief, after bumping into the landlord one day, who was doing some maintenance on the gardens. He was blown away by all the trouble I had getting things fixed, and the photos of how untidy the place was before I moved in. When he found out I was moving to Canberra and putting my stuff into storage, he was so helpful, lent me his panel van and trailer for a couple of days and even invited me over to his place for a drink or two at the end of it. In the end he cancelled his contract with the agent and went to managing the units he had with his wife instead.

I think a lot of real estate agents have a lot to answer for when it comes to the management of properties. It shouldn’t get to the stage where you’re on the phone constantly trying to sort out automated rent billing issues, trying to get things fixed all the time, etc. I am also of the belief that the pet restrictions are mostly their own doing as well.

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