Pet rental law changes come into effect

March 6, 2020 BY

Ready: The team at Ray White Ballarat are prepared for recent changes to the Residential Tenancies Act. Photo: ALISTAIR FINLAY

NEW regulations relating to pets and rental properties have come into effect as of 2 March, with the State government and tenant advocacy groups claiming a win.

Yet the state’s peek real estate agent lobby group, the Real Estate Institute of Victoria urged the government to hold off on introducing the new laws.

At its core the change means it could be easier for tenants in rental properties to own and keep pets.

“Pets are part of what makes a house feel like a home for many Victorians,” said State consumer affairs minister Marlene Kairouz.

“With more people are renting now than ever before, it’s time to make this basic right accessible to all animal lovers across the state.

“These new laws form part of the biggest change to the Residential Tenancies Act since it was implemented more than two decades ago.”

Previously landlords could just refuse pet requests from tenants.

Now they’ll have the onus placed on them as to why they are seeking to refuse a pet be kept at their property, and they’ll have to do it within 14 days of receiving a writing request from the tenant and do it through the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Reasons for VCAT to reject a pet request are limited and include that the property unsuitable for the type of pet the renter want to keep, the local council rules prohibit the animal, or the suitability of the pet – like if it’s a threat to neighbours or other residents.

Tenants Victoria CEO, Jennifer Beveridge said the changed were good and called in the State government to make sure they were rolled out “smoothly.”

“Tenants Victoria led the Make Renting Fair Campaign, which successfully advocated for these changes,” she said.

“It is very important that renters understand the new rules correctly before getting a new pet. Failing to follow the right process could even lead to eviction in extreme cases.

“The onus is on the Victorian government to raise awareness of the changes and provide clear information to the whole community.

“This should be a good news story for renters and thousands of pets that will find, and be able to stay in, loving homes. We want to make sure there are no unintended consequences along the way.”

Yet CEO of the Real Estate Institute of Victoria, Gil King, called on the government to delay the rollout of the new rules, saying the laws could be confusing and clog up VCAT.

“This is not a simple issue of a small fluffy dog or a cat,” Mr King said.

“A pet is defined as any animal. Most local councils allow two dogs and two cats without restriction as well as a myriad of other animals including mice, poultry, birds, ferrets and the list goes on. In some cases, within the metropolitan area, 60 animals and more are allowed without restriction.

“What seems to be an unintended consequence is that now an owner must apply to the landlord for permission on a prescribed form for every animal that is intended to be kept on a leased property.

He also said that the REIV had advice that interstate landlords were particularly at risk.

“We have been advised that where one party, such as a landlord, resides interstate, VCAT has no jurisdiction to hear the landlord’s objection and that after 14 days the landlord will have been deemed to have consented to the pet, which of course they have not,” Mr King said.

“Where is the natural justice for the landlord in that? This won’t just be an issue for border towns because many Victorian investment properties are owned by interstate landlords.”

Ray White Ballarat has good primer on the roles and responsibilities to tenants and landlords relating to the new laws. Visit raywhiteballarat.com.au/news/new-pet-legislation-starts-2nd-march-2020 for more information.