One area of recent reform to the Victorian Residential Tenancies Act is aimed at providing tenants with clear rights in relation to the keeping of pets. Currently, the Victorian Act permits landlords to include a ‘no pets’ clause in their residential tenancy agreements. However, changes to the Victorian Act will prohibit such clauses. Whilst tenants will still be required to obtain landlord’s consent, such consent cannot be unreasonably refused.
But what are the rights of landlords and tenants in New South Wales?
The NSW Residential Tenancies Act is silent in relation to allowing, prohibiting or requiring consent for the keeping of pets. Most landlords will include a term in their residential tenancy agreement whereby the keeping of pets is prohibited without their consent. Such a term is currently not prohibited in NSW. The result is that the consent of the landlord is at the landlord’s sole discretion, except in relation to assistance animals.
The standard form residential tenancy agreement published by NSW Fair Trading stipulates, as an additional term, that “The tenant agrees not to keep animals on the residential premises without obtaining the landlord’s consent”. The standard form also provides that “The landlord agrees that the tenant may keep the following animals on the residential premises:”. These additional terms can be deleted upon approval by the landlord and tenant at the time of entering into the agreement. It is therefore important that both the landlord and tenant understand the terms of their agreement at the time of entering into the agreement.
Accordingly, the keeping of pets in residential rental properties in NSW is, in most instances, at the sole discretion of landlords and tenants, except where a strata scheme is involved. Most strata schemes will have a by-law restricting animals without the owners corporation’s consent or a by-law prohibiting animals altogether.
For tenants entering or currently in the rental market who are considering or already have a pet, the RSCPA makes several recommendations in facilitating a pet-friendly rental. For instance, preparing a pet resume with information on the pet together with references including previous landlords and supplying images of enclosures for birds or pocket pets.
One of the major concerns landlords have when considering consenting to the keeping of pets is the potential for property damage. One of the major concerns for tenants is having freedom within their rental property. Understanding each other’s concerns and obligations, and addressing potential issues at the outset may alleviate potential disputes.
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