Expert Advice with Leanne Jopson
There's been a huge change in the Residential Tenancies Act in Victoria, with new laws introduced in Victoria making it easier for tenants to bring their a four-legged friend into their home.
From March 2nd 2020, renters will be able to seek written approval from their landlord if they wish to get a pet, and landlords will only be able to refuse if they have permission from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
The changes also mean landlords are not permitted to unreasonably reject applications from prospective tenants, on the basis they’ll be accompanied by a pet.
Can a landlord refuse a pet?
The onus is on the landlord to apply to VCAT if they want to refuse their tenants’ request.
Landlords have 14 days to apply for a VCAT order preventing the animal from taking up residence in the property. When the pet in question is an assistance dog, landlords are not able to refuse consent under any circumstances.
In considering such applications, VCAT will look at factors such as the type of property, what kind of fixtures, fittings and appliances are present, and what species of pet the tenant is asking to be allowed, along with local council regulations and how the pet might impact on neighbours or other residents.
For landlords, this means if you want to avoid your tenants bringing pets into your investment property, you’ll need to have a good case to present to VCAT to back this up – for example, an apartment owner might argue that high-density living is not suitable for a large dog, or for neighbours who would be disturbed by said pup.
When do these new laws take effect?
Leases signed before March 2nd 2020 that have a “no pets” clause are still valid until the end of the agreement. However, landlords won’t be able to stipulate that pets aren’t allowed on any future tenancy agreements.
The Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV) predicts that VCAT will see a massive influx of applications from landlords trying to prevent animals entering their premises.
However, there are other options, such as adding extra clauses to a lease regarding damage caused by animals, or ensuring the bond is sufficient to cover this – or even coming to a mutual agreement with your tenants around frequent professional carpet cleaning and fumigation, for example.
For tenants, it might be a good idea to come to the party armed with a reference from your previous landlord stating that you’ve kept the property clean and in good repair, and your pet hasn’t caused any nuisance, to spare you the bother of the landlord trying to block your request. You can download a Pet Request Form from the Consumer Affairs Victoria website, and once you send this to the landlord, they have 14 days to apply to VCAT.
Leanne Jopson is National Director of Property Management at Metropole, and has 20 years’ experience in real estate.
Leanne brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to maximise returns and minimise stress for her clients.