As part of a submission into the New South Wales Government’s review into the state’s residential tenancy legislation, the Tenants’ Union of NSW (TUNSW) has called for an end to no-pet clauses in lease agreements.
While many landlords may be concerned by the idea of tenants keeping pets due to the possibility of damage to their investment, Ned Cutcher, TUNSW policy officer, said there are already enough legal avenues in place to ensure landlords are not left out of pocket.
“We already have a system where tenants are liable for any damage that is attributed to them, and that includes any damage that would be the result of a pet,” Cutcher said.
“There’s really no argument that the landlord isn’t going to be able to recover costs. There are sufficient renting laws in place that mean landlords aren’t going to be hurt financially,” he said.
According to Cutcher and the TUNSW, the removal of no-pet clauses would lead to a “healthier” rental market.
“I think it would be a healthier approach to the rental process and better for society in general. I think we need to have a look at the idea a lot of landlords have about their properties,” he said.
“You’ve bought the property as an investment to make money off, so why do you need to retain so much authority and control of how people make it their home? We think having a pet should be a matter of personal choice and responsibility.”
The proposal has some support from those in the industry, with Vanessa Tsokos, director of North Shore Property Management, believing the right level of communication between tenants, landlords and property managers can make no pet clauses unnecessary.
“It comes down to management. If you have the right management system in place you don’t need no-pet clauses,” Tsokos said.
“I have a number of clients who allow pets in their properties and when they’re considering it we come up with a system to suit that. You’re allowed four periodic inspections a year in New South Wales, so we make sure we use all them and reassess each time if anything needs to change,” she said.
But the TUNSW’s idea has gained little support from those on the other side of the argument.
“In our opinion, the current arrangement where landlords and tenants negotiate the issue of having pets should remain,” Property Owner’s Association of NSW (POANSW) president John Gilmovich said.
“I don’t think you can have a situation where you have a blanket, broad-brush approach to banning no pet clauses. The property owner should have some right to decide what happens in their property and there are also issues with strata living, where there might be by-laws in place that ban pets or apartments simply aren’t suitable for pets to live in,” Gilmovich said.
While strata living may pose some challenges for those wanting to have their pets live them, Tsokos said some common sense would likely prevent any issues.
“Obviously it would be at its hardest in a unit, in that situation you need to have some common sense and not try and have something like a Rottweiler or German Shepherd in a flat.
“In that situation, you might say you can only have something like a cat or a small dog at the most.”
While not supportive of a one-size-fits-all approach to the issue, Gilmovich said the POANSW would support measures to encourage more owners to be pet-friendly.
“We would support the idea of a pet bond, Queensland has a system in place at the moment and we think it should be something that is allowed in NSW.
“Landlord and tenants would still negotiate the issue of allowing pets and the landlord would be able to ask for something like an additional two week’s rent on the bond.”