From soft and furry to scaled and feathered, pets come in all shapes and sizes and our property managers have seen it all, including an uncaged 2m-long python to a budgie that sounds like a piercing house alarm. When it comes to renting a property with our animal companions, there are some important laws all landlords and tenants need to know from the outset.
In 2019, reforms to the ACT Residential Tenancies Act gave greater freedoms to tenants with respect to having and keeping pets in a rental property. The change to the law means that an application to keep an animal, or allow an animal to be kept on a rental premises, can no longer be unreasonably refused by a Strata Plan or landlord unless there is a sound justification.
Sound justification can include if a property is not suitable for the animal or if the animal is likely to cause unreasonable damage.
The ACT Residential Tenancies Act requires landlords to advertise that tenants need to obtain the lessor’s permission to keep an animal in the property. A landlord can be fined if they fail to state this in their advertisement.
After an application has been submitted by a tenant, the property owner has 14 days to respond otherwise it is assumed pets are approved and permitted at the property. If the landlord refuses the pet, they can only do so by making an application to the ACT Civil & Administrative Tribunal (ACAT). However, ACAT would likely only refuse the pet on very special grounds. They can, however, put some conditions around the pet including quantity, type, and whether they are permitted inside or kept outside only. In all cases, the tenant is responsible for any repairs or additional maintenance to the premises required as a consequence of keeping an animal on the premises.
In the ACT, if a Strata Plan has a rule about pets, then occupants must comply. For example, there might be a by-law requiring tenants to make a formal application for the keeping of pets, to be reviewed and approved by the owners corporation.
In NSW, there is nothing in the NSW Residential Tenancies Act that prohibits tenants from keeping a pet, or that requires a tenant to seek a landlord’s consent to keep a pet. However, the standard tenancy agreement issued by NSW Fair Trading includes additional terms which require tenants to have their landlord’s permission to keep pets. These additional terms may be crossed out when the agreement is signed, but if they are not crossed out, they will still apply.
When it comes to tenancy agreements drawn-up privately or by an agency in NSW, landlords have the right to include a clause that restricts pets from being kept at the property.
Like the ACT, some NSW Strata Plan schemes will have a by-law about the keeping of animals, which might allow pets to be kept with the prior written approval of the owners corporation. Some Strata Plan rules prohibit animals altogether, with the exception of assistance animals.
Whether you are a tenant or a landlord, it is important to know your rights and responsibilities before signing a tenancy agreement. The best way to avoid disputes is by making sure that you understand the agreement and the laws that govern tenancies. Further information can be found through the ACT Tenants’ Union (tenantsact.org.au) and the NSW Tenants’ Union (tenants.org.au).