Can a tenant have pets in NSW?
The Residential Tenancies Act in NSW is actually silent on this point. What that means is that a landlord is not prohibited from putting in a clause that says that a tenant cannot keep a pet. There is some advocacy in NSW to bring in a law that bans landlords from banning pets.
Are there going to be any changes?
In Victoria there are proposed reforms which would include the following:
- Landlords will not be able to "unreasonably refuse" consent to certain types of modifications
- Landlords will not be able to "unreasonably refuse" a request to own a pet
- Removing the 120 day "no specified reason" notice to vacate from the Rental Tenancies Act
- Landlords will only be able to end tenancies using an "end of fixed term" notice at the end of the first term, at the end of subsequent terms they will have to provide a reason
- Bonds of more than one month's rent for any property where rent is less than $760 a week will not be allowed
For the purposes of this article we will look at the pet ownership issue.
Why the argument?
There is a balance that needs to be struck here. The landlord doesn't want to have to replace all of the carpet in the premises. The bond doesn't cover this, and the bond sizes are restricted by legislation. The tenant probably by definition has no sizeable assets so the legislative provision that you can force them to pay to replace the carpet, and sue them if they don't pay, is cold comfort as you have no assets to attach any judgment debt to.
However many people are long term renters, and they want the right to have a home and hang up pictures or own pets like a normal home owner would. For the tenant who would be reasonable, would keep their pet outside and would fix any damage to the yard that the pet might make, this restriction seems unfair.
There are also competing arguments around the impact on the rental market. The rental market is currently very tight, that is there is low supply of rental properties. That means that landlords can charge higher rents and make the rental terms more restrictive. One example of an issue in this sort of market is that single mothers struggle to find rental premises because the landlord would prefer the tenant who is applying with two or three income earners in the house. Legislators want to ensure that people can rent properties, and can rent them on fair terms.
On the other hand, when you have low supply you want more people to enter the market. Forcing landlords to allow tenants who they feel will only damage their investment is not going to entice people into the market, they might invest their capital somewhere else.
What should I do?
You don't need to do anything yet, in NSW there are no current proposed amendments. However if you have a rental property and you are having issues then you should make an appointment to speak with Bruce Coode. He has forty year's experience dealing with all manner of real estate issues and has even lectured at University on the topic. The first appointment is free and during that appointment he can tell you whether or not he can help you.
For more information about our firm generally, or real estate law specifically, click on the link to the right and you can read some more of our articles on this topic.