Victorians will now find it easier to rent with four-legged friends

The Rental Tenancies Act in Victoria has seen a major update, with new laws introduced making it easier for tenants to bring their pets with them when moving. As of March 2, 2020, renters will be able to seek written approval from their landlord if they wish to get/keep a pet, and landlords are only able to refuse if they have permission from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). These changes mean landlords are also not allowed to unreasonably reject applications from prospective tenants on the basis that they’ll be accompanied by a pet.

This is a massive change for the state. Demand for pet-friendly apartments is at an all-time high, and people are increasingly unwilling to to move to outer-ring suburbs or give up their pets.

What does it mean if I’ve already signed my lease?

Leases signed before March 2, 2020 that have a ‘no pets’ clause are still valid until the end of the agreement. Landlords cannot carry this ‘no pets’ clause through on future tenancy agreements however.

Can my landlord refuse my pet?

It’s on the landlord to apply to VCAT if they want to refuse a tenants’ request for a pet. 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.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you expect your landlord to apply to VCAT:

  • Service/assistance dogs cannot be refused under any circumstances,
  • VCAT will assess factors such as the type of property and type of fixtures/fittings/appliances are in the property to determine if the pet will cause significant damage to these,
  • VCAT will assess if the species of pet the tenant is asking to be allowed is OK for the property size/design,
  • VCAT will work along current council regulations for an area, and
  • VCAT will assess how your potential pet may affect neighbours or other residents.

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. They are expecting new clauses — such as those covering damage by animals or ensuring the bond is sufficient to cover this — to become far more commonplace. Common sense is also something that is expected to prevail: for example, VCAT is unlikely to approve a large dog in high-density living situation as it won’t be good for either the pet or the neighbours.

What should I do to ensure my pet gets approved?

The best course of action for tenants is to come to your landlord with a reference from a previous landlord stating that you’ve kept the property in good shape and that your pet hasn’t been a nuisance. This will reassure your landlord that you a) take good care of the property, b) won’t neglect your pet (which could cause it to damage the property or irritate neighbours), and c) that you are serious about your application.

If you’re thinking about getting a pet for the very first time, check out our handy guides on picking a pet-friendly apartment and the best dogs to own when renting.

Written: 11 May 2020

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