SPEECH: Renting with pets

Mark today spoke about the lack of pet-friendly rental accommodation in SA. Some South Australians who move house find they're not allowed to take their beloved pet to their new home.  Having to abandon the family pet in order to have a place to live should not be a choice that anyone has to make. Mark outlined the Greens' plan to change South Australia’s rental laws to allows pets in rental properties. 

Australians love our pets. We have one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world with 62% of Aussies having pets.  Many see their pets not just as companions, but as treasured members of the family.

So, imagine having to move house but not being allowed to take your beloved pet to your new home.  Having to abandon the family pet in order to have a place to live should not be a choice that anyone has to make.  But this is a heartbreaking reality for many South Australians.

According to the RSPCA SA’s website “Each year hundreds of families are forced to surrender loved pets to animal welfare and rescue organisations simply because owners cannot find pet-friendly rental accommodation.”

In addition to those who are forced to surrender their pets, the most common reason for those who don’t own a pet is the fact of having an unsuitable home or lifestyle. 

The 2016 Census shows that 28.5% of South Australians live in rental properties, but according to real estate site realestate.com.au, less than 5% of rental properties advertised in Adelaide and surrounding suburbs in October last year, allowed pets. 

There is a distinct shortage of pet-friendly rental properties despite the fact that pet owners can make responsible and reliable long-term tenants.  It is unfortunate that the default position of rental agreements is that pets are not allowed.

The Greens want to change South Australia’s rental laws to allows pets in rental properties.

Let’s follow the lead of the Victorian Parliament who passed new renting laws in September this year. 

The Victorian “Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2018” included more than 130 reforms designed to increase protections for renters while ensuring those who provide rental housing can still effectively manage their properties. One of the key changes that they made was to allow pets to be kept in rental properties. 

The new Victorian laws require renters to obtain the consent of their rental provider to keep a pet, however unless the residential rental provider applies to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal within 14 days, consent is presumed.  If the Tribunal orders that the pet be excluded from the property and the renter doesn’t comply, the rental provider can terminate the lease. 

The factors that VCAT can consider when determining whether it’s reasonable to refuse consent to keep a pet include:

  1. the type of pet and;
  2. the character and nature of the property, or appliances, fixtures and fittings on the property;

This essentially means that a rental provider cannot unreasonably refuse a request to keep a pet.  This is a positive reform that the Greens would like to see adopted in South Australia.

With 62% of Australians owning a pet, and with home ownership becoming increasingly more difficult for young families, this is an issue that we can’t ignore.

Next year I will be introducing legislation with a broad suite of reforms to improve the rights of renters in South Australia.  One of these improvements will be allowing pets to be kept in rental properties, other than in exceptional circumstances. 

Pets are a huge positive influence on our lives.  They improve our lives in many ways.  Owning a pet has been shown to have psychological benefits for child development and for adults and a positive impact on our health and wellbeing.  Basically, pets make us happier and healthier.

Let’s not force anyone into having to abandon their much loved family pet in order to have a place to live.  Equally, let’s not prevent others from experiencing the joy of pet ownership just because they rent.