GREENS BILL: Renting with pets passes 2nd reading

Today the Greens' Renting with Pets Bill passed the 2nd reading in the Legislative Council, with the support of SA-Best and the Marshall Liberal Government. 


RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES (RENTING WITH PETS) AMENDMENT BILL

Adjourned debate on second reading.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I will start by thanking the Hon. Connie Bonaros, the Hon. Russell Wortley and the Hon. Rob Lucas for their contributions and also for the fact that all those contributions have kept an open mind on the possibilities for reform in this area. I note that the Hon. Rob Lucas, now that apparently he has half the South Australian bar on his staff, has access to excellent legal research. I think he has reasonably accurately summarised the state of play around the country. One thing all the contributions had in common is they all reflected that this is an exercise in the balancing of rights and responsibilities. Clearly, that is what this exercise is.

The Hon. Rob Lucas categorised the approaches in different jurisdictions as either landlord oriented, tenant oriented or somewhere in the middle. That is one way of looking at it but, at its most basic level, in this balance of rights and responsibilities there is one person who owns a freehold title to a piece of land with bricks and mortar—that is their interest—and there is another person for whom those bricks and mortar represent their home, the community in which they live and the home in which they raise their children, look after their elderly parents, or whatever it might be.

Clearly, there are important and valid interests on both sides of this debate, and the challenge for us as legislators is to get that balance right. I brought this bill forward because I think there is in fact no balance at all. It is entirely one-sided at present because the law is that, if the landlord says 'no pets', it does not have to be reasonable that they have said that. They can just say it and that is it, no ifs or buts. No pets, no debate to be entered into; that is the final word. That is not a balancing act: that is a one-sided contractual arrangement.

I think we can do better than the status quo. I know, and some members raised this, there is always the fear that, if we make standards or we make the law too onerous, there will be a vacation of the field and people will not want to rent their houses anymore. If we make rental properties subject to minimum standards, for example, or we pass pet laws, no-one will want to rent properties anymore. They will all go to Airbnb instead.

I do not accept that. In fact, it is the same argument against minimum wages, that if we could pay people less, if we could drop the standards a bit, we might get more people employed. It is an age-old argument. I do not accept that it strikes the right balance. Certainly, people have raised issues of things that can go wrong with pets. I just add the point that things can go wrong in many families. I can think of many more children of my acquaintance who cause far more damage than a lot of pets.

I think we do need to keep this debate going. I am grateful to the Attorney-General for keeping an open mind. No-one so far has denied the importance of animals in people's lives. No-one has denied it because it is clearly factual and true that pets are important to so many people. No-one has denied that. It is a question of, as legislators, getting the balance right, so I am looking forward to resuming this discussion in the new year.

For the record, and I think I said this in my second reading contribution, we have consulted with landlords, we have consulted with real estate agents and we have consulted with tenancy groups. It is not as if we have come to this on a whim. As the Leader of the Government acknowledged, all states are going through this very same process. I am keen to work with the Attorney-General. I think we can do better than the current one-sided arrangement. I think this bill is the way to go, but let us see what the balance of opinion is in the parliament. If there are other changes that people want to put forward, then of course we will look at those.

I am very pleased that this bill will be read for a second time today, and I look forward to engaging with members, and with the government in particular, to see if we can get something in place fairly early in the New Year. I am pleased this bill will be read a second time today.

Bill read a second time.