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Saturday, June 10, 2023

The ‘impossible choice’ some renters are facing

  • NSW tenancy laws currently allow landlords to refuse tenants’ pet requests for any reason.
  • A NSW MP says the laws mean some people are having to choose been accepting housing, or staying with their pet.
  • The state government says it is committed to changing the laws.
Some renters are being forced into homelessness because they are unable to find a landlord willing to allow them to keep their pet, a NSW MP says.
It comes as the state government moves to make it easier for people to keep their animal companion if they rent, but one advocacy group has warned tenants still face difficulties even in jurisdictions where such developments have already taken place.
NSW tenancy laws currently allow for blanket ‘no pets’ clauses in tenancy agreements, so landlords can refuse requests to get a pet for any reason, or no reason at all.
Animal Justice Party MP Emma Hurst wants to see that change.
“This forces people to make an impossible choice: to either accept housing or stay with their animals,” Ms Hurst said.

“Of course, anyone who chooses to leave an animal, the chance of that animal ending up in the over-run pound and shelter system is high, as is the chance that animal will be euthanised.”

Bonnie Hook is among those who had to give up their pet in order to secure a home.
“We had to re-home Archie through a Dachshund re-homing organisation, so that we could move somewhere else that would allow us to live there without a pet,” she said.
Ms Hurst said it’s time to improve the system
“Such a system would promote animal welfare, decrease homelessness, and have major benefits to mental wellbeing. But the system is not set up like this,” she said.

“Unlike other states, our rental laws still allow landlords to ban animals, which severely limits the number of animal-friendly rentals on the market.”

NSW Housing Minister, Rose Jackson, said she is sympathetic to what Ms Hurst had to say.
Ms Jackson said she has spoken to a number of people who have chosen to be homeless after finding it impossible to rent a property with their pet.
“We know that pets are more than just a nice thing to have or a luxury,” she said.

“For a lot of people – particularly vulnerable people who are experiencing housing insecurity and loneliness – they are an incredibly important companion. They are part of the family”

NSW tenancy laws currently allow for blanket ‘no pets’ clauses in tenancy agreements. Source: AAP / Flavio Brancaleone

The state government was working on changes to the existing laws, Ms Jackson said.

“We know it is too hard to secure an affordable rental where you can have your pet,” she said.
“We have already announced, committed to, and are working on delivering, reform to make it easier for people in rentals, in the private rental market, to have a pet.”
Change has also been happening in other states and territories.
Tasmania and Queensland have both recently made moves to make it harder to ban pets in rental properties, but landlords’ permission is still needed.

In Victoria, permission also has to be sought but landlords need a good reason to say no and animals that are classified as assistance dogs don’t count as pets.

Joel Dignam, the executive director of tenant advocacy group Better Renting, said tenants with animal companions still find it tough, and making it easier is an important change to make.
Pets are part of people’s families, and one of the really sad things about a tight rental market is when people are forced to lose their pets, or unable to keep a pet as part of their household,” Mr Dignam said. “And it’s something that can make quite a big difference for just helping people to make a home as renters.
He said a change in the law was only the first step, and ending no-cause evictions would be the next logical move.
“You might act on pets, but then if renters can get their tenancy terminated for no reason, then it doesn’t really help much,” he said.

Almost one third of Australians rented their home in 2019/2020, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

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