New laws in Victoria will make it easier for renters to have a pet.
For the most vulnerable people in our community, a pet is more than a lovable hobby. Many women parenting alone look to their dog for protection and security. This is especially important if they are escaping domestic violence. For many single mothers feeling the sting of isolation, their pet offers them companionship and physical affection.
And for too long, single mothers have had to relinquish their beloved pets in order to secure rental accommodation, adding to the the heartbreak and trauma experienced by their children.
Not any more.
Now, under the new laws, renters can keep pets at their rental property, with the written permission of the rental provider (landlord). Rental providers can only refuse permission with approval from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
Under the law, a pet is any animal except an assistance dog.
Do the new laws apply to pre-existing pets?
The new laws do not apply to rental properties that already have pets. If a renter has a pet before 2 March 2020 in the rental property, there is no need to seek the written consent of the rental provider again.
However, if the renter wants to bring a new pet into the property, they must request the rental provider’s consent in writing. They must use the Consumer Affairs Victoria pet request form. Renters can do this by email if both parties have agreed to communicating in this way.
Before seeking consent, renters should check that the pet they intend to keep complies with existing council laws or other laws. These laws still apply regardless of whether the rental provider consents to the pet.
A rental provider cannot unreasonably refuse consent to a renter wishing to keep a pet. If a rental provider wants to refuse, they have 14 days to apply for a VCAT order. VCAT may order that, either:
- the rental provider’s refusal is reasonable and/or the pet should be excluded from the property (meaning the renter cannot keep the pet on the premises), or
- the renter can keep the pet.
If the rental provider does not apply to VCAT within 14 days of receiving the written request, they are taken to have consented to the request.
What reasonable grounds will VCAT consider?
Before arriving at a decision, VCAT may consider the following factors:
- the type of pet the renter wants to keep, or is keeping, on the property
- the character and nature of the property itself, including appliances, fixtures and fittings
- whether refusing consent to keep the pet on the property is allowed under any Act.
If a pet damages the rental property, the renter must repair any pet-related damage that goes beyond ‘fair wear and tear’.
Understanding the new laws
To prepare for these changes, Consumer Affairs Victoria has provided a pets fact sheet that will help renters, rental providers, property managers, industry and support workers to:
• understand the new laws and their rights and obligations under the new laws, and
• understand how the new laws apply, based on different scenarios.