Calls to bond pets to rental properties

HOMING IN: The Victorian government considers laws to make it easier for dogs to find homes in rental properties. Picture: BRENDAN MCCARTHY

HOMING IN: The Victorian government considers laws to make it easier for dogs to find homes in rental properties. Picture: BRENDAN MCCARTHY

A local animal welfare group says a “pet bond” would help cut down on renters being forced to surrender their animals when they moved into a new property.

Bendigo Animal and Community Welfare Services president Debbie Edwards has thrown her support behind an idea to ban unreasonable “no pet” clauses in tenancy agreements.

“We support a possible ban on landlords unreasonably saying ‘no’ to renters having pets. However we fully appreciate landowners do need some protection for their property in place,” Ms Edwards said.

Her comments came as the Victorian government released a discussion paper on possible changes to the state’s renting laws.

The wide-ranging review came up with a number of options for pets in rented premises – a grey area the current Residential Tenancies Act did not directly address despite many landlords inserting “no pet” clauses into tenancy agreements.

The current law did not stipulate when no pets clauses could be considered reasonable or unreasonable.

That has left some landlords unable to directly enforce the clause even after taking disputes to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Earlier feedback to the review found common reasons landlords were reluctant to allow pets included concerns animals would disturb neighbours or that the bond might not be able to cover significant damage to the premises.

Ms Edwards said her service received many calls from people wanting to surrender pets because they were moving into rental accommodation.

She labelled it “heartbreaking” to see people forced to surrender pets through economic necessity, particularly when a link to a pet could be so important for people’s well-being.

The government paper floated the idea of an optional “pet bond” to cover the cost of cleaning or repairs. Tenants would pay this in addition to their original bond.

The pet bond would not apply to “assistance pets” like guide dogs or critters that were “contained”, like fish.

Not everyone was on board with the pet bond idea. The government’s discussion paper cited arguments people with low incomes might struggle to afford pet bonds.

An alternate option was for tenants to pay for pet-related cleaning or damage out of the existing bond.

Submissions close on 10 February, 2017. To make a submission visit: fairersaferhousing.vic.gov.au/renting

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