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New pet laws take a bite out of landlords rights

On Monday 2 March, 2020, one of the most controversial changes to the rental laws will take effect.

Landlords across Victoria will lose the right to say “no, I’d prefer no pets in my property”.

Victorian landlords will no longer be able to “unreasonably” refuse a tenant from having a pet in their property.

As a dog owner myself, I think pets are great.

As a landlord, I think it should be my decision if I let my tenants have a pet or not.

And as an agent, there are going to be some steps I have to take to protect my clients properties which may make it harder for low income earners and first time tenants to secure a property.

How it works now

If a tenant wants a pet now, they ask the owner for permission. Some landlords are completely against pets at their property (usually due to bad experiences in the past), some owners are all for it and some are okay with some pets (usually cats and dogs) but not open to others (usually mice, snakes, spiders etc).

For the owners who are happy to accept pets, all they usually ask for is an increased bond to allow for any damage their pet might cause during the tenancy. This has never really been an issue with the tenants I’ve dealt with.

How will it work?

The changes to the legislation will still require tenants to declare they have a pet prior to moving into a property or submit their request to have a pet if they already live in the property.

The onus will then fall on the owner to apply to VCAT within 14 days, where they will have to explain why they do not want a pet in their property.
The VCAT Member will then make a decision based on the type of pet, the property and council guidelines.

The legislation also removes the ability for owners to request an additional ‘Pet Bond’. I predict the changes to have some unfortunate effects for first time renters and low income earners.

Firstly, I think this may cause many owners to increase the bond they would like on their property for all tenants – as opposed to only requesting an increased amount from pet owners. This will mainly affect those already struggling to scrape together their first months rent and bond.

Secondly, some landlords will still insist on not leasing to people who have pets. So as agents, we’ll be forced to be much stricter on only approving applicants with a proven rental history who have rented through a licenced agency where we can confirm if they had a pet or not.

This is only one of many changes to the rental laws as the Victorian Government rolls out their “Rent Fair” reforms.

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