The new section in the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018 (Vic) regarding a tenant’s right to a pet has sparked concern for landlords. While some laws have already been implemented, the reforms to pets in rental properties will be implemented by July 2020.
Tenants are now able to keep pets, provided they obtain the landlord’s written consent (which cannot be unreasonably withheld) or by order of VCAT.
While the tenant is required to obtain the landlord’s written consent, the Act states that the landlord is taken to have consented to a pet request unless, within 14 days after being given the pet request, the landlord makes an application to VCAT for an order that it is reasonable to refuse consent to a pet request. Ultimately, if the landlord wishes to refuse consent, it can only do so through a VCAT order.
In determining an application to refuse consent to a pet request, VCAT may have regard to:
- the type of pet the renter proposes to keep, or is keeping, on the rented premises;
- the character and nature of the rented premises;
- the character and nature of the appliances, fixtures and fittings on the rented premises;
- whether refusing consent to keep the pet on rented premises is permitted under any Act;
- any prescribed matters; and
- any other matter VCAT considers relevant.
This is the only guidance we have on the types of situations where refusal of consent would be reasonable. By way of example, it may be considered reasonable to refuse consent if the pet is a large breed for a small apartment, or if the owner is allergic. Nevertheless, further guidance is required to provide clarity on the landlord’s right to withhold consent.
The tenant’s existing duty not to damage the property and leave it in a reasonably clean condition will extend to pet-related damage. Therefore, if the tenant’s pet is not “furr-iendly” and causes damage or nuisance, VCAT might consider the landlord’s refusal to be reasonable and consequently order the pet to be excluded from the premises.
So although the Act gives tenants the right to a pet, if the landlord has grounds to reasonably refuse consent, VCAT can make an order in its favour. In saying that, as the grounds in which a landlord can rely to refuse consent are relatively narrow, it appears as though this legislation is a major victory for both pets and their owners!
For further information, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 03 9670 5000.
This article was written by Senior Associate, Josh Kaplan and Law Clerk, Evelyn Zeglinas.
DISCLAIMER: We accept no responsibility for any action taken after reading this article. It is intended as a guide only and is not a substitute for the expert legal advice you can get from marshalls+dent+wilmoth and other relevant experts.