Australia has among the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, with 62% of households having a pet. There is, therefore, a very high demand for pet-friendly accommodation. However, in Queensland renting with a pet can be very difficult with only about 10% of rental properties allowing pets. Landlords and property managers often refuse to accept applicants with pets, saying they will cause damage to the property or attract pests such as fleas. In the last few years, there have been calls for laws to be changed to prohibit property owners from discriminating against tenants who have pets. Supporters of the change argue that pets are essential to maintaining a reasonable quality of life, particularly for people who are living alone. However, as yet no such law has been passed.
Can I keep a pet?
In Queensland a tenant may only keep a pet if the tenancy agreement states that pets are allowed. Tenants are responsible for any damage caused to a property by a pet. It is common for a tenancy agreement to specify that the tenant must have the property fumigated upon vacating it.
Can a pet bond be charged?
Sometimes in a bid to maximise their chances of renting with a pet, applicants offer to pay an additional pet bond. In Queensland, the law does not permit a landlord to charge a separate pet bond. This can occur in Western Australia, but not in any other state or territory.
If you have a disability under the Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act 2009, a landlord is not allowed to discriminate because you have a guide dog or assistance dog.
What if I am already renting and I want to get a pet?
If you have a tenancy agreement that does not state that pets are permitted, you need to ask for permission to get a pet, which will mean having your lease varied so that it states that you may have a pet and the type of pet you may have.
If you ask for permission to get a pet, the owner cannot unreasonably withhold their consent. However, it may be reasonable to place restrictions on the sort of pet allowed.
If you are refused permission to continue renting with a pet, you can try to resolve the dispute through the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) free dispute resolution service. However, participation in dispute resolution is voluntary and the RTA cannot force a landlord to participate. Dispute resolution can be held as a three-way teleconference or as a ‘phone shuttle’ where the conciliator holds separate conversations with each party. Conciliators cannot make a decision, but they can encourage the parties to reach a mutually acceptable resolution.
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT)
If you are unable to resolve the dispute through dispute resolution, you can make an application to QCAT. An adjudicator will make a decision based on evidence filed by the parties.
If you’re a renting a unit and the owner is happy for you to get a pet, but the Body Corporate does not agree, the owner may be able to get this decision overturned.
If there is a by-law that prohibits pets from your rental property or which restricts the circumstances in which pets can be kept, this may be capable of being challenged and declared invalid. By-laws must not be prohibitive in nature, meaning they should not impose an absolute ban on anything. Conditional by-laws are valid only if the conditions are reasonable. A by-law must not be oppressive or unreasonable.
Renting with a pet without permission
If a tenant is found to be renting with a pet with a tenancy agreement that does not allow for the pet, the tenant will be required to get rid of the pet or to vacate the property.
If you require legal advice about a tenancy matter or any other legal matter please contact Go To Court Lawyers.