Changes to the Residential Tenancies Act make it harder for landlords to refuse a tenant's request to keep a pet.
Under the changes due to come into effect on 29 March, renters can keep pets either with the written consent from the rental provider or a VCAT order that permits them to keep the pet in the rental property.
Under the reform, a pet is any animal except for an assistance dog.
Before keeping a pet on the rental property, the renter must request consent from the rental provider.
The rental provider must not unreasonably refuse consent.
KR Peters Property Manager Crystal Barneveld says she was not surprised the laws around pet ownership had been overhauled.
"I myself am a pet owner and a renter and understand that pets form a really important part of many families' lives," Ms Barneveld said.
"I was certainly not surprised that the laws around pets in rental properties changed. What did surprise me though, is that there are no guidelines on what is considered 'reasonable' refusal. To date, I don't know of any rental provider that has been successful in challenging a pet request at VCAT."
To refuse consent for a pet, the rental provider must go to VCAT and get an order declaring that the refusal is reasonable. The rental provider has 14 days to apply to VCAT for an order, otherwise they will be assumed to have consented to the renter’s request.
VCAT has two choices: order that the renter is permitted to keep the pet, or that it is reasonable for the rental provider to refuse consent and make an order excluding the pet from the property.
In making a decision VCAT may consider:
Rental providers must also apply to VCAT if they reasonably believe that the renter is keeping a pet without consent.
If VCAT makes an order excluding a pet from the property and the renter does not comply with the order within 14 days after it takes effect, then the rental provider will be able to give a 28-day notice to vacate.
Consumer Affairs advises renters who intend to keep a pet to be upfront with their rental provider as early as possible.
And before seeking consent, renters should check that the pet they intend to keep complies with council laws and other laws around pet ownership.
If the pet damages the property, the renter must repair any pet-related damage that goes beyond ‘fair wear and tear’. VCAT can adjudicate disputes about repairs.
The new rules do not apply to pets that were already present in a rental property before the new legislation takes effect.
For clarification on these and other changes to the Residential Tenancies Act contact the property management team at KR Peters.