The New South Wales government is being pushed to make rentals animal-friendly sooner as pet owners find it increasingly hard to find a home and pounds see an influx of renters giving up their pets.
Labor promised in the lead-up to the election that it would make it easier for renters to own pets, with plans to give landlords 21 days to respond to a renter’s request to own a pet. If the landlord refuses within the timeframe, they must put their reason to the yet-to-be-established rental commissioner for a final decision.
But the Animal Justice party will push for the government to improve the laws further – and sooner – by putting forward an amendment to the government’s bill to reform rental laws, which is now before parliament.
“These changes are urgent, and it is clear that the huge majority of the public want to see these laws put into place,” said Animal Justice party legislative council member Emma Hurst.
NSW landlords can refuse to allow tenants to keep an animal without providing a reason and apply a blanket no-pet rule when listing rentals.
Anoulack Chanthivong, the state minister for better regulation and fair trading, said the government planned to act on its election commitment to change the laws after it completed the first stage of its rental reforms that are before parliament.
But Hurst said the Animal Justice party’s amendment would seek to strengthen the laws further by bringing them in line with Victoria. The state gives landlords 14 days to respond to requests and, if the landlord wants to refuse, he or she must put their reason to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a final decision.
“We know what’s happening in Victoria works so why delay and wait to find out how the process would work with a rental commissioner when we know the tribunal has the processes and can,” she said.
In the first year of Victoria having the law in place, few applications to the tribunal proceeded to a final determination, and only one sided with the landlord.
Melanie Eden, a cat owner, landed a property that allowed pets three weeks ago after spending six months applying for properties almost every day. She had planned to move to Sydney, but has stayed in the Blue Mountains after she couldn’t find any properties that allowed pets.
“There are multiple hurdles in competing to getting a home at the moment, but that felt like the major one,” she said.
After filtering through properties that would allow pets, there were so few she considered lying on her application. “I didn’t want to have do this because I want to have a decent relationship with my landlord,” she said.
Others renters have opted to give up their pets. Tim Crossman, who runs the animal shelter Safe Rehoming in northern Sydney, said the overwhelming majority of private surrenders of pets recently have been due to renters moving and pets not being allowed.
“Most are saying they’ve been trying to find somewhere to live they can have a pet and everywhere is saying no,” he said.
Crossman said people have also become more reluctant to adopt because of the turbulent rental market, meaning Safe often has to refuse surrenders because the shelter has no room.
The opposition is yet to say whether they will support the amendment, but it is expected to be met with support from the Greens who in 2018 had an amendment rejected by both the then-Coalition government and Labor to allow renters to have pets.
“We welcome that NSW Labor have changed their position and made an election promise to make it easier for renters to own pets,” said the NSW Greens housing spokesperson, Jenny Leong. “The sooner we can get this done the better.”