Senin, 20 Juli 2009

Tenancy Culture Studies: 'Room and Bird'

Today's subject is the 1950 Warner Bros cartoon short film, Room and Bird, directed by Friz Freleng, and starring Tweety and Sylvester as their respective selves. See you in about seven minutes.

I must admit: the tenancy-cultural significance of Room and Bird is probably not nearly so great as, say, the adventures of the great detective and awful flatmate Sherlock Holmes, but it gladdens the heart to see a Warners Bros cartoon again (in this one, the dialogue between Tweety and the mouse riding the 'elevator' especially cracks me up). And if you're viewing this at work, I'm sure you enjoyed the frisson of momentary irresponsibility before you scrambled to turn down the volume of Carl Stalling's rambunctious theme music.

Room and Bird sees Tweety and his owner, Granny, taking up residence in an hotel, the Spinster's Arms, despite an express prohibition on the keeping of pets. Add another little old lady and her cat, Sylvester, and a bulldog, and an incompetent authority figure (the hotel detective), and the usual mayhem ensues.

It's timeless fun, but this cartoon is almost 60 years old, and so much of what is depicted belongs to another age. The word 'spinster'; the occupation of 'hotel detective'; the practice of taking up residence in an hotel; each of these things is now most uncommon. What has not much changed, however, is unreasoning antipathy of landlords and agents towards the keeping of pets in rental accommodation.

Pets and other animals are nowhere mentioned in the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 (NSW), but most residential tenancies agreements include an additional term prohibiting tenants from keeping any animal on the premises without the written consent of the landlord. In most cases, this additional term is inserted on behalf of landlords unthinkingly, through their use of the mass-produced form of agreement drafted by the Real Estate Institute.

Of course, the Residential Tenancies Act does have something to say about landlords refraining from interfering in tenants' quiet enjoyment and reasonable peace, comfort and privacy, which you might think would mean not interfering in such matters as responsible grown-ups deciding whether they might like to keep a bird, cat or dog. The latter-day authority figures at the REI, however, take that sort of interference for granted. As a result, agents and landlords find themselves assuming the role of Room and Bird's bumbling hotel detective, while tenants continue to make like Granny and smuggle their pets into their rented homes.

It really is a stupid, pointless prohibition. Landlords' interests are already protected by the standard terms that make tenants liable for any damage they cause to the premises, and any nuisances caused to neighbours. And tenants' dogs do not bark any louder than property owners' dogs.

Tweety and Sylvester may not be the best advertisement for pets in rental housing, but then again no tenant's pet that I know of has ever actually lit a stick of TNT, or successfully discharged a gun, or sawn a circular hole in the floor of the premises.