Rabu, 30 Mei 2012

Pet-friendly rental housing?

The NSW Companion Animals Taskforce was established by the State Government to advise on ways of reducing the appalling numbers of cats and dogs that are surrendered or abandoned by their owners, and subsequently destroyed.

Last year, almost 50 000 cats, and 70 000 dogs, ended up in pounds; over 30 000 cats and 21 000 dogs were destroyed.



The Taskforce has released a discussion paper (at the link above) which includes, amongst many other things, a reference to the particular problem of companion animal ownership in rental housing. Private rental especially is not very friendly to pets, or their owners, because most landlords and agents prohibit tenants from keeping animals as a term of their agreements. The concern is that this results in tenants having to surrender animals when they move house, and in their not being able to adopt animals and save them from death row.

The TU's view is that companion animal ownership is fundamentally a matter of personal responsibility. By that we mean:

(1) that an individual should be free to decide that they will keep a companion animal, subject to the law; and
(2) that the individual owner of a companion animal should be liable for its upkeep and any damage or loss it causes.

As things currently stand, tenants have the liability, but not the freedom to decide.

We reproduce below the section of the discussion paper that relates to rental housing. If you've had any experiences of owning a companion animal while renting, or any suggestions as to how to make rental housing more pet-friendly, that you'd like us to consider as we make our submission to the Taskforce, please let us know in the comments or by email: chris[underscore]martin[at]clc[dot]net[dot]au.

*

Option 18 Review barriers to cat and dog ownership in relation to
residential tenancy laws


Key finding
Pet-unfriendly rental accommodation and strata-titled housing (whether owned or
rented) contribute to the surrender of owned pets, and appear to be a significant
factor inhibiting the adoption of companion animals from pounds and shelters.


The Residential Tenancies Act 2010 and Strata Schemes Management Act 1996
could be reviewed to identify existing barriers to cat and dog ownership in rental and
strata accommodation, including the existence of by-laws which currently allow pet
bans. 

Particular consideration could be given to the introduction of a pet bond system,
similar to that operating in Western Australia, to provide a financial incentive to
counter landlord concerns about pet-owning tenants.

Relevant industry bodies could also be engaged to develop and implement
education, as part of a whole of community socially responsible pet ownership
education campaign (see option 12), which address issues such as: 
  • assisting cat and dog owners living in units and rental accommodation to become better neighbours/tenants by ensuring they provide appropriate environmental enrichment and care for their cats and dogs, 
  • the advantages of preparing a pet resume that shows their cat or dog will be a good tenant, and
  • emphasising to landlords and real estate agents that by excluding cat and dog owners they are limiting the potential pool of good tenants. 

Benefits 
  • Removing cat and dog ownership barriers for renters could increase overall demand for animals and reduce the number of animals surrendered to pounds where they were previously unable to be kept by their owners. 
  • A pet bond scheme may allay some landlord concerns about cat and dog owning tenants.

Potential issues 
  • Ongoing resistance from strata/owner bodies.
  • The cost of pet bonds may be a barrier for some cat and dog owners.
  • The cost and/or administrative burden of pursuing damages from tenants where they are over and above the bond amount may be prohibitive, and thus some landlords may support the continuation of a ‘no pets’ policy.
[Extracted from the Taskforce's discussion paper, for readers' info – the options do not reflect the views of the TU.]