pets and your tenancy - Tenants Victoria

    pets and your tenancy

    what’s new?

    The laws in Victoria about having pets in rented homes changed on Monday 2 March 2020.

     


    new laws

    The Residential Tenancies Act 1997, which sets out the legal rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants, changed on 2 March 2020 to include new laws about pets.

    what is a pet?

    A pet is any animal other than an assistance dog under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (a dog trained to perform tasks or functions that assist someone with a disability).

    if you already had a pet

    If you had a pet in your rented home before Monday 2 March 2020 then the new laws don’t apply to you. However, the information on this page about no pets clauses, damage and nuisance and endangering the safety of neighbours does still apply.

    If you move to a new home or want to get a new pet from Monday 2 March 2020, then the new laws will apply to you.

    if you want a new pet

    We encourage you to think carefully before you decide to get a new pet:

    You should also be aware of local laws on keeping pets:

    • Under the Domestic Animals Act 1994 local councils have wide powers to make laws relating to pet ownership, for example, registration and microchipping, confinement, as well as laws on menacing, dangerous and restricted breed dogs. Pet owners must ensure they understand and follow their local council laws on pet ownership.
    • Check your local council for information on keeping pets: Find my council

     

    If you want to get a pet from Monday 2 March 2020 you must:

    You must use the official Pet Request Form to ask for consent otherwise it won’t count. If you want more than one pet you must use a separate form for every pet.

    After you give the Pet Request Form to the landlord they have 14 days to respond. Note: You can only send it by email if the landlord has agreed to receive notices this way, otherwise you can send it by post or deliver it by hand. If sending by post make sure you allow extra days for delivery. See Australia Post delivery times.

    The landlord cannot unreasonably refuse their consent:

    • The only way they can refuse is if they get a VCAT order that says it is reasonable for them to refuse.
    • They only have 14 days to apply to VCAT.
    • The 14 days starts after your Pets Request Form is delivered.
    • If the landlord does not apply to VCAT within 14 days this means you have consent to get the pet you requested on the form.
    • If the landlord applies to VCAT, you should receive a copy of the application.
    • Important: Before you get a pet, check with VCAT to make sure the landlord has not applied for a hearing, just to be sure.

    if you get a new pet without consent

    If the landlord believes you are keeping a pet without asking for consent they can apply to VCAT for an order that you have to remove the pet.

    Note: This only applies to new pets or new homes after the new laws start. This does not apply to existing pets you already had in your current home before the new laws began.

    If the landlord tries to give you a Notice to Vacate simply for having a pet, it would not be valid. But they can give you a Notice to Vacate if you don’t follow the VCAT Order.

    if the landlord applies to VCAT

    If the landlord applies to VCAT to refuse a pet, there are three possible orders VCAT can make:

    • you can keep a pet
    • it is reasonable for the landlord to refuse consent for a new pet
    • it is reasonable for the landlord to refuse consent for an existing pet, and the pet must be ‘excluded’ (removed) from your rented home

    In making their decision, VCAT can consider:

    • the type of pet
    • the character and nature of your home, and the appliances, fixtures and fittings in it
    • any other laws that would allow the landlord to refuse consent (e.g. local council laws that could say certain types of pets aren’t allowed)
    • anything else they think is relevant

    if VCAT orders you remove your pet

    If VCAT makes an order that your pet has to be ‘excluded’ (removed) from your home, the order must include a date when the pet must be ‘excluded’ (removed).

    If 14 days passes from the date in the order and your pet is still at your home, the landlord can issue you with a 28 day notice to vacate asking you to move out (see notice to vacate).

    ‘no pets’ clause

    Under the new laws landlords cannot unreasonably refuse consent, and if they want to refuse they will have to apply to VCAT, so any “no pet” clauses included in agreements after the new laws started will not be valid.

    However, for rental agreements with “no pet” clauses that were signed before the new laws started, a landlord or agent may try to threaten a tenant with eviction if they do not get rid of a pet they are keeping in breach of their agreement. Tenants Victoria believe that you can’t be evicted just for having a pet when your agreement has a “no pet” clause.

    For a tenant to be evicted for having a pet in their current home before the new laws started, the landlord would need to prove that the pet was causing a nuisance, damaging the property or endangering the safety of neighbours, and if a landlord tried to give a Notice to Vacate simply for having a pet, it would not be valid.

    The landlord could apply to VCAT for an order that you have breached your agreement by breaching the “no pet” clause.  But there is no Notice to Vacate for this reason and VCAT cannot legally evict you for having a pet in breach of your agreement.  However, in some cases, VCAT has ordered tenants to remove their pets from their homes.

    Note: You can be given a Notice to Vacate for failing to comply with a VCAT Order or for successive breaches of duty (see When you get a breach of duty notice).

    damage, nuisance and cleanliness

    The Residential Tenancies Act 1997 and your tenancy agreement prohibit you from damaging the rental property or causing a nuisance. A nuisance is anything that unreasonably disrupts your neighbours’ enjoyment of their property, such as continual barking, unpleasant smells etc.

    The Act also requires you to keep the rental property reasonably clean.

    If your pet is creating a nuisance or causing damage or preventing you from keeping the property reasonably clean, the landlord can give you a Breach of Duty Notice stating that you must stop your pet from causing these breaches. If you don’t fix the problem within 14 days, the landlord can either give you a second Breach of Duty Notice or they can apply to VCAT for a Compliance Order, which legally requires you to comply with the Breach of Duty Notice and/or pay financial compensation.

    To get a Compliance Order from VCAT, the landlord will have to prove that your pet is causing a nuisance or damaging the property. You will be given the chance to go to the VCAT hearing and defend your landlord’s claims. If you do not follow a VCAT order, the landlord can give you a 14-day Notice to Vacate.

    If you do not fix the problem within 14 days of receiving the second Breach of Duty Notice, the landlord can can give you a 14-day Notice to Vacate.

    A Notice to Vacate does not mean that you have to move out. If the landlord wants to evict you, they will have to apply to VCAT and prove that you have not complied with the VCAT Order or the Breach of Duty Notices. You can go to the VCAT hearing and present your side of the story.

    endangering the safety of neighbours

    If your pet endangers the safety of your neighbours, the landlord can give you an immediate Notice to Vacate. This should only be given in extreme circumstances, for example: your dog has attacked the neighbour’s children. If you receive an immediate Notice to Vacate, it does not mean that you have to move out. If the landlord wants to evict you, they will have to apply to VCAT and prove that your pet is a danger. If you receive an immediate Notice to Vacate contact Tenants Victoria for advice as soon as possible.

     

    If your landlord gives you a Breach of Duty Notice or a Notice to Vacate because you have a pet, contact Tenants Victoria for advice.

     

    pet bonds

    Some landlords ask tenants to pay a “pet bond” if they have a pet. It is often explained to tenants that it is to cover costs if the pet causes damage to the property.

    There is nothing under the law requiring you to pay a “pet bond” if you have a pet.

    If you pay a bond at the start of your tenancy that bond is held as a security in case there is a dispute at the end of the tenancy over cleaning, damage or unpaid rent. If you have a pet and your pet causes any damage while you are at the property, the landlord can make a claim on your bond. A second “pet bond” is not required and does not need to be paid.

     

    This information is a guide only and should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.

    resources


    Dogs, cats, neighbours and you: Your guide to the laws about owning a dog or cat in Victoria (Victoria Legal Aid website)

     

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    Tenants Victoria | Published: June 2009 | Modified: March 2020
    Tenants advice line 03 9416 2577 | tenantsvic.org.au
    Tenants Victoria acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.

    Tenants Victoria acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.