Renters with pets pin hopes on yes-vote tomorrow • Glam Adelaide

Renters with pets pin hopes on yes-vote tomorrow

RSPCA SA has urged MPs to vote yes to Residential Tenancies Act amendments tomorrow, as the campaign to keep people and their pets together intensifies.

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Photo credit: RSPCA South Australia

RSPCA SA has urged MPs to vote yes to Residential Tenancies Act amendments tomorrow, as the campaign to keep people and their pets together intensifies.

Discrimination against pet owners seeking rental accommodation will be in the firing line tomorrow, as the South Australian parliament votes on proposed amendments to the state’s Residential Tenancies Act.

RSPCA South Australia is supporting the changes.

The number of animals surrendered to the organisation because their owners were unable to secure accommodation increased from 259 animals in the 2019 financial year to 293 animals last financial year.

A newly released report from renters’ advocacy group Better Renting has found only 8% of advertised rental properties in South Australia explicitly welcome pets, yet 44% of renter households have pets.

The report also found:

  • A disproportionately low rate of pet ownership among renters compared to owner-occupied households is due to renters fearing discrimination rather than lacking desire to own pets
  • Some people choose to be homeless rather than giving up pets due to inability to secure pet-friendly accommodation
  • Some people stay in domestic violence situations due to inability to secure pet-friendly accommodation

RSPCA South Australia’s Animal Welfare Advocate Dr Rebekah Eyers described the current pet-friendly rental shortage in South Australia as a major mental health issue that our state’s political leaders can no longer
ignore.

“Leaving aside the animal welfare issues that come with separating pets from their owners, the consequences for human health are also huge,” Dr Eyers said.

“With so much focus on mental health, preserving this bond between pets and their owners by legally protecting their right to secure accommodation is critical – especially when many of these renters are already among the most vulnerable members of our community.”

The proposed changes to the Act will bring South Australia into line with interstate legislation, with Victoria, NT and the ACT all changing laws around renting with pets in the past two years.

Currently, most South Australian rentals prohibit pets without special permission from the landlord. Tenants in Victoria, the ACT and the NT also require their landlord’s consent. However, landlords who refuse must provide satisfactory reasons to regulatory tribunals.

Intended to protect the interests of both landlords and tenants, these tribunals can accept the landlord’s decision to disallow pets on the property or they can rule that the pet can only be kept under certain conditions.

Under South Australia’s proposed amendments, landlords who do not consent to a tenant’s application for a pet or pets will be able to apply to SACAT (South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal).

The Tribunal must consider such factors as the type of pet, the suitability of the premises, fixtures and fittings, whether allowing the pet or pets would result in unreasonable damage or pose an unacceptable risk to public health and safety or any other matter that the Tribunal considers relevant.

The Tribunal may impose conditions on the consent, as they consider appropriate.

RSPCA South Australia believes redressing the power imbalance between landlords and tenants around the issue of accommodating non-human family members is long overdue in SA.

“On average, our shelter staff dealt with five distressed owners every week last financial year,” Dr Eyers said.

“People are being forced to give up loved pets, simply because they can’t find a landlord willing to give them a go.

“It’s unkind, traumatic for owners (including children) and animals, and unacceptable in 2020 that we allow this to happen.

“Pets are proven to make us happier and healthier, and we urge our political representatives to see firsthand the tragic consequences of the current, outdated rental laws.

“Tomorrow they can vote to bring South Australia into line with the more progressive laws already operating interstate, and we sincerely hope they demonstrate compassion and use this opportunity.”

For more information on this issue: https://www.rspcasa.org.au/the-issues/petsin-rentals/

For people experiencing difficulty finding pet friendly accommodation – we
suggest they communicate their experiences directly to their state MP and/or to the Premier or Attorney General.

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