Pet ownership: what you can and can’t do

Even though two-thirds of Australian households are pet owners, finding a pet-friendly residence to rent can prove difficult and competitive. Basically, keeping a pet on the premises is at the landlord’s discretion, although assistance pets, such as guide dogs, cannot be refused.

There are differences in Australian states and throughout New Zealand about pet ownership rules and regulations during a rental term. 

The rules

Residential tenancy laws do not mention pet ownership, which leaves the landlord free to insert a ‘no pets’ clause. You should consult your landlord if planning to rent with a pet. 

In Victoria, for example, new laws on pets and renting came into effect on March 2, 2020. Tenants must request their landlord’s consent before bringing a new pet onto the premises. This is lodged with the landlord via a pet request form. In Victoria and the ACT, landlords must apply to a tribunal to prevent a tenant from keeping a pet.  

As for other Australian states and territories, tenants with pets are generally subject to landlord whim, although many of these states are seeking to follow Victorian and ACT changes to pet-ownership rules. For now, landlords outside Victoria and ACT can refuse pet ownership without providing a reason for unsuitability. 

In Western Australia, landlords are legally entitled to charge a separate pet rental bond to cover any potential damages to the property. 

If you are renting in New Zealand and your landlord allows pets on the premises, ensure that you state the particulars in writing in the tenancy agreement. This typically includes the number and types of pets and whether replacement pets may be involved. 

Other than general wear and tear, tenants are responsible for damage caused to a property by the pet.

Cats and dogs

Some landlords may choose to elect eligibility for cat ownership, but refuse dogs, due to a perception of higher maintenance costs and the likelihood of increased damage caused by certain canine breeds.  

Strata titles also have their own body corporate rules and fees in place regarding pet ownership.

Of course, if renting with a pet, you should apply the same conditions of regular upkeep and cleanliness to a property as other household tenants. 

If you require further assistance about pet ownership rights and regulations while renting, contact your local councils or tenancy unions.

You could also consult the Australian Veterinary Association, New Zealand Veterinary Association or tenancy services in your region for instructions and positive findings on tenants with pets.