The Real Estate Institute of Victoria has asked the state government to hold off on its new pet laws as it will create “wide confusion”.
As part of the new provisions in the Residential Tenancies Act that goes live this week, a landlord will not be able to unreasonably refuse a tenant from keeping a pet on the property.
However, if the landlord does not want the tenant to keep a pet on the property, they will have to apply with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) within two weeks.
If the legislation is enacted as it is, it could result in widespread confusion, delays at VCAT and an increase in the number of surrendered and abandoned animals, the REIV said.
“Recent developments and a growing lack of clarity make it essential that the Andrews government holds off on the 2 March 2020 introduction of the ‘pet legislation’ until answers can be provided to many questions and some sense of balance is returned to this issue,” REIV CEO Gil King said.
“This is not a simple issue of a small fluffy dog or a cat. A pet is defined as any animal. Most local councils allow two dogs and two cats without restriction as well as a myriad of other animals including mice, poultry, birds, ferrets and the list goes on. In some cases, within the metropolitan area, 60 animals and more are allowed without restriction.”
VCAT will consider the relevant local government’s “as of right” animal allowance when it makes a ruling, the REIV understands.
“What seems to be an unintended consequence is that now an owner must apply to the landlord for permission on a prescribed form for every animal that is intended to be kept on a leased property,” Mr King said.
The increase in submissions to VCAT on this matter could overload the tribunal, and it could result in a spike in the number of pets surrendered or abandoned a few months later, he said.
“A pet is for life, not just for the period of a tenancy. There is no guarantee that if a renter moves address, they will be allowed to have the pet at the new property.”
A recent Supreme Court decision has added extra confusion to the process, concerning the jurisdiction of VCAT.
“We have been advised that where one party, such as a landlord, resides interstate, VCAT has no jurisdiction to hear the landlord’s objection, and that after 14 days, the landlord will have been deemed to have consented to the pet, which of course they have not,” Mr King said.
“Where is the natural justice for the landlord in that? This won’t just be an issue for border towns, because many Victorian investment properties are owned by interstate landlords.”