Major Reforms in Minor Detail is where we take an individual issue from the recent tenancy law reforms and discussing what it means for the community housing sector. This month we’re talking pets.
Pet ownership has surged since early 2020 as Victorians have rushed to brighten up their locked down lives by adopting new furry friends. Many of these new cats and dogs are in rental properties and the rental reforms have made it much easier for these households to keep pets through a new system that puts the onus on rental providers to apply to VCAT and prove that it is reasonable to refuse the request.
Renters requesting to keep a pet should now be directed to the pet request form available on the CAV website. If, after receiving a request using that form and having assessed the request, a CHO believes it is unreasonable to keep the pet at the property and wish to seek to refuse the request, they must apply to VCAT under s71D within 14 days from the day they received the form. If such an application is made, VCAT will consider a range of factors including:
▪ the type of pet;
▪ the character of the property; and
▪ whether refusal is allowed under any Act.
VCAT then has the power to make an order excluding the pet from the property but a review of cases to date shows that, in most circumstances, VCAT is more likely to allow the renter to keep the pet. VCAT has not considered it reasonable to grant an order to refuse consent for reasons such as insurance implications, potential damage to property, rental provider allergies, owners corporation rules (as any rule to exclude a pet from private lots is invalid), or potential escape by the pet.
There are a couple of notable exceptions to these changes. Firstly, assistance dogs (as defined in the Equal Opportunity Act 2010) don’t fall under this definition of ‘pet’ and renters can still keep an assistance dog without the requirement to seek consent. Secondly, the changes do not apply to rooming houses where pets can still be prohibited without a VCAT order.
If they haven’t been updated already, CHOs should adapt their pet policies and processes to ensure that they are in line with these reforms. Members needing assistance ensuring policies are compliant with new laws can contact CHIA Vic on Jason.email@example.com.