Canberra renters’ pet rights to be boosted under new ACT laws


Posted

October 25, 2018 16:47:37

To Clare Moore, her rabbits Shangela and Alaska are more than just pets.

Key points:

  • ACT Attorney-General says renters should be able to feel comfortable in their homes
  • Clare Moore owns two rabbits and says pets often spooked potential landlords
  • Legislation has not been revealed yet but renters’ advocacy group wants substantial changes

They are so crucial for her mental health, Ms Moore has previously sacrificed her physical health to find a home that would accept them.

Ms Moore has arthritis but was forced to live in a granny flat with no insulation and brave the winter cold.

“It did cost me,” she said.

“But my animals are so important to my mental health and to my happiness that I made that sacrifice.”

Named after drag queens, Shangela Laquifa Bunnley and Alaska Thumperbun 5000 also provide Ms Moore company when she cannot leave the house.

New laws revealed by the ACT Government will allow more Canberra renters to own pets, while also strengthening a raft of other tenant rights.

Changes around making a house a home

Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said there would still be protections for landlords if there were “reasonable reasons” why their property would not be suitable for pets.

“But the assumption should be that people can have pets, they can have companion animals and they can have that quality of life,” he said.

The laws would also allow renters to make minor modifications to homes, like installing picture hooks.

“Very simple things around the house can make a difference … so it’s not just four walls that you’re living in, but it’s a home for people,” he said.

“Things so that you can have those signs of family, those signs of warmth.”

They would also put the onus on the landlord to justify any rental increase above a CPI-based threshold and restrict them from recouping excessive charges when tenants break a lease.

“It’s reasonable that a landlord be able to cover their actual costs but not go any further than that,” Mr Ramsay said.

Mentioning pets can stymie applications

The legislation has not yet been released, so the strength of the new tenant protections is unclear.

The Government said the rule changes would be aimed at rebalancing the power between landlords and tenants in a tight rental market.

Canberra has a rental vacancy rate of under 1 per cent, meaning demand for properties is high.

Ms Moore said finding her new place with animals was a challenge.

“I must have looked at 30 places or more online, but when putting in enquiries as soon as you mentioned pets they just kind of stopped talking to me,” she said.

Changes don’t offer real protection, advocacy group says

Better Renting executive director Joel Dignam said the proposed changes were “a few sandwiches short of a picnic”.

He said while he welcomed new rights around pets and rent increases, landlords could still terminate a lease without justification.

“They may use this to retaliate against renters who ask for pets, or to enable them to make more money renting to new tenants,” he said.

“We hope to see stronger changes to provide genuinely stable homes to people who rent.”

The ACT Greens support the legislation but have flagged amendments to broaden protections even further.

Topics:

housing,

lifestyle,

animals,

canberra-2600,

act,

australia



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