10 January 2023

POLL: Should more Riverina renters be allowed to have a pet?

| Chris Roe
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dog on couch

Both renting and pet ownership are on the rise in NSW. Photo: File.

If you’re a renter and you own a dog or a cat, you’d be well aware that the already shrinking pool of housing options is further reduced by a general “no pets” policy preferred by most landlords.

And I get it. As a landlord it’s a big investment, you’re not a charity, and pets = damage. Replacing soiled carpets and claw-ravaged doors and blinds is a pain.

But as more and more Aussies are priced out of the housing market and renting becomes a way of life, NSW politicians are eyeing off their votes and concessions appear to be on the horizon.

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Like many pet owners, I learned the hard way how tough it can be to find a pet-friendly rental after teaming up with a dog in my early 20s.

When I was a broke student at CSU, my husky mate Henri and I were forced to couch surf for periods when we found our rental options limited.

When he died more than a decade ago, my wife and I resisted repeated requests from our kids to adopt another furry friend, for the sole reason that it would inhibit our ability to find a rental.

According to the 2021 Census data, renting is on the rise, with a 17.5 per cent increase since 2016. There are now more than 2 million renters in NSW, accounting for almost a third of all households in the state.

In the past two years, COVID lockdowns drove a spike in animal adoption and almost 70 per cent of households now own a pet.

Currently, in NSW, landlords can refuse to allow a tenant to keep a pet (other than an assistance animal) without providing a reason.

Under recent reforms in Queensland, landlords are given a fortnight to give a detailed response to an application for a companion animal or it is automatically approved.

With a state election looming, NSW Labor has declared renters the “forgotten people in NSW politics” and leader Chris Minns kicked off the debate with a pro-pet policy.

“There are over 20,000 pets that are abandoned every single year and given to the RSPCA and, with increasing numbers of people having to and choosing to rent in New South Wales, we need to make sure there are fair and reasonable rules in place to help them,” Mr Minns said, echoing RSPCA figures that suggest almost 10 per cent of animals surrendered are due to “moving house”.

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While NSW Minister for Fair Trading Victor Dominello criticised NSW Labor’s proposal for its “lack of detail”, he reiterated that the NSW Government was in the process of reviewing community feedback on the topic.

An online survey opened in October asked: “Should it be easier for renters to keep pets in their home?” Of more than 18,000 votes, 87 per cent were in favour of reforms.

“We are aware other jurisdictions have reformed their laws to make it easier to keep pets in rental properties, and we want to hear feedback from tenants, property managers, landlords and the general public on our current rules and whether they should be changed,” Mr Dominello said when the survey was announced.

But what do you think here in the Riverina? Are you a renter or a landlord with an opinion?

Should more renters be able to keep pets in their homes?

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