Jordan King Lacroix

Sydney renters: Your pets will not be considered

The Sydney rental market is cruel enough, however, it’s the complete resistance to pet ownership that poses a further problem. If we’re all going to be renting in the future, surely this must change.

 

 

It is a well-known fact that moving house is a nightmare. In fact, it is one of the top most stressful things adults have to go through, outside of extreme circumstances like death of a loved one or loss of a job. In addition to this, losing a pet can be harder than losing a friend or loved one.

Sydney, it seems, is intent on making you go through both at the same time. Whilst there are many reasons why a landlord or property owner might not want a pet on their property, none of those reasons are good.

“In Victoria, the RSPCA says 15% of dogs and cats surrendered are from renters who can’t take their pet to their new homes,” writes Felicity Costigan for The New Daily. Animal Welfare League Queensland says renters’ pets make up 25% of its intake.”

If the pet damages the property in any way? The renter will pay for it. That’s pretty much what the bond is for. Worried about the smell? The renter can also be saddled with dealing with this responsibility.

Some states, like Western Australia, can charge a pet bond, which is set at $260 for pet damage to the property, but pet bonds are illegal in NSW. So although they can’t charge you a special bond, and there is no specific term in the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW) that prohibits a renter from keeping a pet, there’s also no ban on landlords including a term in the rental agreement that restricts renters from keeping a pet on the premises.

And most, it seems, do include such a clause.

According to their guide for renting with pets, The Tenants’ Union of NSW believes:

“…such a restriction is a breach of your reasonable peace, comfort and privacy. However, this has not been fully tested before a court or tribunal.”

What a comfort, that is.

When I had to find a new place to live with my then-girlfriend, we both had cats. After over four weeks of searching in the places we wished to live, at a price we could afford, do you know, dear Reader, how many allowed pets? Zero.

In the end, time escaped us and we had no choice but to move into a wonderful little place, which did not allow pets. No, before you ask, we didn’t keep our pets anyway, living with the ever-present stress of being evicted for having them.

We had to give them up, which was horrible.

Worse? Both of them died.

My fiancée maintains that her cat would still be alive if she were able to keep her; her cat was an indoor cat who ended up outdoors. My cat? I’m certain he would still be dead. He had a lot of issues with his breathing, but he would have died at home, with me, where he should have been.

But instead, so the landlord didn’t have to deal with the smell, or the hair, or whatever it is they were concerned about – and because the law allows them to ban all pets – my cat died, in a friend’s home, over Christmas. I wasn’t there. And my fiancée wasn’t able to be there for her cat, either, because the person she gave the cat to suddenly packed up and moved to Melbourne.

We gave our cats up for a place to live, and we never saw them again. It still hurts, to this day, and both pets have been dead for almost two years.

Sydney is hostile for renters already, with prices through the roof for properties not of enough quality to deserve it, but if you have a pet? Prepare to live far away or in a more dilapidated place.

Recently, we’ve been looking into getting a new cat, maybe, which means we’ll have to move. Admittedly, moving is something we’ve been considering anyway, needing more space if we plan on starting a family. So, we log onto Domain.com.au to look. We put a search radius of at least five suburbs, and include the check box for “Include surrounding suburbs”. We got back 115 hits. I scrolled down and checked the “pets allowed” box. Do you know how many properties that whittled our choices down to? Five. We can only choose from five places to live if we want to get a cat anywhere in the near future.

Sydney is an incredibly hostile environment for renters already, with prices through the roof for properties that are definitely not of enough quality to deserve it, but if you have a pet? You better be prepared to live as far away as possible, or in a more dilapidated place.

Because the landlords don’t want you. They don’t want your pet, and they don’t care how hard it is for you to choose between somewhere to live and your lifelong companion.

It should be illegal for landlords to outright ban all pets, especially without reason. A cat or a small dog or fish or a bird or a goddamn stick bug isn’t going to burn your house down. I understand that some strata have rules, but they can’t “unreasonably” ban all pets. Sure, I wouldn’t keep a mastiff in a one-bedroom apartment, but I sure don’t see why I can’t keep a cat.

There is a Change.org petition in order to try and force the government’s hand to put through legislation to ban the “no pets” clause in rental agreements, but I don’t have a lot of confidence it will do anything. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sign it, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

I’m amenable to a pet bond, and I’m obviously amenable to my being liable for any damage my pets cause, so what’s the problem? What exactly makes 95% of landlords hate pets so much?

I’ll be waiting in the cat café in Surry Hills if they want to talk about it.

 

Jordan King Lacroix

Jordan King-Lacroix was born in Montreal, Canada but moved to Sydney, Australia when he was 8 years old. He has achieved a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Sydney and McGill University, Canada, as well as a Masters of Creative Writing from the University of Sydney.

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