Pet Friendly

Landlords continue to discriminate against pet owners. Often it becomes “the dog or the home”. Should bias be illegal?


I MET a woman recently who’d just moved to Sydney.

She’s a single mum with a dog, currently staying with friends while looking for a place to rent. I knew the drill as she started to tell her story. Her tired face said it all. I remember moving back to Sydney a few years ago and the nightmare I had trying to rent with two cats. I was always banished to the back of the queue.

“Friends said I should lie,” she admitted. “But he’s a sheep dog. How can I hide him? It has come down to a home or the dog,” she said, almost in tears.

I wonder why such discrimination is still possible, especially since landlords can take bonds to cover pet damage. Surely animals don’t do any more damage than young kids (or teenagers for that matter, after their drunken parties).


Not that property owners are exempt from onerous pet regulations, either. My ex-husband couldn’t even babysit our cats in his own townhouse a while back, when I went travelling, due to body corporate by-laws.

Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world: more than 60 per cent of households own pets. Meanwhile, real estate observers report a long-term trend towards smaller, single-person households and strata-title living where balconies are the new backyard. The demand for medium or high-density housing is increasing.

The matter is becoming a social issue, with many Australians condemned to lonely and unhealthy lives because of bans on pets, according to University of Tasmania sociologist Adrian Franklin, author of Animals and Modern Cultures. Professor Franklin recently completed a project on loneliness in Australia. He says evidence shows that animals are highly beneficial to health, especially for our ageing population. For instance, a Mayo Clinic study found that seniors with pets have 21 per cent fewer doctor visits.

Rules for pets in strata buildings and rental properties vary from state to state. But University of Western Sydney researcher Emma Power is calling for an easing of by-laws and improvement of pet-friendly designs for apartments; while tenants’ groups keep challenging rental agreements.

I think the situation should go further. It should be unlawful for anyone to discriminate against pet owners unless there is solid evidence that a pet is particularly noisy or is from an aggressive breed. Let’s not force renters and apartment-dwellers to choose between a home or the family pet. It’s too sad.



, , , , , , ,

64 Responses to Pet Friendly

  1. Ruth Ostrow 14 July 2016 at 5:55 pm #

    Here here!

  2. Irene Goldwasser 21 June 2015 at 8:46 am #

    It’s appalling that landlords do not allow pets. Landlords and agents do not seem to care about their tenants’ anti-social behaviours, i.e. noise, leaving rubbish around etc. It’s a pity that some of them aren’t fussier when it comes to human residents! Some agents even advise owners selling a property to ‘hide’ their pet/s! It’s time to remove this bias!

  3. chris mitchell 23 February 2014 at 7:10 pm #

    I think it’s ridiculous discriminating against people with a dog. I pay my rent faithfully, and have made lots of improvements to my rented house.Have a dog door to let him in and out he is never destructive so why????

  4. REBECCA BEZPALKO 11 April 2013 at 5:20 am #


  5. Sil 3 August 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    I was wandering if someone could give me a heads up on a bit of knowledge regarding a Buddhist’s Retreat and a Buddhist obligation to “ALL” sentient beings. I’m currently staying at a Buddhist retreat as a Volunteer with my 11 year old most beautifully natured Rotty. ALL the Volunteers living within the centre in which my Rotty reside- love him! No other Volunteer has reason to approach the house in which I’m staying in. So my Rotty is in a loving environment. Today I was approached by the Director requesting that I get my dog off the premises as they are concerned that the Parks & Wildlife organisation will address my dog being within the premises. (Note- My dog is tied to a 40 meter running cable so cannot run off into any neighboring homes, Once again I have to re-iterate that my dog is one of the most beautiful loving no aggressive dogs you could ever meet)
    My query, Is there some legal term/insight that anyone knows that I could use in retaliation to the Directors request? That being knowledge that would help bring apposing light with regard to “the Parks&Wildlife Org & Buddhism”

    Thank you so much.

  6. Ruth Ostrow 15 December 2011 at 8:44 pm #

    I would start Googling and find out everything you can on-line; there are also associations that protect you

  7. Louise C 9 December 2011 at 6:08 pm #

    My research just discovered this. I will endevour to find out why NSW Tenants Union is not doing the same.

    “‘No pet” clauses in advertising and rental agreements are a constant source of grievance among tenants and landlords, according to Tenants Union policy worker Toby Archer.

    Although Victoria’s Residential Tenancies Act doesn’t have rules on pets, the commonly used Real Estate Institute of Victoria’s tenancy agreement does.

    ”The tenant must not keep any animal, bird or other pet on the premises without first obtaining the written permission of the landlord or agent. Permission will not be unreasonably withheld,” it states.

    The Tenants Union successfully challenged this ban several times, arguing landlords are not entitled to restrict tenants from having pets because it interferes with their ”quiet enjoyment” of the property.

    Tenants can’t be evicted on the basis of the clause, says Mr Archer, but they can be evicted if their pet is a nuisance, damages property or is a danger.

    ”The last thing you want to do as a tenant is not be clear about that and then sometime down the track get into a dispute with your landlord.”

    People are proving more willing to challenge the ”no pets” clause.

    A recent Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing found in favour of a Geelong couple wanting a pet in their rental home.

    ”The tenants have permission to keep the labrador Harry at the rented premises on condition he sleeps in the outhouse and primarily resides outdoors,” VCAT ruled in February.

  8. Louise C 2 December 2011 at 5:50 pm #

    Hi Ruth, I was hoping someone may have posted some knowledge of NSW laws on pet ownership in private rentals. Thr is a huge misperception that it’s not allowed but apparently the clause in most leases stating you can not have pets without permission is NOT within NSW Legislation and therefore not legal.

    I am a very responsible dog owner, I have two West Highland White Terriers, girls, whose coats do not shed. They are bathed weekly. They do not bark, are rarely ever left at home. I work from home so am always with them.

    Every day people come up to me to complement me on how beautiful they are. I am a very responsible and proud owner.

    I am fastidious with keeping the home in superior condition and cleanliness. Yet the agent is trying to evict me.

    No I did not ask for permission when I applied for the property. That is bcs the agent told me on first inspection that altho it’s a two bedroom house a couple were refused by the owner bcs they had a child! So of course I knew I’d be discriminated against for my two dogs.

    The neighbours love them, there are no complaints.

    The house is kept immaculately and yet it seems, according to Fair Trading who said it was at the discretion of the person at CTTT who is hearing the matter whether I’ll be evicted.

    So if I get a CTTT member who does not like dogs despite all my evidence I’m homeless!

    The agent is trying to claim “damage” due to scratches on floorboards. Of course they were already there when I rented or were done due to peoples shoes or furniture moving. They are minor & part of normal wear and tear.

    The owner wants to receive $710 per week in rent but not incur any normal wear & tear on the property. Well don’t rent it out! Keep it perfect but don’t receive any rental income. Simple solution.

    I am taking photographs and references to the hearing so that the member can see how well kept the house is and that it is in immaculate condition.

    But I will probably be evicted.

  9. ES 25 November 2011 at 5:32 pm #

    The lease agreement in NSW states that a tenant must have written permission to keep a pet on the property. Without that written permission, the tenant can be terminated for breach of leae with 2 weeks notice plus an additional 4 days to allow for postage. An agent does not have to “add” it to the lease – it’s already in the standard agreement thus making it binding.

  10. Louise C 27 October 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Did any current legal advice come from this excellent article? It is a very common misperception, created by propaganda by real estate agents, that you are not allowed to own a pet in rented premises. This is not correct. In a body corporate situation they can not reasonably refuse you a pet. And just because a real estate agent includes in a lease that you are not allowed a pet, does not make it legal. I would like to find someone who fully knows the laws on this issue.

  11. kristianne 18 August 2011 at 4:19 pm #

    i love my pets ive got dog he is a jack russel x pom a cat he is acroos breed and a budgie and i rent it took us 2 months to find a house for us and the pets i dont beleave that pets should be keep in units i only applied for house and it was hard thay would prerfere to give the house to some with out pets one lady i spoke with said she gave up her dogs just find a house i see pets everday on the internet been given a way becuse the landlord/realestate said its got to why is it so unfair for us pet lover and most of the pets go to pound as said im only young to 20 and i dont party or anything thats wot also makes it hard to rent when ur young and dont have any rentil historey how can a 19 year old female and a 22 year old male have any rentel history when we been living with our parents for our hole life and our house is spotless u have to clean regouly of pet hair ect just as u would normely would do my puts are house trained the dog lets me know when he needs to go and the cat dont use a tolet tray becasue he would prefere to go out side put i have one clean and ready just in case for him so dont judge pet owners or young people there is some normals ones out that act respostiblty

  12. Lucy 3 July 2011 at 10:18 pm #

    I just looked again at which Ruth said about pets not barking in Manhatten. I apologize – she said she wasn’t aware of them! But I still stand by what I said, that pet owners generally don’t hear offensive noise from other animals. You can see this is a pet hate (pardon the pun) of mine – though I have always been kind to animals and love cats in particular. But the dog situation in Europe is critical and when two meet in the street with some vicious exchanges, the world can see how anti-social dog ownership has actually become. I’d personally like to see more human to human compassion and contact.

  13. Lucy 3 July 2011 at 6:03 am #

    Spot on, Heather. Here in Vienna people drag unwilling dogs around the city in all weathers. They aren’t allowed to stand still long enough to pee (thank God, most of the time). They are often so small that people trample on them accidentally. This is complete animal cruelty. My husband and I have joked that the dogs (who long ago forgot what it was like to be a real dog) wake in the morning and say to their owners, “Hey, can I go into Kartnerstrasse today with you to do some designer shopping. I much prefer doing that than playing with other dogs in the park, or chasing a ball”!! See the point? Repeat again: ‘US/THEM’!!!

  14. heather 1 July 2011 at 11:39 am #

    Having paid thousands (out of pocket, not covered by bond) to clean up the mess and damage made by tenants, and having seen ‘one small cat’ turn into ‘2 large dogs’, why should I let to tenants who will damage my property and leave me out of pocket? I am not a charity.
    If you don’t want to live in my rental house then don’t. Not a problem.
    (and by the way – a SHEEPDOG? It’s cruel to have these anywhere other than a farm)

Leave a Reply