Host – Belinda Heit – Communication and Education – RTA
Guest – Sheri Wilton – Housing and Legislation Implementation – RTA
Host: Welcome to the Talking Tenancies podcast. Brought to you by the Residential Tenancies Authority, I'm your host, Belinda Heit. Join me as we explore everything you need to know about renting in Queensland with experts from the RTA and industry. We're here to help make renting work for everyone.
Queensland tenancy laws are changing from 1 October 2022. The new laws provide tenants, property managers and owners with a greater number of reasons to end a tenancy; introduces a framework for negotiating renting with pets; repair orders; as well as a few other amendments.
In this episode, we'll be focusing on the tenancy law changes around the new framework that's in place to help tenants and property owners to negotiate renting with a pet. Today's expert from the RTA is Sheri Wilton, welcome Sheri.
Guest: Thanks, Belinda.
Host: Now, can you tell us about your role at the RTA?
Guest: Sure. I'm a Senior Quality and Training Officer at the RTA. I've worked with our Customer Experience teams and led training sessions on tenancy legislation and RTA procedures for our staff. I’m currently part of the project team that’s responsible for implementing the tenancy law changes to deliver relevant education and information on the new laws and ensure our staff can help our customers right across Queensland.
Host: Now as we know, Queensland tenancy laws have changed from 1 October 2022 and we'll be talking about the new framework that's in place to help tenants and property owners negotiate renting with a pet today. So, what does the new framework around renting with a pet involve?
Guest: The new framework provides a structured process to support tenants and property owners who are in a tenancy agreement to negotiate renting with a pet. What this means is that you must already be in a tenancy before you can follow this process to seek approval for a pet. The new laws and framework don't apply to those who are looking for a rental property or in the process for applying for a rental property.
Since 1 October 2022, a tenant is able to formalise their pet request using an official RTA form that is available from our website. This form prompts the tenant to provide some details about the pet they wish to keep for the property owner’s consideration. In completing this request, tenants can also confirm their understanding of the responsibilities around keeping a pet in the rental property under the tenancy laws.
Host: OK, so what happens then?
Guest: So once the property owner receives a tenant’s request, they will have 14 days to respond and provide reasoning for their decision. If the owner does not respond within 14 days in writing, or if their response does not satisfy their requirements under the law to state reasons for their decision, then the pet is automatically considered approved. To help property owners in their response, the RTA has developed a letter template for property owners to use or refer to.
Under the new framework, property owners can only refuse a pet request from a tenant by providing a reason under the tenancy law. If they approve the pet, they can also apply reasonable conditions for keeping the pet. We'll get to what these reasons and conditions may be a little later.
To keep in mind that tenants are still required to seek a property owners' approval to keep a pet in a rental property. And if you are renting an apartment, unit or townhouse, the body corporate will need to provide permission for the pet as well. Sometimes body corporate bylaws outline additional restrictions about pets, for example the size and number of pets allowed. So we'd encourage tenants to check the bylaws and check with the body corporate where applicable to gain a better understanding.
Host: So, as a tenant who wants to keep a pet, what should I be aware of?
Guest: Well, it's important to understand that the new laws have made it very clear that any damage caused by the pet is not fair wear and tear. This means tenants will need to rectify any damage to the property that is caused by the pet. Another item to be aware of is that property owners could ask for reasonable conditions as part of their approval for a tenant to keep a pet, such as requesting the tenant to arrange pest control at the end of the tenancy or that the pet be kept outside. For more information on the applicable reasonable conditions, you can refer to the renting with pets fact sheet on our website.
Remember that having the property owner’s approval to keep a pet is crucial, and not having the approval for a pet is a breach of your tenancy agreement.
Host: And what if the property I'm renting is a unit or an apartment?
Guest: If you're renting a unit, apartment or townhouse, the body corporate bylaws are part of your tenancy agreement. This means that on top of the approval from the property owner, a tenant may also need the body corporate’s approval for the pet to make sure they are not in breach of the tenancy agreement.
To understand how the body corporate bylaws and approval processes work with the new tenancy laws and framework for renting with pets, we've got a webinar on our website that addresses this specific topic, which will give you a wealth of information and help you navigate the process.
Finally, a tenant would be responsible for all nuisance, such as noise, that is caused by the approved pet kept in the rental property. As a tenant, if your pet is approved but interferes with the reasonable peace and comfort of your neighbours, you could be in breach of your agreement.
Host: Oh Sheri no one wants a pet like that. Now, as part of approving a tenant's pet request, can the property owner ask the tenant to pay a pet bond?
Guest: Well, no. Asking the tenant to pay more bond money is not a reasonable condition that the property owner can apply when approving a pet. The property owner also cannot increase the rent or ask for more rent as a condition to provide approval for the pet.
Host: So, you mentioned there are specific reasons under the laws that a property owner can give to refuse the tenants pet request, what are some of those reasons?
Guest: Yes. The new laws outline a list of reasons that a property owner can give to refuse a tenant’s request to keep a pet. One of these listed reasons for refusal is that the pet would pose an unacceptable risk to the health and safety of a person. As an example, if the pet the tenant wishes to keep is venomous, then the property owner may refuse based on the pet posing a risk to someone’s health and safety.
Another reason could be that keeping the pet would contravene a law. This highlights that there are other laws that may impact on a tenant's ability to keep a pet. Sometimes local council laws govern or restrict the number and type of animals that may be kept in a residential area or property. There are also body corporate bylaws and approvals to be aware of if you're renting a unit, apartment or townhouse and wish to keep a pet.
There are more approved reasons under the tenancy laws that a property owner can base their refusal upon. For the full list and details, read our renting with pets factsheet available on our website.
Host: So, what can a tenant do if the property owner refuses their pet request and they think the reason provided is not valid or reasonable?
Guest: Well, just like in any other situation, the RTA recommends self-resolution in the first instance. We encourage tenants and property owners to share further information and details regarding the pet and their concerns, as well as conditions of approval or reasons for refusal. If they cannot reach a resolution after talking to each other, either the tenant or the property owner can apply for the RTA’s free dispute resolution for assistance.
If the issue remains unresolved, the tenant will have the option to apply to the Tribunal for a decision. If there is a dispute with the body corporate around pets and pet approval, you can apply for conciliation through the Body Corporate Commissioner’s Office and they'll be able to help.
Host: So, if a tenant’s pet was already approved by the property owner before 1 October 2022, do they need to reapply for approval now that the new laws have come in?
Guest: Great question Belinda. The answer is no. If a pet has already been approved, then the approval will continue for the life of the approved pets. This approval will remain even if the tenant enters into a new tenancy agreement in the same property, or if there's a change in the owner of the rental property.
Host: Now Sheri, you know I love to talk about dogs. I have to ask you, what about companion dogs? Are they considered a pet, or does the same approval process apply?
Guest: Well, the tenancy laws in the new framework relate to a pet, which, by definition, is a domesticated animal or an animal that is dependent on a person for food or shelter. Under tenancy laws, different rules apply to working dogs. Working dogs refer to assistance dogs, guide dogs, hearing dogs, corrective service dogs, or police dogs. And the property owners’ approval is not required for keeping a working dog.
So now, companion dogs or therapy dogs don't fall under a definition of an assistance dog under the Guide, Hearing, and Assistance Dog Act 2009. So a companion dog will be considered a pet and will need to go through the same approval process and follow the framework that we've talked about today. The tenant could attach a medical certificate or provide further evidence and information about the pet so that the property owner can make an informed decision.
Host: Good to know. Now, how can we find out more about the changes to tenancy laws around renting with a pet?
Guest: There's a range of information and resources on our website to help everyone understand their new rights and responsibilities, such as renting with pets fact sheet. The pet approval request form and the response letter template to help property owners respond to a pet request can be found on our website as well. We've also got a short animated video that will walk you through this new process, as well as a webinar and quick guides with more details.
Host: So much more information on our website. Thank you so much Sheri for walking us through the new framework around renting with pets that have taken effect from 1 October 2022.
Thank you for listening to the Talking Tenancies podcast. For more information about the Residential Tenancies Authority, visit rta.qld.gov.au.