Law changes bring good news for pet owners who rent

Law changes bring good news for pet owners who rent

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Pets whose owners live in rental accommodation in Queensland have been given a reprieve, with landlords in the state stripped of their right to refuse to allow animal companions in rental properties.

The change was included as part of a series of variations made as part of the Queensland Housing Legislation Amendment Bill 2021, passed in the state parliament on October 20.

“The new Queensland rental reforms appear to provide more certainty to tenants around their lease conditions,” says Smarter Communities State Manager – Queensland, Adam Stankevicius.

“Pet approvals have also changed. Landlords can no longer refuse tenants keeping a pet without reason. The specific reasons allowed for refusal are set out in the legislation and are limited.

“One to watch out for is if a landlord does not respond to a tenant’s request to keep a pet within 14 days, the landlord is taken to have given their consent. Owners need to ensure that both they, and their managing agent, are across the new requirements so their interests are protected,” says Mr Stankevicius.

Landlords can only say no to pets for a reason deemed valid by the government – including a lack of fencing or appropriate space for the pet, health and safety risks, or if the pet is likely to cause damage beyond repair.

Other key points of the legislation include offering domestic violence victims the right to leave on a week’s notice or to change locks, eliminating the opportunity for landlords to evict a renter without grounds, affording tenants the right to terminate a lease if a property doesn’t meet minimum standards, and fining landlords up to $6,850 if repairs aren’t completed.

Mr Stankevicius advises that investors need to be aware of numerous new requirements.

“Particularly ‘minimum housing standards’, which are a set of specific standards that must be met in order to lease a property.

“This may mean that a number of investor owners will need to conduct renovations to their rental properties to comply with the new legislation.

While landlords will not be allowed to end a tenancy without grounds, they can end a lease agreement if “significant” repair works need to be done, the property is subject to redevelopment, or if the owner or an immediate family member needs to move into the property.

The landlord must give tenants at least two months’ notice of termination and a tenancy cannot end before the lease is up without the tenant agreeing to it.

Renters have also been given new reasons to leave a property, including if it is in a state of disrepair and does not meet minimum housing standards.

The changes have been met with mixed reviews from stakeholders.

While the state government argues the changes would modernise current laws for the one in three Queenslanders who live in a rental property, the Real Estate Institute of Queensland says the Bill could be “the final straw” for some investors and might prompt them to sell.

REIQ CEO Antonia Mercorella went one step further by arguing the Bill has introduced a series of provisions that erode owner’s rights, the most damaging being changes to periodic tenancies and pets.

Mercorella says property owners have lost the right to end a periodic tenancy by providing notice. Tenants will however retain this right.

“Unless owners can establish limited prescribed grounds (such as the sale of the property) they will never be able to terminate a periodic tenancy.

“This is a retrograde step and will almost certainly result in the demise of periodic tenancies in Queensland. This reform will detrimentally impact tenants who are seeking maximum flexibility and would prefer not to commit to a fixed term tenancy.”

That said, Mercorella says the REIQ welcomes the greater statutory clarification the Bill provides in relation to minimum housing standards.

“Tenants have an absolute right to feel safe and secure in their homes and these provisions ensure that there is a clear standard for the condition of the premises and its inclusions together with compliance measures to enforce the new standards.”

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