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Pets & renting: what does the community have to say?

Riley Brooke • 08/12/2022

Susan Hawkeswood - Make Renting Fair Campaign Leader

The NSW Government has just closed a 6-week consultation on keeping pets in rental homes. Here at the Tenants’ Union we’ve long maintained that the law needs to be changed to make it easier for renters to keep pets - for a range of very good reasons. You can check out some of our previous blog posts on the topic here and here. One of the six key Make Renting Fair campaign demands is to change the law on pets and renting in NSW.

When the NSW Government announced it wanted to hear from the community about whether or not the laws around pets and renting should change we jumped at the opportunity. We put forward recommendations and policy solutions in the Tenants' Union's submission, drawing on research, available data, and our experience and expertise as a community legal centre specialising in NSW residential tenancies law and the resourcing body for the state-wide network of Tenants' Advice and Advocacy Services. Through the Make Renting Fair campaign we also collated a community submission, highlighting the lived experiences and perspectives of renters all across NSW.

Newtown dogs
As a young woman living alone I feel safer having dogs around. But my renting options are very restricted, and I often have to pay above advertised to secure housing. If the issue with pets is property damage and/or noise, how is it different from having children in a home? Ensuring and enforcing responsible pet ownership is a more productive route that benefits all involved. Renter, Newtown

 

Lilyfield cat
I was couch surfing for six weeks trying to find a place I could legitimately have my cat. At the time my cat was 15 years old, there was no way I was going to abandon my constant companion; that's cruel. It was incredibly stressful and exhausting. Renter, Lilyfield

Why did we create a community submission?

We recognize that there’s more than one type of expertise when it comes to renting. Every renter is an expert in their own renting story and their lived experience navigating the renting system. These stories and views warrant sharing.

Individual renters may face a variety of barriers in making their own submissions to government consultations. To make sure renters' experiences got the platform and consideration they deserve, we offered additional avenues for renters to share their stories, opinions, and all-important pet pics with us. These are shared in the Make Renting Fair campaign community submission.

 

How did we create the community submission?

We set up a form on the Tenants' Union website for renters to submit their stories, opinions, and photos of their pets, and pushed out the form far and wide. We created a pet sign-on so that furry friends could join the call for reform. We asked questions of our community on social media, and collected stories and views through comments, messages and emails.

We held a public event at a dog-park where we spoke to renters about their experiences (and paw-printed some very good dogs). We also invited local elected representatives to chat with Make Renting Fair about the issues surrounding pets and renting and the need for reform.

In all, our Make Renting Fair campaign community submission includes contributions from over 80 renters, and the process of creating the submission involved conversations with many more.

Everyone’s story was unique, but the common theme amongst nearly everyone we spoke to was: it’s time to change the laws in NSW to make it easier for renters to keep pets. This wasn’t only expressed to us by the renters we spoke to. It's a clear finding of the NSW Government’s own public poll of over 18,000 people, with an overwhelming 87% supporting pet-friendly reforms to NSW renting laws.

 

 

Show your supPAWt for renting pets: perspectives from a Make Renting Fair Campaign Leader

Susan HawkeswoodSusan Hawkeswood is a community housing renter and a Campaign Leader with the Make Renting Fair campaign. Susan was one of the volunteers representing Make Renting Fair at the Show your supPAWt for renting pets event. 

Show your supPAWt for renting pets took place on 19 November 2022 at Camperdown Memorial Rest Park. The event was held to gather support for a review of the provisions about pets and renting.

I attended because I believe the laws around pets and renting need to change. Pets are an important part of people’s lives and the difficulty renting with a pet unfairly excludes renters from enjoying the company and support a pet can bring to a household.

I felt positive about approaching people in the park who had dogs with them. I quickly introduced myself and briefly explained what I was doing. Everyone I approached was willing to talk to me about their experiences of renting with a pet. People shared their stories and we collected a lot of doggie paw signatures for the submission. The most interesting conversation was with a group of people who were at the park with their dog and their landlord.

The response from members of the public we approached was very positive. People were enthusiastic about the campaign and everyone agreed the law should change to make it easier for people to rent with pets. It was also great to see elected representatives from State Government and Local Council attending the event and agreeing to be interviewed.

It’s great to see people’s stories included in the Make Renting Fair submission, with pictures of their pets.

 

 

Arlo
I’ve been on the go, moving into short term rentals and living in my van with my dog since June 2021, which has had a huge impact on my mental health. I’ve had to move up and down the East Coast to wherever I could find a pet friendly room to live in. My boy Arlo has saved me from the darkness that sometimes creeps into my thoughts. Without Arlo my mental health would have been so heavy I may not even be here today. I owe him my life.

I’ve had to struggle and fight so much for something that I should not be deprived of: a safe place to call home. It’s inhumane and unjust how we get treated because we’ve decided to look after an animal. Pets have an amazing ability to create warmth without wanting anything in return. They give you unconditional love and with training, can be better housemates than some humans. 
Renter, NSW

 

Read more renters' stories (and see their pets!)

Download the Make Renting Fair campaign community submission here.

Download the Tenants' Union of NSW submission here.