Legal advice: Can my owner refuse that I adopt a pet dog?

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A Queensland woman has rented for five years and is ready to shell out $20 more in rent, but her landlord continues to be a ‘fool’ on the matter.

Welcome to Sisters In Law, news.com.au’s weekly column solving all your legal problems. This week, our resident lawyers and real sisters Alison and Jillian Barrett of Maurice Blackburn give advice to a woman who wants to have a pet in her rental.

Question:

I have lived in my rental for five years and see no hope of being able to buy. I would really like to have a dog and I asked my landlord but he says I can’t. I don’t see where the problem is – he has a deposit from me and if the dog damages anything he can get money out of it. I would even be willing to pay extra rent if he let me adopt a dog – maybe $20 a week or so. My landlord has always been a bit of a jerk but I love my house and I don’t want to move. What are my rights as a tenant who wants a dog? – Prisha, Queensland

To respond:

Prisha, unfortunately for you, your landlord has the right to deny you permission to have a pet.

Currently in Queensland, your landlord does not need to give a reason for refusing to allow you to have a dog on the property. He can refuse for any reason, including those that are neither fair nor reasonable.

The only potential exception to this rule is if you have a disability and need a guide dog or service dog. In this situation, any refusal may be discriminatory.

Since an owner is not allowed to come unannounced, you might be tempted to get a dog anyway, hoping your owner never finds out.

We advise against this as the consequences of being caught could mean having to get rid of the dog or being kicked out of the premises.

The good news for you is that from October 1, 2022, the law in Queensland will change to prevent owners from refusing a pet application unless one of several specific reasons applies.

If you can wait until then, the process for requesting a dog’s endorsement would be to make your request in writing to the owner. We expect a rental form to be made available to you.

Your landlord will be required to respond to your request within 14 days. If there is no response, you can assume that your request has been approved.

If your request is denied, your landlord will need to detail the reasons for the denial.

Under the new laws, the following will be the only valid grounds for refusal:

1. Keeping the animal would exceed a reasonable number of animals on the premises

2. The premises are unsuitable due to a lack of proper fencing, open spaces or something else that means it is not humane to house the pet

3. The care of the animal is likely to cause damage that the deposit will not be sufficient to cover

4. Keeping the animal will pose an unacceptable risk to a person’s health and safety (eg a vicious dog or a poisonous snake)

5. Keeping the pet would violate any law, premises license or corporate regulation

6. The tenant has not accepted the reasonable conditions proposed by the owner for the authorization to keep the animal.

Any pet approval requirements imposed by your landlord must be reasonable given the type of pet and the nature of the premises.

Appropriate conditions could include keeping the animal outside, professional fumigation of the premises, and professional carpet cleaning at the end of the tenancy.

Your landlord can’t give approval to keep a dog on the condition of increasing the rent or deposit.

Assuming you are finally allowed to keep a dog, before you get it, we recommend that you fill out another status report and have it signed by the owner.

The law states that during your tenancy you must be careful not to damage the property. General wear and tear is allowed, for example, a rug that has been worn down due to general use.

Any damage due to wear and tear, or any damage that was present when you moved in, is the responsibility of the owner.

The law clearly states that as the owner of the dog, you will be responsible for any nuisance caused by the dog, such as noise, and any damage to property caused by the dog.

Carefully documenting the condition of the property before getting the dog will help protect you at the end of the tenancy in the event of a dispute over damage to the property and who may be responsible.

This legal information is general in nature and should not be considered or relied upon as specific legal advice. Persons requiring specific legal advice should consult a lawyer.

If you have a legal question you would like Alison and Jillian answered, please email [email protected]

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