Greater freedom of choice about pets and household members

The problem:

  • Most landlords require that you ask their consent to keep a pet, and they can unreasonably refuse.
  • The maximum number of residents allowed under a tenancy agreement may be unreasonably low, and restrict a partner or child from joining the household.

The solution:

  • Disallow terms against pets, except where they reflect another restriction under the law
  • Provide that the maximum number of residents be reasonable, and not used against a partner or child.

Most tenancy agreements contain an additional term prohibiting you from keeping an animal without the consent of your landlord. It is common for landlords and agents to refuse consent, regardless of the circumstances.

This is unreasonable and more than a little patronising. It is also unnecessary in terms of legal liability, because under our tenancy laws, a tenant is liable for any damage or nuisance caused by a pet.

The law should be changed to prohibit terms that restrict the keeping of companion animals, except where the restriction reflects another law (for example, a strata by-law).

Most tenancy agreements also set a maximum number of persons – including children – who may ordinarily live at the premises.

Under New South Wales tenancy laws, there is nothing to stop landlords from setting an unreasonably low and restrictive maximum number. It is common for landlords and agents to set the maximum number of persons to simply reflect the number of persons in the application for the tenancy – and not the size of the property.

This means that tenants may have to ask for their landlords' consent before an additional occupant – such as a partner, spouse or even a new baby – moves in.

The TU is aware of cases where landlords have refused to allow children to join a household, and have given termination notices because the addition of a child breaches the maximum number of persons allowed.

The law should be changed to provide that the maximum number of residents must be reasonable, and that the term cannot be used to restrict the addition of a partner or child to the household.

Further reading

TUNSW Report: 5 Years of the Residential Tenancies Act 2015

Submission to the Companion Animals Taskforce

Unreasonable restrictions on children and other occupants in rental housing: briefing paper