Pet owners are surrendering their animals to improve their chances of securing a lease in Queensland’s increasingly tight rental market.
- Animal refuges around Queensland are seeing an increase in surrendered pets due to the rental crisis
- Some renters are boarding their pets in kennels while they couch-surf during their rental search
- Queensland’s Tenancies and Rooming Act says the property owner/manager can decide whether to allow pets
The owners of surrendered cat Rex applied for 26 homes before they came to the realisation they would have to give him up to the Sunshine Coast Animal Refuge (SCARs) or risk finding themselves homeless.
“Rex is another one of our victims of the rental crisis situation,” SCARs manager Penny Brischke said.
The Sunshine Coast rental vacancy rate sat at 0.4 per cent in January.
Ms Brischke said in the period between October and December last year the shelter took in about 12 animals that needed accommodation due to the rental crisis.
“We’ve taken in nine [pets] already, we’ve got another six on the waiting list, and that’s in five weeks,” Ms Brischke said.
“We’re already at nearly the amount that we took in in three months.
Ms Brischke said the shelter never judged owners when they found themselves in the situation of having to surrender their beloved pets, which was usually their last resort.
“Most of the time, the situations that they’re surrendering [in], it’s not their first or second or third choice,” she said.
“They are literally at their wit’s end.”
Problem stretches to Cairns
In Cairns, where the rental vacancy rate was 1.2 per cent in January, the Young Animal Protection Society (YAPS) has been dealing with a similar state of affairs.
YAPS treasurer Carol Clifton said she had seen people in tears when they had to surrender their animals.
“A lot of people have left the big cities and moved up here,” she said.
“[They are] bringing their animals with them and not realising how difficult it is going to be to get accommodation up here where they’re allowed to have their pets.”
Ms Clifton said families were having to choose accommodation over their dogs and cats.
“We actually had a call just this morning about somebody who had to surrender their cat — they’re moving into a unit, they’ve got to downsize,” she said.
Pets, rentals and the law
The 2016 census said 36 per cent of Queenslanders were renting privately. Much has changed since then.
There is also little available data on how many renters keep pets as those agreements are made between renters, owners and agents.
A 2019 report by Animal Medicines Australia found that Australia had one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world with approximately 61 per cent of households owning an animal.
About 40 per cent of us have at least one dog and 27 per cent have a cat.
And this is before the increased pet adoption rates as a result of last year’s pandemic restrictions.
When it comes to rental laws in Queensland, 2018 legislation says landlords must give permission for tenants to own pets in their home and are free to refuse requests.
In late 2019, the Palaszczuk Government proposed major reforms to make pet ownership easier in rental properties.
The changes required landlords to have reasonable grounds for refusing a tenant’s request for a pet.
The ABC is unaware of any further progress on this bill since the onset of COVID-19.
A spokesperson from the Residential Tenancies Authority says a property owner or manager can decide what type of tenancy agreement is suitable for their property and whether to allow pets.
“A tenant may only keep pets on the premises if they have written permission from the property manager/owner and if it is stated in the standard terms of the tenancy agreement,” the spokesperson said.
Ms Clifton said she believed landlords should loosen restrictions about pet ownership for tenants.
“People are going through a tough time,” she said.
Tenants turn to boarding pets
Nadine Hamilton has applied for “40 to 50 rentals” since September and has turned to boarding her cat Archie while she weathers the Sunshine Coast’s rental market.
She is spending more money on Archie’s lodgings than she is on her furniture storage while she jumps between Airbnb accommodation, friends’ homes and hotels as she searches for a home.
“Once I became without a home and knew I would be moving around looking for something,” Ms Hamilton said.
Ms Hamilton said she was not at the point yet where she had to choose to give up her cat.
“It’s a pretty big thing to have to do — a big decision to make,” she said.
“I understand how people get to the point where you think, ‘The pet’s got to go.’