Pets In Rentals Appear To Be The Case as Tribunal Let the Dogs In?
One topic that divides opinion within the rental sector is whether pets should be allowed in rentals, to such an extent that it was left out of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act in 2020. The Government had decided to put the decision around allowing pets on hold until more investigation was undertaken.
Now, the Tenancy Tribunal has made that decision for them. The first case that came to light and made the media was not about dogs but Guinea Pigs. An adjudicator had ruled that a 'No-Pet clause' was invalid as there was no mention of pets within the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA).
And now, our company has had our first case around pets in rentals. A tenant had acquired an abandoned puppy. The tenant couldn't locate the owner, so she kept it as a family pet. They did everything a pet-loving family would and should do.
They registered it with the local council and got it microchipped and neutered.
Once the Property Manager had discovered the dog, after consulting with the owner, the decision was that the pet had to go. The tenants refused to lose the dog, stating they would rather lose the tenancy. And so, the parties went to the Tribunal for a resolution.
The Tribunal decided that the tenants' needs outweighed the landlord's needs and allowed the pet to stay. The adjudicator then discussed whether allowing a blanket 'No-Pet clause' was lawful. They concluded that it was not. Such a decision will give the green light to tenants wanting a pet. In my opinion, the adjudicator gets it right.
Looking at the decision purely through the eyes of the RTA, it is difficult to disagree with the adjudicator. It is interesting, though, why they have only just come to this conclusion. For years and years, pet clauses in Tenancy Agreements were commonplace.
It appears that Property Managers and landlords have been writing unlawful clauses in Tenancy Agreements for years. Even Tenancy Services' website has a section dedicated to pets with advice on including a 'Pet-clause' into a Tenancy Agreement. However, at a recent Training Day at Property Brokers, Tenancy Services admitted that they are now reviewing whether the need to make changes to this is necessary.
What did the adjudicator actually state? In our recent order, the adjudicator refers to section 11 of the RTA. This section refers to clauses written in the Tenancy Agreement that the RTA does not cover. In short, clauses that are written that the Act does not cover are deemed to have no effect.
Clauses can be permitted, but those clauses cannot interfere with the tenant's quiet enjoyment of using the premises. The clauses must also be fair and look at the interests of the parties involved. Should the landlord have the right to include a blanket 'No-Pet clause', or can they have a 'No-Pet clause' tailored specifically for the premises?
In this case, the adjudicator deems that the clause is unlawful as the risk of damage is low, and the tenant should be allowed to benefit from having a pet.
From the evidence provided, the tenant is responsible and has taken all the correct procedures, such as registering the dog with the council. The dog has become an integral part of the family. Making the tenant remove the dog would have been unjust.
As these decisions become more widespread, we expect to see more and more tenants obtain pets.
How will things change?
Pet clauses will still have their place in Tenancy Agreements, as they should. We will see clauses around types of pets and that tenants will need to provide evidence of compliance regarding pet ownership.
I, for one, have always believed that tenants should be allowed pets, particularly as more and more New Zealanders have no choice around their type of tenure.
With approximately one-third of the population renting, it is unfair not to allow tenants a basic right around pet ownership.