Rental crisis forcing potential tenants to choose between their pets and a home

The hot rental market in Australia is forcing tenants to give up their pets, leaving SA animal shelters inundated with animals needing adoption.

Renters advocacy group Better Renting is calling on all states and territories to impose regulations preventing landlords from discriminating against people with pets.

It comes as RSPCA SA made an urgent plea for volunteers and foster carers to help with a record number of 1,161 animals in their care.

Better Renting executive director Joel Dignam said a lack of pet-friendly accommodation was “an added hurdle” for pet owners in the competitive rental market.

“Most people don’t want to give up their companion animals. It’s their family,” he said.

“Some people had to surrender their pets, such as to RSPCA.”

Mr Dignam is calling on all states and territories to stop landlords asking if potential tenants have a pet.

“The ability to secure a home should not be because of the biases of a person seeking to rent out their rental property,” he said.

Bonded dogs Maggie and Roy are up for adoption together from RSPCA SA.(Supplied: RSPCA SA)

Shelters swamped with pets

RSPCA SA has had more than 7,200 animals come through its doors this financial year to date, with an increasing number from struggling renters forced to give up their pets amid the worsening rental crisis in South Australia.

At least one in five pets surrendered to RSPCA SA come from tenants unable to have a pet in their rental.

The number of pets surrendered due to rental issues in this financial year to date is 616, up from 259 in 2018-19.

RSPCA SA is backing calls for legislative change to boost renters’ rights to have pets and bringing the state in line with Victoria, Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.

A black dog with red collar.
One-year-old Sherlock is waiting to be rehomed after being surrendered to RSPCA SA.(Supplied: RSPCA SA)

In Victoria, for example, landlords are only able to deny a tenant’s request for a pet if they receive approval from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

RSPCA Victoria reported a drop in pets being surrendered due to rental reasons after the law came into effect in 2020.

But landlords in SA do not have to provide a reason for refusing pets in rental homes, RSPCA animal welfare advocate Rebecca Eyers said.

“That means many, many pet owners are given a blanket refusal and have nowhere to go, and have to surrender their animals,” she said.

“You’ve got dogs that are really confused. They’re being forcibly removed from their loving families.

“You’ve got frontline staff at the RSPCA who are very distressed.”

Dr Eyers suggests preparing a pet resume and negotiating a pet agreement with the landlord to increase the chances of being accepted as tenants.

Soaring rent prices and low vacancy rates in SA are forcing tenants to make tough decisions to give up their beloved pets or risk being homeless.

A woman in glasses smiles at the camera in front of a colorful painting
Alice Clark says there are few pet-friendly rentals on the market.(ABC News: Patrick Martin)

Shelter SA executive director Alice Clark said pet owners had been struggling to find new rentals “for some time” but the problem had worsened with decreasing vacancy rates in South Australia.

“In this market, landlords are just spoilt for choice,” she said.

“We’ve heard of people with children, single parents, who just can’t find a place to rent. Couples without children are preferred.”

Dr Clark would like to see landlords and tenants come to an agreement where pets are allowed depending on the size of the animal, the size of the rental home and its outdoor area.

More pets need new homes

At the Lonsdale shelter, there are 605 animals waiting to be rehomed, with hundreds more living with volunteer foster carers or at the RSPCA’s Whyalla and Port Lincoln shelters.

RSPCA SA is reducing its dog adoption fee to $150 and tripling its appointments at the Lonsdale shelter this weekend.

It has also issued a desperate call for more volunteers to care for 120 dogs and puppies that arrived last weekend.

A black cat on colorful blankets.
Mickel is one of hundreds of cats up for adoption through RSPCA SA.(Supplied: RSPCA SA)

Dr Eyers encouraged people who could not adopt to become foster carers.

“All of the food, bedding and vet care is provided by RSPCA,” she said.

“You’ll have support from our animal care team, and you’d be providing such a wonderful service to that animal until it finds a permanent loving home.

“If the animal is healthy, then we will hold onto that animal for as long as it takes to find it a home … and that can be a very long time, so it’s a huge drain on our resources.”

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