Renters in the Northern Territory will be able to dispute landlord decisions on pets if the NT Government moves ahead with amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act.
Currently, the act is silent on the issue, and the decision is made between the landlord and tenant.
But under the new legislation renters will be able to keep a pet if they provide written notice to a landlord. The landlord then has 14 days to object by advising the tenant in writing and making application to the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal to determine if the refusal is reasonable.
The new laws would bring the Territory in line with the ACT and Victoria, which recently implemented similar legislation.
But the Leader of the Opposition Lia Finocchiaro says the Labor Government is creating additional red tape for landlords and tenants against its own backbench majority committee.
Chair of the Inquiry into the Residential Tenancies Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 Ngaree Ah Kit stated in the tabled report the "amendments pose an unreasonable burden on the landlord", and will only benefit a small proportion of tenants in private rental housing.
Ms Finocchiaro said this was a prime example of a Labor Government with the wrong priorities that has implemented more red tape for tenants and landlords where it wasn't needed.
"This is not about demonising pet owners or pets, but it clearly infringes upon the property rights of Territorians who have worked hard for an investment property which they hope will one day be part of their retirement plan," she said.
"Tenants and landlords can already reach agreements around pets - why the Labor Government feel it necessary to get in the middle of this shows their complete lack of priorities and love of red tape."
She said the new legislation could be enough to persuade investors looking to purchase property in the Territory a reason to invest elsewhere.
"The Labor Government cannot help itself, and they will always try and control people's lives through legislative overreach and the 'pets' clause is proof of that, as is the alcohol floor price," she said.
"Why shouldn't Territorians be able to negotiate freely with tenants around the sustainability of a pet in their own property?"
The representative body of the Northern Territory Real Estate Industry said the rights of landlords needed to be taken into account, and pointed to a Victorian survey of landlords following the introduction of similar legislation; the survey showed 25 per cent of people would consider leaving the property market.
"There is a lot of discussion about the right of the tenant to have a pet. Doing so ignores the right of the landlord who has invested hundreds of thousands, possibly even $1m into a property which is their future for their retirement.
"You are literally taking away their right over their investment property," A spokesperson for REINT said.
"Landlords who are reluctant to have pets have often been adversely affected in the past, often that has been because they have had a very bad experience from tenants who have not been responsible pet owners."
The REINT also said the amendments would result in an excessive workload for NTCAT, with the cost most likely impacting landlords.
The NT's attorney-general Natasha Fyles has hit back saying pets are known to have health and general wellbeing effects on family and children, and the benefits of pets should not be denied simply because a property is rented.
She said the NT is not the only jurisdiction to make amendments in favour of keeping pets, as more jurisdictions are considering similar provisions.
"Commentary from the opposition on the Residential Tenancies Act which was passed in Parliament yesterday is defunct as neither opposition member voted on this bill," Ms Fyles said.
"The Chair of the Scrutiny Committee is on the record this morning as saying it was helpful to hear the concerns of stakeholders throughout the inquiry process, and she understands the Governments policy intent behind the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill.
"As with all legislation the Department of Attorney-General and Justice will monitor how the act will works and if significant concerns arise these can be addressed. This Bill is the first tranche of reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act."
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