A woman sitting on a couch with red cushions and wallpaper

Renter forced to give up her cat under laws in South Australia, where landlords can refuse pets

When Jasmin Witham started renting in Adelaide, she was forced to make a heartbreaking decision.

In order to move into her new home in Clovelly Park, the 27-year-old would have to give up her kitten, Nina.

Even though more than 60 per cent of South Australian households own a dog or cat, the decision to allow pets in rental properties lies with the landlord.

Property owners can currently refuse tenants’ requests to own a pet and do not have to provide a reason for doing so.

As a result, Ms Witham, who has struggled with rental affordability over the years as a part-time student who lives with bipolar disorder and is on the Disability Support Pension, said she was faced with a difficult choice.

“We approached the landlord and asked to bring the pet with us and they said no, so I wasn’t able to bring my kitten with me to the new house,” Ms Witham said.

“It is still very upsetting, and I don’t see how having a pet or a smaller animal like a cat is detrimental in any way to a property, like if there is any damage there is a bond.”

Nina the cat went to live with Jasmin’s parents instead.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

The South Australian government is currently looking at modernizing the state’s residential tenancies laws which could see tenants allowed to rent with pets.

In 2020, new laws came into effect in Victoria which made it much easier for renters to own a pet.

Now landlords are only allowed to deny a tenant’s request for a pet if they receive approval from the Victorian Civil and Administration Tribunal.

Queensland followed in 2021 by updating its legislation and stripping landlords of the right to refuse pets in rental properties without a reason deemed valid by the state government.

In the ACT, tenants still require consent of the landlord to keep a pet on the property but tenancy agreements can no longer prohibit pets completely.

If the landlord wants to refuse a pet, they have to take it to the Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Shelter SA executive director Alice Clark said the current legislation in place in South Australia is outdated.

“The number of pet rentals that is listed is very low in South Australia so yes I think we should catch up,” Dr Clark said.

“What we don’t want is tenants hiding their pets which we know happens frequently so it would be great to have that all done transparently and responsibly by both sides.”

Rental Crisis Jasmin Witham
Jasmin Witham is currently renting in Unley.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Considering what she could afford, Ms Witham said finding a rental by herself was difficult and even finding a share house was hard.

“It’s difficult to be put onto a lease where a lot of landlords and agencies feel uncomfortable taking people getting social security benefits and will prioritize people in employment,” she said.

As Australia’s housing crisis worsens, Ms Witham hopes South Australia updates its laws to better protect both tenants and landlords.


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