Ten months ago the Victorian State government announced reforms to tenancy rules that would give renters the rights to have pets. The change was among a slate of amendments that also sought to control rental hikes and create a public blacklist of agents and landlords who break state rental laws. The improvements were warmly received, and they were in line with wider calls to see renter rights in Australia more closely mirror those in Europe. Because after all, if property prices mean millennials rent forever, we'd better make sure we’re not getting ripped off.
But almost a year later, and with only four parliamentary sittings left for 2018, little action has been taken. As it currently stands, landlords are still able to include a no-pets clause in rental agreements. Renters and tenant advocates are getting worried this promise will prove hollow.
Premier Daniel Andrews has said the full set of 130 reforms (which include the ones relating to pets) will be introduced into parliament this week. But hopes are considerably lower than they were a year ago. Ahead of the state election in November, tensions in the upper house have increased. Speaking to the ABC, Consumer Affairs Minister Marlene Kairouz has commented that the amendments are complicated by the fact the government doesn't hold the majority in the state's Upper House. "We've been working on this for a very long time, it's up to the Liberal Party and the Greens to ensure that renters' arrangements are fairer and the relationship between landlords and tenants is rebalanced."
The Premier added, somewhat vaguely, "I would hope they (the Legislative Council) would be motivated to get on, just as we are, to make these changes."
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy is skeptical about any changes though. Speaking to the ABC he reflected, "I think the Government's done this announcement [the proposed legislation reforms] maybe three times."
Last week frustrated animal lovers gathered at Victoria’s Parliament House to protest the lagging action. The demonstration was lead by Northcote MP and Greens Spokesperson for Consumer Affairs Lidia Thorpe. She echoed Guy’s concerns, telling Domain: “I’ve asked questions and we’re just running out of time. They are full of broken promises so far and have left renters hanging.”
The same Domain also article quoted Tenancy Victoria spokeswoman Devon LaSalle who reflected on the confusion the unactioned conversation has created: “Needless to say, it has been a rather rude awakening when they discovered that protections they thought existed have not actually been put into effect.”
The RSPCA have previously reported that in in Victoria 15 percent of surrendered dogs and cats are brought to them because their owners can’t keep them in their rental properties.
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