Dr Lisa Wood Image: UWA
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  • Rental pressures in Western Australia are forcing some people to give up their beloved pets to find a place to live, according to a researcher from the University of WA
  • Rentals in Perth are currently sitting at below one per cent vacancy rates and prices are continuing to rise amidst a well-publicised ‘rental crisis’
  • Homeless Healthcare CEO Dr Andrew Davies said the organisation’s street health outreach in the Perth CBD saw people sleeping rough because they couldn’t find accommodation that allowed pets
  • Despite more than 60 per cent of Australian households having a pet, policies remain restrictive across many housing sectors in Australia
  • An estimated 15 to 25 per cent of pet relinquishments are related to rental mobility/access and pet restrictions across the nation

Rental pressures in Western Australia are forcing some people to give up their beloved pets to find a place to live, according to a researcher from the University of WA.

Dr Lisa Wood, from UWA’s School of Population and Global Health said through their research into homelessness, she has met people living on the street with their dog as they cannot find crisis or long-term accommodation that will allow their pet.

“When your dog is your one constant, your safety, your warmth at night, a reason to stay alive, it is soul-destroying to give them up,” Dr Wood said.

Rentals in Perth are currently sitting at below one per cent vacancy rates and prices are continuing to rise amidst a well-publicised ‘rental crisis’.

Homeless Healthcare, the largest specialist GP service for homeless people in Perth has seen the trend firsthand.  

Homeless Healthcare CEO Dr Andrew Davies said the organisation’s street health outreach in the Perth CBD saw people sleeping rough because they couldn’t find accommodation that allowed pets. 

“At our clinics, some patients come to appointments with their dog,” Dr Davies said. “What else can they do? You can’t leave your dog at home if you don’t have a home.”

Despite more than 60 per cent of Australian households having a pet, policies remain restrictive across many housing sectors in Australia, according to a recent study undertaken for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI).

In general, tenants in the private rental market face the strongest restrictions, with NSW, WA and SA legislation giving landlords the right to freely determine whether a property will consider renters with pets or not.

In Victoria and the ACT the residential tenancy laws require that landlords do not
unreasonably refuse tenants’ requests to keep a companion animal.

“While landlords frequently cite concerns about property damage for refusing pets, there is little evidence to support this,” lead researcher for the AHURI report Professor Wendy Stone from Swinburne University of Technology said.

“There are mechanisms, such as insurances and ‘pet bonds’, available to manage risks, and these costs are currently borne by tenants. Indeed, there is some evidence that pet-friendly rentals return higher rents and are leased more easily than equivalent quality properties that do not allow pets,” she continued.

An estimated 15 to 25 per cent of pet relinquishments are related to rental mobility/access and pet restrictions across the nation.

“As owning your own home becomes less and less affordable, we need to reduce the tendency for landlords to just default to ‘no pets allowed,” Dr Wood said. 

“Pet owners in fact often make for very responsible tenants, and as our UWA research has shown, pets often facilitate neighbourly interactions and a sense of community.”

Tenants in public housing usually have very good rights to have a pet, but people living in community housing, in crisis accommodation or in head-leasing arrangements — i.e. housing leased from the private rental sector and re-rented to social housing tenants — can face restrictions similar to those experienced by private rental tenants, according to AHURI researchers.

Professor Stone said most homelessness support services do not allow pets in their accommodation, meaning many pet lovers who are experiencing homelessness fall through the cracks of the housing system.

The WA Government is currently reviewing its Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) and has floated potential changes to bring WA more in line with Victoria and the ACT.

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