It is no secret that the rental market in Australia is tough. High levels of investment housing combined with a limited supply of housing stock have seen rental costs and competition increase — barriers which see many people excluded from securing stable accommodation. Research from Australia, the UK, and Canada shows that securing rental accommodation can be significantly more difficult for tenants with pets, and these challenges are a key driver of pet relinquishment or living in unsafe conditions (e.g. domestic violence or disaster-affected housing) in order to obtain pet-inclusive accommodation.

 A recent review of Australian pet-related housing policies found that some jurisdictions (such as Victoria) have made significant moves to support animal-including housing, for instance by requiring that tenants’ requests to live with an animal companion are not unreasonably rejected. To date, South Australia has not followed suit, with a proposed bill to address this discrimination in housing recently rejected in parliament. This means that SA landlords can still freely decide whether a property will consider renting to tenants with pets or not.

 This is just one of many jurisdictions around the world where tenants with animal companions must try to navigate hostile policy settings to secure accommodation for their multispecies families. To better understand how some people successfully negotiate housing in these contexts, I will be talking to South Australian stakeholders (such as housing providers, tenancy advocates and landlords) and tenants with pets in a new project funded by the Society for Companion Animal Studies.

The project has three main objectives:

  1. To find out how landlords, housing providers and other stakeholders negotiate pet-friendly housing, including the challenges and facilitators of providing pet-friendly housing.
  2. To investigate how tenants with pets experience the processes of finding and occupying rental accommodation, including the challenges, benefits and impacts on human-animal relationships that occur as a result of this.
  3. To explore potential improvements to policy and practice that would better support the effective housing of tenants with pets, including risk mitigation for stakeholders and negotiation of tenancy arrangements.

 The findings will be used to develop understandings of how key players navigate renting with pets in hostile policy contexts, and in doing so provide tips for those working in similar jurisdictions and inform potential improvements to current policy and practice.

While ultimately we need to see legislative, urban development and social changes to better accommodate nonhuman animals in society, learning about ‘what works’ to navigate our current context is important to improve the housing prospects for both human and nonhuman animals in the meantime. 

– by Zoei Sutton

Categories: policy