15 Apr 2024

Pet bond will be 'safety blanket' for landlords - Housing Minister Chris Bishop

6:28 pm on 15 April 2024
Pet bonds

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Pet bonds are a positive change to tenancy laws, and will provide extra surety for landlords, Housing Minister Chris Bishop says.

Changes to the Residential Tenancies Act from 2025 mean landlords will be able to charge a pet bond, set at a maximum of two weeks rent, to encourage them to take on tenants with animals.

Renters would be liable for any damage - whether accidental or due to lack of care - caused by pets.

Housing Minister Chris Bishop made the announcement today with his samoyed Ladyhawke at his side.

He told Checkpoint the government thought tenants should be able to have pets, and the bond would make it easier for landlords to approve such applications.

Under the revised act, landlords could only deny tenants with pets on reasonable grounds.

This could be due to the size of the pet or property, insufficient fencing, body corporate rules or council bylaws.

"Reasonable grounds" for refusal was context-specific, Bishop said, but would ultimately be established by legal precedent in the Tenancy Tribunal.

The government had considered changing the law to allow pets as a matter of right, but decided against it.

"This is about finding the right balance... between tenants and landlords, and we think we're striking the balance further towards allowing people to have pets.

"At the end of the day, landlords are offering up a property they own to somebody else and we think it's right and proper that they have the ability to set some rules and restrictions around that."

The government had consulted with the NZ Property Investors Federation and landlords over the change.

"Their point of view is that this will provide a bit of extra surety, an extra safety blanket ... for landlords.

"Pets do cause a bit of damage, [and] we've set the figure for the pet bond at a couple of weeks.

"It's not an exact science, and if it goes to select committee and they say it should be only a week [of rent], we'd be open to that."

However, Renters United spokesperson Luke Somervell said the announcement was just a "coat of paint over a shabby situation for renters".

"Pet bond changes don't offer more security for renters; in fact, they open the door for landlords to pad their wallets at renters' expense.

"The changes are moot because landlords will still be able to evict you whenever they want, with the return of no-cause evictions.

"If the government really wanted to make it easier for pet owners to rent, they'd make it so landlords would have to accept renters who lodged a pet bond.

"Ultimately, the power still rests with the landlords, who can choose to accept or decline an application, depending on how they feel on the day. As of yet, the only way to refute their reason is the lengthy and inaccessible process of the Tenancy Tribunal."

Pet Refuge - which provides temporary shelter for pets of those fleeing domestic abuse - welcomed the announcement of pet bonds.

Chief executive Julie Chapman said the charity aimed to reunite pets with their owners as soon as possible.

"But we've had some animals in our care for months at a time while their pet parent searches high and low for somewhere that will take them both.

"[This] is so hard, that there have been times where we've had to find the pet a new loving forever home because it has been impossible for their family to find a place they can all live in safety together."

Being parted from their pets after fleeing family violence was "heart-breaking", Chapman said.

"Many of the people we help describe their pet as their rock, their protector and source of comfort, and keeping them in their lives is a huge part of their recovery.

"We believe the changes announced today will mean more pets can be reunited with their families sooner, enabling us to help those that are waiting for our support."

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