Originally published by Simon Johanson
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Kira is a fluffy-white, 12-year-old dog. She lives on the 38th floor of Eureka Tower, rides on trams and goes to work with her owner daily.
The pampered bichon frise (she had a manicure before our interview) is part of a growing trend of people with pets living in apartments.
Kira and her owners, Louise Schaper and Ryan Turan, professionals who work in the city, have lived in Melbourne’s tallest apartment tower for nearly a year.
Dr Schaper, like many prospective tenants with pets, relates a tale of rejection after rejection when applying for a place to live soon after arriving from Western Australia.
”No one would give us a place. I would explain, show photos, say she’s small and doesn’t shed [hair],” Dr Schaper says. ”As soon as you say you’ve got a dog, you just go straight to the end of the line.”
In the end, a sympathetic real estate agent helped find an amiable landlord but only after they paid extra bond and $50-a-week more in rent.
The couple chose an inner-city apartment lifestyle so they could ditch the car and walk to work. And they wanted their much-loved pet to live with them.
They’re not the only ones making the lifestyle switch. Melbourne is undergoing a residential apartment boom with close to 13,000 dwellings in the development pipeline.
Increased affordability constraints and high house prices are pushing people into the already tight rental market, where vacancy rates are at record lows, particularly in inner-city areas.
It’s all part of a long-term trend towards smaller, single-person households and strata-title living where a balcony barbecue and shared living spaces are more common than the backyard Hills Hoist.
A total of 22 per cent, or almost a quarter of all Australian households, are living in what could be considered medium or high-density housing, says the Petcare Information and Advisory Service.
It’s also a social issue, with many Australians condemned to lonely and unhealthy lives because of bans on pets in rental accommodation, according to University of Tasmania sociologist Adrian Franklin.
Professor Franklin says there is considerable evidence to show companion animals are highly beneficial, but ”as our population ages until fully a quarter of the population is over 65, the disparity [from pet bans] can only become more obvious”.
As a result, body corporates, landlords and property developers are having to grapple with how to manage pets in apartments and rental accommodation. Some are doing it more successfully than others.
Several large apartment buildings such as Eureka Tower have pet-friendly body corporate rules that encourage or facilitate tenants or owners with animals.
Australand’s Victorian residential general manager, Robert Pradolin, oversaw a pet-friendly approach at Freshwater Place in Southbank after living with his labradoodle BJ in an apartment. About 25 of the building’s 530 apartments now have pets.
”It’s something you can’t ignore if you are designing apartments for living for the older generation,” Mr Pradolin says. ”It’s about companionship and that’s important.” It also makes commercial sense if you are targeting the owner-occupier market, he says.
But although goldfish don’t make a splash, larger pets do. Overly large dogs, property damage, barking and other noise in confined spaces are concerns for landlords and body corporates. Smells, excrement (think of Parisian streets) and animal welfare issues – pets left alone in confined spaces for too long – also cause conflict.
The inner city has 2871 registered dogs and 1806 cats, a 28 and 19 per cent increase in two years, according to the City of Melbourne. Ten years ago few people lived in Docklands; now there are thousands and they own 111 dogs and 28 cats.
”No pet” clauses in advertising and rental agreements are a constant source of grievance among tenants and landlords, according to Tenants Union policy worker Toby Archer.
Although Victoria’s Residential Tenancies Act doesn’t have rules on pets, the commonly used Real Estate Institute of Victoria’s tenancy agreement does.
”The tenant must not keep any animal, bird or other pet on the premises without first obtaining the written permission of the landlord or agent. Permission will not be unreasonably withheld,” it states.
The Tenants Union successfully challenged this ban several times, arguing landlords are not entitled to restrict tenants from having pets because it interferes with their ”quiet enjoyment” of the property.
Tenants can’t be evicted on the basis of the clause, says Mr Archer, but they can be evicted if their pet is a nuisance, damages property or is a danger.
”The last thing you want to do as a tenant is not be clear about that and then sometime down the track get into a dispute with your landlord.”
People are proving more willing to challenge the ”no pets” clause.
A recent Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing found in favour of a Geelong couple wanting a pet in their rental home.
”The tenants have permission to keep the labrador Harry at the rented premises on condition he sleeps in the outhouse and primarily resides outdoors,” VCAT ruled in February.
Another yet-to-be-decided case sparked a legal stand-off between body corporates and landlords and will test which law – the Residential Tenancies Act or body corporate legislation – prevails.
The dispute was prompted when a landlord signed a tenancy agreement allowing the tenant to keep a pet in an apartment when the body corporate rules banned pets.
VCAT is yet to hand down a finding on the West Highland terrier versus Owners Corporation case.
Shontelle Payne, property manager for MICM Property, says although body corporates are becoming more pet-friendly, ultimately it comes down to the owner’s decision.
”Depending on the pet, I’m always one to try and explain to the owner it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
”Pets are not the worst problem.
”Kids do more damage than dogs,” she says. ”Dogs can’t draw on walls.”
You can find some good information at Dr Cam day web site about keeping cat happy inside http://www.pethealth.com.au/Page/keeping-cats-content-happy-cats
or have a look at this cat Climbing wall http://www.hauspanther.com/2013/10/01/multifunction-cat-climbing-wall-concept-from-spase-janvski/