‘Get rid of it’: Tenant given cruel note
STEPHANIE* was dealing with a marriage breakdown and a stressful move to a new apartment when she received a note that left her "devastated".
The handwritten note, which had been slipped under the Sydney woman's door overnight, was allegedly from her apartment block's body corporate, and it referred to her beloved cat, Rocococo - an elderly feline she had inherited after her former flatmate passed away.
"Keep your noisy, painful cat inside or we will make you get rid of it. I'm sick of being woken up. The Body Corporate," the note read.
Stephanie was left shaken by the letter, and said she felt "bullied" into rehoming her pet with her ex's parents.
She was all the more shocked as she had already received permission from her landlord to keep pets, which was plainly stated in her lease agreement.
"I was cornered in the laundry about it one day; I was going through a hard time with my breakup and I told them that, but they were unrelenting and persistent. The note came soon after," she said.
"Rocococo might have been a bit stressed and maybe meowed a bit during the day because she was in a new environment, but give me a break - everyone in the strata committee lived on the top floor of the building … so I don't know how they managed to hear anything.
"I spoke to the real estate agent who said I should put in a complaint to the people who manage the strata but I wasn't in the right frame of mind to go through it."
Stephanie decided to leave the property altogether, and her ex took over her lease.
But after finding a second apartment, she had the same problem yet again - but this time, over her pet dog.
"The landlord approved my dog and there were no bylaws on that property (preventing pets) but the strata decided to drag everything out and eventually they didn't approve it either, so it was another stressful situation," she said.
"I don't understand how they could have refused."
She said she was devastated by the situation, as her pets were her "happiness".
"It was just horrible and also really strange. With the second place, I had references for my dog from a dog trainer and previous real estate agents - I did everything to make sure I crossed all the Ts but it was still not approved. It was really devastating and really hard," she said.
Unfortunately, Stephanie's situation is far from unique.
Australian pet care company Rufus and Coco recently conducted research that revealed 22 per cent of pet owners have given away a pet or left them with a family member due to being unable to find pet-friendly accommodation.
Finding pet-friendly accommodation was "stressful" for 79 per cent of respondents, while 73 per cent encountered rental or strata accommodation where pets were not allowed at all, and 42 per cent chose not to have a pet at all for that very reason.
Company founder Anneke Van den Broek told news.com.au additional research by the Australian Pet Welfare Foundation found 20,000 cats and dogs were euthanised in Australia each year after being surrendered because their owners' rental or strata agreement say they aren't welcome.
Ms Van den Broek said Rufus & Coco had partnered with the Australian Pet Welfare Foundation (APWF) to campaign for changes to the rental laws.
"Pets die when landlords say no - it's as simple as that," she said.
"But pet ownership has been proven to save $2 billion annually in healthcare costs - there's a plethora of data that shows pets are good for humanity.
"Despite the fact we have one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the developed world, only around five per cent of rental properties are advertised as having pets allowed.
"It's just heartbreaking for people to literally have to give up their best friend."
Ms Van den Broek said pets had also been proven to cause less damage to property than children, and that renters who were allowed to keep pets tend to stay at the property for longer, leading to shorter vacancy periods and ultimately costing less money to landlords.
Victoria is the only state which has introduced draft legislation to allow renters to keep pets as a default, although this has not yet been enshrined in law. In the other states and territories, pets are allowed only on a case-by-case basis.
In late 2016, NSW strata by-laws changed to remove any reference to a default pet ban, which means that while strata schemes can still choose to ban animals, they are no longer automatically prohibited.
Ms Van den Broek said that law should be rolled out across the country as soon as possible.
*Last name has been withheld for legal reasons.