2nd February 2021
We are a nation of animal lovers with over half of the UK population owning a pet. However, only 7% of UK landlords advertise their properties as ‘allowing pets’.
The Housing Minister, Christopher Pincher, has recently announced a shake up of the Government’s Model Tenancy Agreement which could make it easier for pet-loving renters to find properties that will allow for their furry friends.
According to the pet charity PDSA 26% of adults own a cat and 24% of adults own a dog. That’s an estimated 21 million cats and dogs living in the UK. With property prices out of reach for many and others opting to rent over purchasing a property, this means many people will find themselves in a tricky situation when they need to find a rented property that will accept pets.
Many animal charities and shelters report that dogs and cats are often rehomed due to changes in their owner’s living situations. So, this new change is likely to be welcomed by charities who could benefit from a reduction in the number of pets needing to be rehomed.
A large number of people have become pet owners during the lockdown periods of 2020 and 2021. This may make it difficult for those moving to a new house or finding themselves needing to move into rented accommodation with their new pet, particularly if they own a puppy or a large dog.
It has been recognised that more young people and families than ever before are renting and should be able to enjoy the happiness that a pet can bring to their lives.
The Government have called for changes to be made to the Model Tenancy Agreement. This is a formal agreement, recommended by the Government, used between landlords and tenants to set out the terms of the letting.
Currently the agreement has a blanket ban on pets. Tenants would have to speak to their landlord to seek permission for pets, but the contract they typically would enter into would disclose that no pets are allowed. Some landlords would accept pets at their own discretion. The changes will amend the contract to agree consent for pets as the default position and landlords will have to object in writing within 28 days should they wish to decline to a pet request from their tenant. Landlords will also have to provide a ‘good reason’ to refuse the request.
This is welcome news for many animal-loving tenants who may now find it easier to find accommodation that allows for pets to move in or be purchased.
Pets bring a huge amount of joy, comfort and support to people’s lives – helping with loneliness, depression and physical health.
Whilst this change is positive news, renters should be aware that landlords are able to contest pet ownership, and the change is guidance rather than law. Many landlords chose not to use the Model Tenancy Agreement even prior to this change and as such while this appears to be a positive step for tenants, in reality they may find little actual changes at least in the short term. There is no ‘law’ stating that you can own a pet in a rented property, but landlords are urged to be more supportive for sensible pet-owners when the property is suitable.
If you are considering getting a pet whilst living in a rented property it is recommended to put your request in writing to your landlord in advance, before committing to buying or adopting an animal. It would be sensible to outline some details about the pet, your experience and how you can demonstrate to your landlord that you are a responsible pet-owner.
It is important to understand the concerns that your landlord may have and find a way to work together.
Understandably, this change may not be desirable by many landlords who have invested their money into the property market and would rather not let out their valuable assets to pet owners. There is of course an added risk of damage to the property, particularly those that are furnished and there is also an added risk of complaints from neighbours.
It is imperative, however, that landlords take on board the fact that many people are pet owners or desire to be pet owners.
Landlords may be tempted to increase their rent or ask for larger deposits to compensate them or protect their risk, however, they should be mindful of over-charging and their obligations under the Tenant Fees Act which was introduced in 2019. Some landlord organisations have responded to the new guidelines by saying that they should be able to charge higher deposits to reflect the risks pets pose to their properties – we wait to see if this will be taken into consideration.
Remember there are some benefits to allowing pets. Firstly, with many landlords not allowing pets you may find yourself reliable tenants that are less likely to move and so save the costs of securing new tenants or having a period when the property is empty. You will also open yourself up to more of the market by allowing pets and dogs can add some extra security to your home.
It would be sensible to review your tenancy agreement and ensure that you are adding in some extra layers of protection. Whilst you cannot demand an inflated deposit, you may be able to set out some ground rules to give you peace of mind. You could, for example ask your tenants to sign an agreement about how they will keep the property maintained, you could insist on a professional clean at the end of the tenancy at the tenants’ cost and ask to be provided with vets and insurance details. It might be worth exploring the option for more frequent property inspections or for the situation to be reviewed after 6 months to see if it is working for both parties. You should make clear what the obligations are going to be prior to the tenancy agreement being entered though as you cannot seek to unilaterally impose further rules at a later date unless the tenant had not notified you of the pet being kept at the property. In addition, you may find that your own landlord’s insurance will cover you should damage be incurred.
It is still possible to refuse pet ownership in your property. There should be good grounds, however. The Government guidance so far has expressed that the size of the property could be a reasonable factor. For example, it would not be practical for a large breed of dog to live in a small flat with no garden. However, care must be taken to not discriminate against a tenant who has a service animal.
The relationship between a landlord and tenant can often be strained. Particularly if one party is not happy with how they are being treated. Frequent disputes between landlords and tenants often include, deposit returns, maintenance and repair issues, unpaid rent or notice periods.
Refusal of pet ownership could be another issue that crops up off the back of this change to the Model Tenancy Agreement.
If you are looking for advice on any housing disputes issues, either as a landlord or as a tenant, then please get in touch with our Dispute Resolution team who can help dispel any myths and help you find a way forward.
Call us on 01256 844888, email firstname.lastname@example.org or speak to our online chat assistant at any time of day.
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The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.
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