The government gives the thumbs up to renters’ pets

Should landlords be more pet-friendly? The Government certainly seems to think so.

It’s no secret that we Brits love our pets, with an estimated 44% of us sharing our homes with at least one animal. But landlords aren’t so keen. Pets can be dirty and destructive and regardless of withholding deposit payments to cover the cost of the clean-up at the end of the tenancy, for many buy-to-let landlords, the hassle just isn’t worth it.   

For renters, this can make life difficult, especially if they are forced to give up a much-loved pet because they can’t find an animal-friendly property. Pets bring a huge amount of joy and comfort to many of our lives, helping us through difficult times and improving our mental and physical wellbeing. But only an estimated 7% of landlords advertise homes as suitable for pets, meaning many people struggle to find the right home. 

So Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP has called on landlords to make it easier for responsible tenants to have well-behaved pets in their homes. He announced that an overhaul of the model tenancy contracts, which can be used as the basis of tenancy agreements, will now be revised to remove restrictions on well-behaved pets to ensure more landlords cater to pet owners wherever possible.

The model agreement sets out minimum requirements and can be altered by landlords to cater for specific circumstances, tenants or properties. The aim is that total bans on renters with pets should only be enforced where there is good reason, such as in smaller properties or in flats where owning a pet could be impractical. 

However, many landlords regard pets as a big no-no. How can they tell whether a dog or cat is likely to be clean or well-behaved? After all, prospective tenants are unlikely to say otherwise! Some landlords quote bills running into tens of thousands of pounds to replace not only stained carpets and chewed furniture but structural fixtures and fittings such as architraves and wooden floors that have been irreparably damaged by tenants’ pets.

So where does the Housing Secretary’s announcement leave the rental sector?  In reality, as The Residential Landlords Association has told its members, this statement by the government does not make it a legally binding requirement for landlords to accept pets. The use of the model tenancy agreement is not mandatory: landlords still have the right to refuse tenants with animals.

And while the government is only currently proposing a change in the model agreement, if the government wishes to go further into legislation, considerations will need to include how the tenancy agreement interacts with the lease for a flat – some of which have prohibitions against pets, or at least require a pet (or its owner on their behalf) to obtain a pet licence before they take up residence.  

At Ringley, we act for a number of institutional landlords in the Build to Rent sector. All of them not only actively encourage pets – as they feel that being pet-friendly encourages tenants to stay longer – but at least one is considering keeping a dog on Reception that residents can adopt for an hour or two, via the residents app, to take for a walk.  There is a feeling that we all become more approachable to strangers when we have a pet and therefore pets are good for community engagement.  The dog will come with a disclaimer though – walkers won’t be allowed to keep him out after bedtime and muddy paws must be washed after use!

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