Finding a rental property that permits pets has traditionally been a struggle for tenants. Research in 2020 found only 4% of UK landlords were happy to accept tenants with a dog or cat. However, new government legislation, introduced on 28th January 2021, means landlords are no longer able to enforce a blanket ban.
Housing Minister the Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP announced that under the new Model Tenancy Agreement, landlords could not ban pets for no reason. The default position is now giving consent for pets. When a tenant provides a written pet request, the landlord must object in writing with a valid reason for saying no.
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How many private rented properties allow pets?
As a nation of animal lovers, 93% of people say having a pet makes them feel happy, according to a survey by landlord insurance specialist CIA Landlord. Yet only 4% of UK landlords have no qualms about having a tenant with pets, while just 7% of private landlords are currently advertising pet-friendly rental properties.
Belfast is the most pet-friendly UK city, as 11% of private landlords permit tenants to have a four-legged friend. The least pet-friendly landlords are in Leeds, where only 1% of the rental properties currently on the market state “pets allowed”. In Coventry, Cardiff, Birmingham and Newcastle upon Tyne, only 2% of private rentals advertise that they will accept pets.
The rules haven’t stopped tenants from sneaking a pet in, with 78% of landlords revealing they have caught a tenant lying about not having a pet.
A survey by animal welfare charity the Dogs’ Trust has revealed 54% of tenants have “never found a suitable property” where dogs are allowed. This led to some people being unable to move, while 8% rehomed their pet.
The charity suggests that as long as the dogs are toilet-trained, so there is no problem of fouling indoors, it should not be such a huge problem in a rental property.
How does the new tenancy agreement affect landlords?
While it makes it easier for tenants with pets to find rented accommodation, the new legislation means landlords who don’t really want animals in their property don’t have as much choice.
Announcing the legislation, the government stressed it was to help “responsible” renters with “well-behaved” pets, enabling them to secure a lease more easily through the new standard tenancy agreement.
Figures show more than 50% of UK adults own a pet, with the number having increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, as people at home during the lockdown have bought an animal for company. Now, landlords are required to consider responsible pet owners by law.
While landlords can no longer issue a blanket ban on pets, there is also protection in place, should they cause damage to the property. Tenants will have a legal duty to repair or cover the costs of repairs for any damage caused by their animals.
Landlords are advised to inspect the property at least quarterly to check for pet-related or other damage, which is common procedure, regardless of whether there are animals in the home.
Under the new law, a landlord can object only under certain conditions when there is considered to be a good reason. For example, in the instance of a small flat, owning a dog could be impractical.
Do tenants pay a deposit to have a pet?
A tenant will pay a deposit for a rented property, regardless of whether they have a pet or not. However, a landlord or letting agent can increase the rent to cover a dog or a cat, in addition to the regular rent charged for the human occupants.
Online ads for homes to rent may state that an extra £50 rent per month, for example, will be charged for a dog or cat. This is perfectly legal, as long as the tenancy agreement document that everyone must sign before the tenants move in is clear about how much the actual pet rent is.
Charging pets rent became legal as a result of the Tenant Fees Bill, which came into force on 1st June 2019. Prior to this, landlords would commonly charge a one-off fee of £150, or a higher deposit, to cover the potential extra costs of cleaning and the general wear and tear at the end of the tenancy.
However, the Tenant Fees Bill banned this type of fee and capped deposits at a maximum of five weeks’ rent. Charging tenants extra rent for “clawed pets” is a way landlords and agents can compensate. The legislation does not restrict how much extra rent a tenant can be charged for their pet, as long as it is agreed in the tenancy agreement beforehand.
If the landlord finds the pet has damaged property, the landlord can request that the tenant pays for the cost of repairs, or carries out the repair themselves to a satisfactory standard.
References for pets
Some landlords have been asking for references for tenants’ pets to ensure they are well-behaved. Lets With Pets, the pet-friendly organisation, recommends landlords ask for pet references either from a vet or from the tenant’s previous landlord.
The referee should be asked whether the tenant was a responsible pet owner, whether the pets were well-behaved, if they caused any damage to the property and whether there were any complaints of nuisance to visitors or neighbours.
In launching the new legislation, the Rt Hon Christopher Pincher said that as a nation of animal lovers, it wasn’t right that only a small percentage of landlords advertised pet-friendly properties, with instances of some people having to give up their pets in order to find somewhere to live.
He said the changes to the tenancy agreement would end the “unfair blanket ban” on pets, striking the right balance between helping people to find a pet-friendly rented home, while ensuring the landlord is safeguarded against ill-behaved animals.
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