Out of the dog house: pressure grows to open up rentals to pets

When Jordan Adamsleft home three years ago, he missed one member of the family in particular – five-year-old Weimaraner Jasmine. So when the opportunity arose to look after the dog when his mother went away, he jumped at the chance. Until his landlord said otherwise.Adams found that under the terms of his tenancy, he wasn’t allowed to have pets in the property in Surrey. “I live in a ground floor flat with plenty of room. I think I should be able to have Jasmine occasionally and would really like my own dog eventually,” he says.It is not easy renting a flat or house which allows pets. Just 7% of private landlords advertise pet-friendly properties, even though there is substantial demand. The welfare charity Cats Protectionclaims 1 million households in the UK would like a cat but are unable to have one because they live in rented accommodation.
There could be some light for would-be pet owners, however, as efforts to change rental laws grow. Frustrated by his landlord’s refusal to allow Jasmine to stay, Adams contacted the Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell, a dog enthusiast, who is now pushing for changes to allow for pets in more rented accommodation.“Pets have been a lifeline to so many in lockdown. They mean structure, companionship and genuine love and affection. Yet the most in need of a pet – those in rented accommodation, particularly those living alone – have hit a wall of ‘no-pets’ clauses,” says Rosindell.

Most animals are creatures of habit. It will be important to develop a consistent schedule to follow with your new pet. Potty breaks at regular intervals, feeding at the same time(s) every day, playtime, walks – everything needs to be scheduled. At first, this can seem overwhelming but soon enough, you and your new pet will be on the same schedule.

The Romford MP has proposed Jasmine’s law using a parliamentary procedure called the 10-minute rule bill, a type of private members’ bill. The proposed legislation, which is backed by the RSPCA and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, would place limits on landlords’ ability to put clauses in tenancy agreements that bar people who can prove that they are responsible owners.

“It gives tenants and their pets the justice they deserve: an end to cruel and unnecessary separation, while protecting landlords from irresponsible owners,” says Rosindell. However, there may not be enough time to pass the law because the pandemic has led to a reduction in the number of parliamentary sittings.

In January the government issued a new model tenancy agreement (MTA) for landlords to use as a template, the aim of which is to end blanket bans on pets in rental properties. “Instead, consent for pets will be the default position, and landlords will have to object in writing within 28 days of a written pet request from a tenant and provide a good reason,” said the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

However, the agreement is voluntary, so changes could be limited.

The department says: “They [the agreements] aim to strike a balance between protecting landlords’ property from being damaged by badly behaved pets, while ensuring responsible tenants are not unfairly penalised.”

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Keran Boyd, a cat owner who is looking for a property in Surrey or Berkshire, has been unable to rent since the introduction of the new agreement.

“I must have enquired to upwards of about 40 properties and only two viewings came from those,” she says. “I was also told in a few circumstances that the landlords would ‘consider’ pets as part of the offer, but if there was another tenant application without pets it’s unlikely I will get the property unless I’m willing ‘to offer substantially more than the listed price.’”

When Boyd mentioned the new MTA, letting agents said allowing pets was still at the discretion of the landlord. Rosindell says the agreement is just a template and calls for legislation in the area.The non-profit voluntary organisation AdvoCATS helps tenants to convince their landlords to allow them to have pets. “I’d been volunteering for a local rescue, and had seen first hand the heartbreak of an owner surrendering their pet because they weren’t allowed to keep it under their rental contract. I’d had a couple of cases where I’d been able to successfully negotiate a tenant keeping/getting a pet,” says the charity’s founder, Jen Berezai.

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She wants the Tenant Fees Act 2019 to be amended to allow a landlord to stipulate a pet-owning tenant held pet damage insurance, ensuring that any damage from the pet can be recouped.Landlords have opposed the proposed changes within Jasmine’s law, saying they do not want “moves towards compulsion”. The National Residential Landlords Association says: “There is also often more a risk of damage to a property where there is a pet. This is compounded by legislation which means they are unable to reflect the heightened risk in such situations in the deposit that is charged.”
The NRLA has called for the government to enable the level at which deposits are set to be more flexible to reflect greater risk.

Rosindell says he will not give up on the issue if his proposals fail to become law. “I [will] continue the fight for Jasmine and all the pets unnecessarily separated from their owners by ‘no-pets’ clauses.”