Government bid to help tenants with pets find rental homes
Dog owners have long struggled to find landlords who will accept their four-legged friends but a new government guidance on letting to pet owners may make finding a rental home easier.
The government has just released its new Model Tenancy Agreement, used by many lettings agencies, which says that landlords will no longer be able to issue blanket bans on pets. 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 for refusal.
Landlords will be prohibited from charging renters an extra fee for pets or other animals, though permission may be given on the condition that the tenant pays an additional reasonable amount towards the deposit, but the total must not breach the deposit cap requirements under the Tenant Fees Act 2019.
Currently, just seven per cent of private landlords advertise pet-friendly properties, meaning many people struggle to find suitable homes. In some cases, this has meant people have had to give up their pets all together.
However, the Model Tenancy Agreement is not compulsory it is simply the government’s recommended contract for landlords. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, said: "The government’s Model Tenancy Agreement is the government’s preferred contract that we encourage landlords to use, however they are not legally compelled to use it and a free to use their own tenancy agreements."
With figures showing that more than half of adults in the UK own a pet and with many more welcoming pets into their lives during the pandemic, the government say the changes should mean more landlords will cater for responsible pet owners. Under the new agreement, rejections should only be made where there is good reason, such as in smaller properties or flats where owning a pet could be impractical. To ensure landlords are protected, tenants will continue to have a legal duty to repair or cover the cost of any damage to the property.
Housing Minister Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP said: "We are a nation of animal lovers and over the last year more people than ever before have welcome pets into their lives and homes. But it can’t be right that only a tiny fraction of landlords advertise pet friendly properties and in some cases people have had to give up their beloved pets in order to find somewhere to live.
"Through the changes to the tenancy agreement we are making today, we are bringing an end to the unfair blanket ban on pets introduced by some landlords. This strikes the right balance between helping more people find a home that’s right for them and their pet while ensuring landlords’ properties are safeguarded against inappropriate or badly behaved pets."
Sarah Johnston, owner of Homes4Harrogate letting agency, is pro-pets and actively helps tenants with pets but says some owners have valid reasons for refusing to allow animals. She says: "Some have allergies and plan to move back to the property, others are worried about fleas and damage and we respect that but we find that tenants with pets stay longer in a property and are respectful. We have had no problems, though we never allow dogs in flats because if they bark it can cause issues with neighbours. House cats are fine though. I rent and I have a cat and my pet has really helped me through lockdown."
As for the new Model Tenancy Agreement she adds: "It is nice to see that the government are trying to help renters with pets but, unfortunately, I'm not sure whether it will change much as it relies on the individual landlord deciding to use this agreement and if they are anti-pet surely they will just use a different one.".