Two legs, four legs, feathers or fins. We are a nation of animal lovers and our desire to own a pet has never been stronger. The pandemic and its periods of isolation have highlighted how animals can make the best companions, with statistics from the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association revealing just how animal crazy we have become.
Millions more pets thanks to the pandemic
The Association’s Covid-19 Pet Survey found a staggering rise in pet acquisition during the pandemic, with 2.1 million people collecting a new pet in lockdown. It also found 1.8 million were planning to add a pet to their household. Interestingly, under-35s accounted for 59% of new pet owners and with a large part of that demographic living in rented accommodation, where do tenants stand on keeping pets?
It’s not illegal but it’s not common either
There is no law banning pets in rented properties but it is at the complete discretion of the landlord as to whether a tenant can have a domestic animal inside or kept on the land. Industry statistics from 2021 show that only 7% of landlords advertise homes where pets are welcome – a tiny number when you consider there are an estimated 9.9 million dogs and 10.9 million cats living in the UK.
Tenancy agreements have changed with pets in mind
If a tenant wants to know whether they’re allowed a pet, they should check their tenancy agreement in detail. This is an important aspect as in January 2021, the Government’s Model Tenancy Agreement was altered. Previously it contained a line that amounted to a blanket ban on pets.
This line was removed and landlords using the Model Tenancy Agreement must supply a good reason why they don’t accept pets and have this written into the document. Tenants should be aware, however, that the Government’s Model Tenancy Agreement isn’t a mandatory document and letting agents/landlords can amend this or create their own, so watch out for ‘no pet’ clauses.
There is an MP championing lets with pets
The Government’s Model Tenancy Agreement is a step in the right direction but things may get more pet-friendly in the future. You may not have heard of him but MP Andrew Rosindell is a long-standing animal rights campaigner and has been championing the benefits of living with a pet for many years. His crusade has seen him repeatedly raise the issue of lets with pets with incumbent Housing Secretaries and Secretaries of State, urging them to allow private tenants to keep pets in their rented properties.
Rosindell is responsible for bringing the Dogs & Domestic Animals Protection Bill to the House of Commons. Although the Bill has had its first reading, progress for the motion to become law has been slow due to the pandemic and more pressing matters.
‘Pets allowed’ may become the default setting
If adopted as law, the Bill would force letting agents/landlords to remove ‘no pet’ clauses from their in-house tenancy agreements. This would mean that all tenancy agreements – not just the Government’s Model Tenancy Agreement – would show ‘pets allowed’ as the default position, unless the landlord forcibly inserted a ‘no pets’ clause.
Bigger deposits could pave the way for more pets
Rosindell is also asking for an amendment to the Tenant Fees Act to make it more palatable for landlords to accept renters with pets. His suggestion is to allow landlords to take an additional pet deposit or a pet damage insurance payment as permitted fees, giving a great level of financial protection.
To placate landlords, tenants would need to prove that their pets were low risk. This may involve a vet confirming that the pet is vaccinated, microchipped, spayed/neutered, free of parasites and responsive to basic training commands where the pet is a dog.
Taking the hassle out of finding a pet-friendly property
The lettings industry is catching on to the fact more tenants have pets or may look to get a cat or dog in the future. Zoopla has a pet-friendly filter incorporated into its search function. When renters search for a new property, they can tick a ‘Pets Allowed’ tick box under ‘Letting Type’ to only be shown available properties where Fido or Felix will be welcome.
Online letting agent OpenRent operates a similar service. Once a tenant has chosen their location in which to search, they can click on the ‘Advanced Search Options’ button and select the 'Accepts Pets' filter. If you’re registering with High Street agents, don’t forget to tell the staff you have a pet when you first make contact.
How to get your pet to pass the landlord test
1. Ask upfront: it’s never a good idea to sneak a pet into a rented property. A mid-term inspection may uncover your animal guest and a cat sitting in the front window is an instant giveaway. Always ask your landlord if it’s OK to move in with a pet before you sign the agreement or acquire one during the tenancy. If you fail to get permission, you may breach your contract and the landlord could start the eviction process on this basis.
2. Prepare a pet CV: it’s not as bonkers as you think. A pet CV detailing the ownership history, the vaccination record and the flea/worming programme the pet is following will help appease landlords. Pet references are even better - a few positive words from a past landlord, vet or boarder/kennel on good behaviour may win a landlord over.
3. Commit to taking out specific pet insurance: there are a number of contents insurance policies that cover pet damage and liability, including chewing, scratching, tearing and fouling. A tenant who commits to this insurance will reassure a landlord that any damage will be paid for.
4. Offer to have the property professionally cleaned at check out: pet smells and stains will hamper a landlord when they re-let a property. A deep clean at the end of the tenancy – paid for by the tenant – would reinstate the property to how is was detailed in the inventory, remove traces of animals and increase the chances of the deposit being returned in full.
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