04.02.2021 09:09 am

Summary of changes in UK legislation in renting with pets

As the Founder of Pets Lets, a Landlord, pet owner, a property search agent for over 20 years, I have a lot of experience dealing with landlords and agents.

I came across a person recently who has a dog and rents out a property. They agreed that is hard to find a property that allows pets, but as a landlord they would not allow people with pets. You would hope that a fellow dog owner would be a more sympathetic landlord.

We are so passionate about the subject of renting with pets in the UK that we have set up a Pets and Property Tips Facebook Group where we can offer pet owners struggling to find a pet friendly place, professional advice.

The Government statistic of 7% of landlords being pet friendly is shocking. It can be said that the issue of being unable to rent with pets is on the political agenda, but how far down the pecking order with a pandemic, Brexit and countless other national issues.

Has the Government actually helped pet owners with the changes to the Model tenancy Agreement when it comes to tenants renting with pets.

Unfortunately the answer is NO and here are the reasons why:

  • The Model Tenancy Agreement is a template that the Government suggests landlords should use. It is not enforceable.
  • The announcement is not legally binding, so landlords will continue to say yes or no to pets at their own discretion.
  • Potential obstacles landlords may still implement:*
  • If there are competitive bids, accept the tenancy without the pet
  • Exercise Certificate of Exemption as mentioned above
  • Charge an extra pet rent
  • Prohibitive head leases particularly in blocks

Has the announcement by the Government helped at all?

  • Yes, to an extent with exiting tenants in situ with pets. Tenants have in theory more of a right to have a pet.
  • A landlord has 28 days to state why there should not be a pet in the property.
  • Landlords will look for excuses otherwise known as Certificates of Exemption. Anything from the property is too small, no outside space, religious reasons, hygiene etc.
  • **The trouble with informing your landlord about a pet, if they were unaware, is that you are making yourself ‘vulnerable’ if the landlord comes up with a valid excuse and can evict you. Being honest and abiding by the change in legislation may have a negative effect. Renting with pets without a pets clause always has a risk. A neighbour can complain. That is all it takes to alert a landlord or managing agent.
  • In essence the announcement is a ‘something and a nothing’. It does not go far enough.

This article from the BBC Website clearly outlines the changes, which take time to take in. To be honest, the announcement raises more questions than answers Andrew Rosindell’s Bill, A Pet In Every Home, was a better option to pursue and it went through a second reading. However, the deposit cap is a main stumbling block that nobody was looking to address. The Government will not as it is too recent, and by default would be admitting an error on their part.

Has the Government improved or made worse the position of tenants with pets?

  • I would argue that when the Government passed the 2019 Tenant Fees Act, there cannot have been a ‘pet owner’ amongst the civil servants who put it together. It was so focused on saving tenants with fees that makes sense, that it overlooked how landlords would respond and who would be affected by the changes.
  • The Act capped deposits to 5 weeks. This has deterred landlords from being pet friendly because they feel that is enough to cover the potential damage.
  • Also, with this Act, you cannot as a landlord enforce fees, such as a deep clean, which you would want after a tenant with pets has vacated the property. A tenant is not obliged to do so anymore.

So what is the way forward for people renting with pets in the UK?

In life there are always things that stick in your mind, particularly bad experiences which you don’t really forget. That is the same for landlords. Some have had bad experiences with pet owners in the past, from cats scratching the carpet, furniture chewed and I have even spoken to people where the tenants did not clear up after their dogs. Unfortunately, 99% of pet owners are responsible. That 1% of irresponsible tenants with pets give everyone else a bad name.

Communicating with & understanding landlords is key

Why are pets a concern to landlords?

  • Damage such as cats scratching carpets, dogs chewing furniture
  • Potential smell left in a property and affecting other tenants with allergies
  • Late night barking and upsetting neighbours
  • Previous bad experience. Just takes one irresponsible pet owner
  • The property is an investment/ pension to be protected. Ideal tenant, one that is hardly there so minimal wear and tear
  • Increased tenant protection during covid by the Government. More difficult to evict tenants if it goes wrong
  • 2019 Tenant Fees Act capped deposits to five weeks rent. Not seen as enough to cover potential damage by pets

What are the potential solutions for tenants with pets?

Open 'communications' with the landlord. Whatever your feelings about pets & rentals, leave them behind.

  • Have a Pet CV to hand with a cute image of your pet(s) plus reference from a previous landlord or a pet professional such as a vet
  • Landlords prefer at a least 1 year tenancy. Anything less is not worth it with a pet(s). Consider 2 years and offer a 1 year break clause as a goodwill gesture
  • Affordability is a real issue with references. Harder with overseas tenants. If you can, offer 3-6 months’ rent up front and have the ability to show proof of funds
  • Offer a deep clean at the end of a tenancy
  • Suggest meeting the landlord with your dog(s) or cat(s)

Summary

Really nothing much has changed. Nothing has been enforced and it is a ‘suggestion’. Landlords will take not of this and do what suits them. It is a move in the right direction. However, landlords are protecting their investments and only positive experiences with pet owners will convince them to allow pets on the premises.

This is something that will take time. Landlords will take time to be convinced to let to people with pets. The more positive experience property owners have, the better. Positive references from other landlords really help to secure another pet friendly rental.

Don’t forget our Pets and Property Tips Facebook Group if you have any questions.