London renters could soon be able to move in their cats, dogs and other animals under new plans to give private tenants the ‘legal right’ to have a pet.
The new pet-friendly policy is part of the government’s shake-up of the private rented sector, revealed in a white paper on June 16.
The Renters Reform Bill, which will also abolish “no fault” section 21 evictions, is expected to stop blanket “no pet” clauses being imposed by landlords.
The white paper published on June 16 outlines what will be contained in the Bill when it is introduced to Parliament before the end of this parliamentary year, so before the end of spring 2023.
If legislated in full, the Bill will mean landlords must have a good reason to refuse permission for a tenant to have an animal in their home.
Measures published in the white paper include making it “easier for tenants to have much-loved pets in their homes by giving all tenants the right to request a pet in their house, which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse,” according to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
So what are the new rules for tenants, and when can the animals move in?
Why are pets not allowed?
As a nation of animal fanatics, there is a huge demand for rentals that let you own a pet. This only intensified during the pandemic, when research by letting platform Goodlord found there was a 120 per cent increase in demand for pet-friendly rentals.
Despite this, of the 4.4 million households currently living within the private rented sector in England, just 7 per cent of landlords advertise their properties as being pet-friendly.
In 2021, company PetScore warned some families are simply giving up pet ownership so as not to fall foul of landlord contracts, with a 35 per cent increase in calls to the Dogs Trust reported.
The main concern from landlords is damage to their properties. According to the “Heads for Tails” report by campaign group AdvoCATS, landlords became even less likely to allow domestic animals after the Tenant Fees Act in 2019 abolished the provision for landlords to request extra security deposits for pets.
How will the rules change?
At the moment, landlords can impose a blanket ban on pets in a tenant’s contract. Last year, the government took steps towards changing this by introducing its new “model tenancy agreement” which had a section that prevented landlords prohibiting pets.
However, using the contract template is voluntary, meaning landlords who do not want a pet in their property can simply choose not to use it. The new rules, however, would give tenants a “legal right” to own a pet and landlords will have to provide a good reason for saying no to a tenant’s request.
In instances when they do say no, tenants would get the power to challenge their decision. The Government also plans to change the law so landlords can require that renters get insurance so any damage to their property is covered.
The Renters Reform Bill will be introduced to Parliament before the end of this parliamentary year, according to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The white paper (published 16 June) may be debated, with final changes made, before being formally introduced to Parliament.
The current parliamentary year is expected to run until spring 2023. Once the Bill has been agreed by both Houses, it receives Royal Assent and becomes an Act of Parliament.
So it’s important to note that the white paper contains the government’s planned measures for the Renters Reform Bill and these proposals are neither finalised nor law at this stage.
Why has this come about?
Campaign group AdvoCATS has been pushing hard to get more pets accepted by landlords, supported by conservative MP Andrew Rosindell.
The Romford politician proposed his own bill in the Commons, which he called “Jasmine’s Law” after a dog who has been unable to stay with her owner due to the tenancy agreement.
Jen Berezai, co-founder of AdvoCATS, welcomed the new rules on pet ownership and said it was a “great day for animal welfare and tenants everywhere”
Berezai added: “We would like to thank all the organisations who have thrown their weight behind our campaign, over 40 in total and all our cross party political support who helped bump the issue up the government’s agenda, in particular the late Sir David Amess, an early supporter of the Heads for Tails! campaign, who would have been so very pleased to see this major step forward in appreciating the value of companion animals.”
What do landlords and agents say?
Estate agent Mollie Swallow, Director of Lettings at agent Lurot Brand said: “It is great that the market has finally been opened up to tenants with pets; as mews specialists many of our tenants have a pet and giving them this flexibility is a step in the right direction for the lettings market”.
Chris Norris, Policy Director for the National Residential Landlords Association, said it recognised the importance of pets for many tenants but its “biggest concern” has always been the law preventing landlords requiring tenants to take out pet insurance to cover the risk of damage to the property.
“Whilst we await full details of the White Paper, we welcome reports that the Government has listened and responded positively to our concerns.
“It is vital that the law takes a common-sense approach to pets and reflects that fact that some properties, such as flats without gardens, may not be suitable for certain types of pets. Likewise, in shared homes, the rights of those to have a pet need to be balanced with the rights of fellow tenants who might have concerns, especially those with certain allergies.”