Pet ownership has boomed during the past 12 months as thousands of Brits have looked for company and companionship during the endless times of lockdown and isolation. But when it comes to the nation’s favourite pets, cats and dogs, the private rental sector remains a fairly hostile environment. Today, as the government demonstrates an understanding of the increasing vitality of pets in our lives, the question remains: will landlords ever relax their rules on furry friends?
It’s a clause that has adorned tenancy agreements since time began: no pets allowed in the property without gaining the landlord’s permission first. And then, when you seek the landlord’s permission, they respond with a stern and concrete ‘No’.
But while landlords have stuck firmly to their no-pets clause, tenants themselves have become increasingly frustrated at what seems like an archaic tenancy rule. In January we published an article about pet ownership being one of the top priorities for renters in 2021, suggesting that landlords who are pet friendly are going to be in huge demand over the coming months.
This increasingly loud call from tenants for landlords to change their outdated pet-hating ways has been noticed in Whitehall. In response, the government has “updated its standard tenancy agreement template to enable renters to keep pets as the default”.
This standard tenancy template is a tool provided by the government to help private landlords provide adequate, fair, and legally binding tenancy agreements. Landlords, however, are in no way obliged to use this template or take any notice of it at all.
Despite this, the very fact that the government has gone to the effort of updating the template is promising for pet owners.
As it stands, only about 7% of private landlords allow pets. This is making it incredibly difficult for some people to find good homes, so many are being forced to give up their beloved pets.
It is clear that this fails to align with society’s contemporary love of animals and so the government hopes its updated tenancy template will force more and more landlords to consider changing their rules.
Speaking on the issue, Housing Minister, Christopher Pincher, 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.”
Students Are Emboldened
One way in which the government’s updated tenancy template is affecting the housing market is the increased publicity it has given the concept of landlord-enabled pet ownership. New research UniHomes shows that “more students are becoming emboldened to get dogs, cats and other household pets by the publicity for the government’s revised model tenancy agreement”.
The research shows that, while 10% of students own either a cat or a dog, only 6% of student accommodation is listed as pet friendly. Landlords are being warned that more and more tenants, students or otherwise, will be coming to them with renewed expectation that their pets can move in with them.
Why Do Landlords Dislike Pets So Much?
There seem to be two key reasons for landlords disliking pets.
First is the damage to the property that pets can cause. This might be cats scratching at sofas and table legs, dogs chewing the carpet, or the common aroma of animal living which landlords argue is difficult to get rid of even after the pet is long gone.
There seems to be an easy way around this problem: the pet clause in a tenancy agreement is rarely concrete. It doesn’t say ‘absolutely no pets’. It’s more likely to say, ‘no pets without landlord’s permission which will be reasonably considered’.
While, in practice, this difference in language does little to change the situation, it does provide some important wiggle room. Therefore, tenants who want to bring pets into the home should simply promise to pay for a deep clean of the property when they leave. This means the landlord has little to worry about because the tenant is guaranteeing to foot the cost of removing all traces of the pet. As if it never happened.
The second reason landlords hate pets is noise. Dogs in particular can be loud animals, yapping and barking long into the night. This can cause disruption for fellow building tenants and even nearby neighbours.
For pet owners, this is a more complicated obstacle than potential property damage. In this situation, you’ll have to prove to your landlord that your dog isn’t loud, or come to an agreement that, if the landlord receives more than two complaints about the noise, the dog or the tenants will need to go.
In conclusion, while the laws haven’t changed, it’s clear that landlords are being told to be more open to negotiation and compromise when it comes to tenants with pets. In many ways, it’s in the landlord’s interest to loosen their pet rules because if they don’t, pet-owning tenants are going to look elsewhere. As the number of pet owners in the UK goes up and up, close-minded landlords risk becoming outdated and unpopular: the runt of the litter.