Pets in Lets:
Included in Labour’s plans to abolish the no-fault (section 21) eviction process is the pledge to give tenants a ‘default right’ to keep pets in their rental properties.
As part of their future manifesto pledge, Labour has said it wants to strengthen the rights of tenants, which will include the automatic right to keep a pet in their properties. This is part of a package of proposed Labour animal welfare measures.
It is common practice for landlord’s tenancy agreements to insist on “no pets”. Although a tenant’s consumer rights would prevent an outright ban on pets, which is deemed an unfair term in a consumer contract, landlords still have a degree of control over the type of pets allowed. For example, a goldfish would obviously bring few objections.
The current situation is that under the 2015 Consumer Rights Act a landlord can only refuse permission for a pet if it is reasonable to do so. This would be for example on grounds of the animal’s welfare and size in proportion to the accommodation, the damage it could cause and its impact for the landlord on future rental prospects.
Tenants therefore must seek permission to keep pets and usually sign an additional pet agreement, which usually involves regular vet checks, injections, and usually a higher deposit amount to cover damage and extra wear and tear. But Labour wants a default automatic right to keep pets, unless there is evidence their pet would cause nuisance.
The National Landlords Association (NLA) has said its members should have the right to refuse tenants with pets, as long as they can justify their actions, especially where it can be shown that the rental is unsuitable for a particularly type of animal.
Accepting that in some situations pets can be in the landlords’ interests, the NLA’s chief executive Richard Lambert has said that: “tenants who keep pets do tend to stay for longer periods of time, and there are a few simple steps that landlords can take in order to mitigate the perceived increased risks” – including insisting on larger deposits.
But as homelessness charity Shelter has pointed out, while it is often difficult for landlords to enforce conditions relating to pets – and tenants often introduce pets without permission – tenants would make themselves at greater risk of eviction if they did that, and were in breach of tenancy agreements.
Labour’s proposal give tenants the default right to keep pets in rental properties has also been met with caution by the RLA.
RLA Policy Director David Smith has said:
“The proposal raises a number of questions which we will work constructively with the Labour Party to address.
“Will landlords be able to charge higher deposits to reflect the increased risks of damage to a property where pets are allowed? Will insurance premiums increase for landlords to reflect the greater risk of allowing pets to be kept as a default position? What happens in shared homes and blocks of flats where one or more of the tenants do not want, or are allergic to, a pet?
“Labour will need to respond positively to all these points if landlords are to have confidence in this suggested policy.”
RLA Vice Chair Chris Town said in a radio interview:
“As things stand, many landlords do allow pets in their properties. If the default situation (as Labour are proposing) is that you cannot control what’s coming into your property, there could be unintended consequences associated with that. Landlords are responsible for the welfare of everyone in the property, not just those with pets.
“Particularity in a HMO, there are lots of other people’s right to consider, not just the rights of the tenant with the pet. For example, other people in the HMO may be allergic to pets or they could work night shifts. Allowing pets also means that landlords have to inspect properties more often”.
“If someone approached me as a landlord for a property, then I would always contact previous landlord and find out from them what the tenant’s behaviour was like at the property, so if they look after a pet, was there any issues with that pet, barking noise etc. If there wasn’t, it would be unreasonable to withhold permission.”