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Pets and property experts warn 'work needed' to make reform bill workable

renters (reform) bill|

A group of leading figures representing animal charities, pet owners and property managers have warned that much work will be needed in the coming months to make the Renters (Reform) Bill acceptable to landlords and tenants.

The group, although welcoming the bill, tells LandlordZONE that the legislation must balance the needs of both sides and establish the circumstances under which landlords can refuse a pet under its new '�statutory presumption in favour of acceptance'.

As the legislation passes through parliament, guidance will have to be worked out because, as the bill stands, other than leasehold or freehold restrictions on animals, landlords will have to give a '�valid reason' why they wish to refuse a pet.

This could include their own allergies to pet hair, for example, or a pet not being suitable for a property.

'It's about providing landlords with a set of tools to help them make a fair and reasonable decision about why their property is or is not suitable for a pet,'� says Scott Fryer of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.

Heidi Shackell (pictured), CEO of The Lettings Hub, says the bill is also vague about how pet vetting and insurance will work and, for example, 'if a pet fails referencing and the tenant or landlord cannot secure an insurance policy, will this be good enough reason to refuse a pet?'�.

She also says the legislation may prove hard to police because if a landlord or agent has several tenants chasing a home and one of them has a pet (and is not picked), how could it be proved that they've been '�refused' the tenancy?

Nevertheless, landlords will have to be careful when advertiseing their rental properties, as will letting agents.

pets jen

'We need to get portals like Rightmove engaged with the issue of pets because it's no good having '�yes' or '�no' to them within listings '� once the bill gains Royal Assent, '�no' (due to property decisions) or '�pets considered', will become the accepted options'� suggests Jen Berezai (pictured), founder of Advocats.

It is claimed that Ministers are also looking at ways to encourage property leaseholders and freeholders to be more pet friendly by making it easier and cheaper to alter a building's terms and conditions to allow them.

Pet issues

'Our research shows that a significant proportion of the '�pet issues' landlords have particularly in cities are due to leaseholder or superior landlord rules on pet ownership within buildings, with approximately 37% of all rental dwelling being leasehold properties,'� says Fryer.

Did you know?Rightmove recently revealed that the percentage of all its listings advertised as '�pet friendly' has dropped from 7% to 4%.

Dr Elizabeth Ormerod (pictured) of the Society for Companion Animal Studies, added: 'Pets are good for human wellbeing, and we know from our research that people who are brought up alongside them see many health and psychological benefits from animal companionship.'�

A final area of discussion was whether the new measures within the bill, and particularly the six weeks given to landlords and agents to refuse/agree if asked to accept a pet, will apply only to existing tenancies or new ones.

Several people within the group said they understand it will initially only be for existing tenancies, not new ones, although this has yet to be confirmed officially. If applied to new tenancies, the group said, then the six-week waiting period would be 'unworkable'.

Who are the experts?

Dr Elizabeth Ormerod from the Society for Companion Animal Studies; Scott Fryer from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home; Dr Sandra Mcune, Visiting Professor in Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Lincoln; Dr Debbie Rook from the University of Northumbria Law School; The Lettings Hub CEO Heidi Shackell and Jen Berezai, founder of Advocats.


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