Belvoir advises on where landlords stand regarding changes to pets in private rental properties…
Are you a landlord who automatically says no to pets in their properties? Perhaps you are concerned that pets will cause damage, or annoy the neighbours, or generally create problems that you would prefer to avoid? If so, you are not alone, as according to research although 40% of UK households currently own pets, just 7% of private landlords advertise properties as pet-friendly. Political parties and leading animal charities are now uniting to rectify what they view as discrimination against responsible pet owners, but recent developments have caused some confusion for landlords with many concerned about whether or not they are now legally obliged to accept pets.
The answer is no – it is not yet a legal requirement for landlords to automatically accept pets, although moves are definitely underway to ensure that in the future this will become law. Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell has long been campaigning for the introduction of the Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill, which successfully passed its first reading in parliament last year. Rossindell’s campaign is nicknamed ‘Jasmine’s Law’ after a Weimaraner dog in Rossindell’s constituency who had to be rehomed due to a ‘no pets’ clause in the owner’s tenancy agreement. The campaign has gained cross party support and the backing of key animal charities, who continue to work to make it a legal requirement.
On 28th January 2021 the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced changes to the Model Tenancy Agreement, to make it easier for tenants with well-behaved pets to secure rental accommodation. Whilst use of the agreement is voluntary, and professional agents such as Belvoir use their own legally compliant version, the Model Tenancy Agreement is certainly recommended as best practice for DIY landlords.
According to the new Model Tenancy Agreement, tenants will be asked to undergo various checks to prove that they are responsible owners and their pets are well-trained. Landlords who have strong objections will still be able to make their views known, but they must do so in writing within 28 days of a written request from a tenant. Any objections must be considered reasonable, such as concerns over the animal’s welfare or the suitability of the pet for the type of accommodation.
Zoe Bywater, who owns Belvoir Bedford, has long been a supporter of the Dogs Trust Lets with Pets campaign, and encourages landlords with suitable properties to consider tenants with companion animals.
“It is not yet legislation, but as the Government has issued a new Model Tenancy Agreement; there is probably an expectation that it is best practice” she explains.
“In our experience at Belvoir Bedford we have not found that pets have caused problems in properties. We are no longer able to request an extra deposit or insurance to cover any potential damage done by pets, and if there is an increased rent to include pets in the rental agreement this must be made clear at the advertising stage. However, we are able to reassure landlords by providing a comprehensive professional inventory at the beginning and end of a tenancy, which can help to prevent any disputes. We also do our very best to match tenants to the right property, and encourage pet owners to provide a reference for the landlord to show that their pet is microchipped, treated for fleas and worms etc and is well trained, and that their welfare has been considered – for example they won’t be left unattended for more than four hours a day.
“I have always thought that landlords who automatically say ‘no pets’ are missing out on a huge section of the tenant market. Tenants with pets often tend to stay longer, valuing the property as their home, and doing their best to maintain the indoor and outdoor space really well. If a landlord has concerns, I recommend they talk to their agent, and also have a look on the Dogs Trust Lets with Pets website for further information on lets with pets. This is also an invaluable resource for tenants as well, with some fantastic practical advice to help them secure accommodation for themselves and their pets.”
The new Model Tenancy Agreement is published on the Government website and is available to landlords as a free download: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/model-agreement-for-a-shorthold-assured-tenancy
To find your nearest Belvoir office to receive free advice, visit: www.belvoir.co.uk
For more information visit: https://www.letswithpets.org.uk/