Pets for Lets Protest Gathers Pace
Pet for lets protesters seems to have sunk their claws into ministers over their campaign to make landlords accept pets in private rented homes.
Campaigners and MPs supporting their efforts have recently met with housing minister Eddie Hughes to voice their complaints.
Hughes met Tory MP Andrew Rosindell, and Jen Berezai, founder of protest group AdvoCATS in Westminster, after the MP wrote to him and called for a change to the law to make renting a home more accessible and fairer for pet owners.
Despite winning support in Parliament for his pet-friendly plans, Rossindell saw a bid to pass a private bill against landlords banning pets run out of time before the end of the last session.
What’s the problem with pets and landlords?
The protesters say many renters are scratching around to find a home to rent because many landlords are unwilling to accept tenants with pets.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick argues that only seven per cent of landlords advertise lettings with cats, dogs and other smaller pets.
Rosindell and the AdvoCATS claim many tenants must choose between giving up their beloved pets or passing on a rented home.
What does the law say?
It’s not against the law for a landlord to refuse to allow a tenant to keep pets.
The issue became an unforeseen consequence of the tenant fees ban, which applies to any tenancy signed on or after June 1, 2019.
Before the ban, landlords often charged an extra charge or deposit to cover any damage caused by pets, but the fee ban made this illegal.
Now, landlords can only recover the costs to put right any damage from the security deposit, which is capped at no more than five times the weekly rent at the start of the agreement. Typically, this leaves no room for a claim if the tenant owes rent.
What do the campaigners want?
The campaigners know that the government is ready to overhaul the legal relationship between landlords and tenants with the Rent Reform Act due later this year.
They recommend the list of Permitted Payments is amended to give the landlord the right to stipulate pet damage insurance is held OR request a separate, capped pet deposit.
Berezai says the housing minister has pledged to investigate the issues raised in their meeting and plans further talks this year.
She explained that many landlords would agree to a tenant keeping pets if asked.
“Many landlords we’ve spoken to have said they’d probably allow a pet if asked, but the all-too-often default No Pets clause in many lettings agents’ contracts is a powerful deterrent to most tenants not to challenge the status quo,” she said.
What’s the government doing?
The Housing Secretary is changing the terms of the government’s online model tenancy agreement to a more pet-friendly version.
Jenrick accepts there should be a balance between responsible pet owners and landlords wanting to safeguard their properties from damage caused by poorly behaved pets.
“Pets bring a huge amount of joy and comfort to people’s lives, helping their owner’s through difficult times and improving their mental and physical wellbeing. So, it’s a shame that thousands of animal-loving tenants and their children can’t experience this because they rent their homes instead of owning property,” he said.
“So, I’m overhauling our model tenancy contract to encourage more landlords to consider opening their doors to responsible pet owners. And we will be listening to tenants and landlords to see what more we can do to tackle this issue in a way that is fair to both.”
What is the model tenancy agreement?
The model tenancy agreement is a free, online document for landlords to download and use.
The agreement contains a section on tenants keeping well-behaved pets, which will have the well-behaved’ wording removed to allow any pet.
The agreement lets landlords ban keeping a pet for good reasons, such as the property size making the home impractical for larger animals.
Housing association drops no pets clause
South-East-based housing association Silva Homes now allows pets into most of the 7,400 homes under management, providing the tenants look after their animals without causing a nuisance.
"When people are looking for a new home to rent or buy through shared-ownership, the thought of not being able to have a pet, or even bring their current pet to their new home, can be extremely traumatic,” said a Silva Homes spokesman.
“We have reshaped our pet policy so that it works with, rather than against, the needs of our customers. As soon as it became clear that there was a demand for a new pet policy, we began to plan how to implement the change.
“Now, every application for a pet will be looked at on its merits, and so long as there are no significant issues which would impact on the animal or surrounding residents, we will happily give the go-ahead.”
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The Tenant Fees Act 2019 commenced on 1 June 2019 and banned most tenant fees in England. Only a "permitted payment" may be requested from a "relevant person"