Daniel Chard from Bird and Co. Conveyancing Solicitors discusses the new rules for tenants with pets, and what this will mean for tenants and landlords.
For decades, landlords have had the right to refuse tenants based on their beloved furry friends. That said, with pets becoming increasingly more important in our lives, and with a mental health crisis on our hands, the government are pushing for change.
So, what will these new laws for moving house with your pets entail, and what will this mean for landlords and tenants alike? Daniel Chard from Bird and Co. discusses.
What Were the Previous Rules for Tenants with Pets?
With the housing crisis as it stands, finding suitable accommodation to rent is tough enough. But for those who already have a pet, it is even trickier to find somewhere to call home.
In England, a landlord can only legally charge a deposit of five weeks’ rent. This restricts them from adding a higher deposit for pets. However, some landlords choose to up rents in case the pet causes any damage.
Everywhere else in the UK, landlords can request a pet deposit; an additional deposit on top of your security deposit which will be returned after your tenancy. This will cover any potential damage your animal may cause.
That said, in 2020 only seven percent of landlords advertised their property as suitable for pets. In these cases, they most likely included pet clauses in their rental contracts to allow for pets.
So, for over 90 percent of landlords, a blanket ban on pets of any kind was included in their contract. If a tenancy agreement included a ban on pets, getting one was reasonable grounds for eviction. This has, in reality, torn families apart, and some have even had to leave their dear pets behind.
What Are the New Rules for Tenants with Pets?
The coronavirus has been a turning point, as most people are still working from home and mental health has become a huge issue across the country. Because of this, the mental health benefits of pets, including reducing stress and anxiety and providing companionship, can’t be ignored. So, it’s great to see the government addressing this issue through providing stricter rules on landlord restrictions to allow for this remedy.
The Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill was brought forward by Tory MP Andrew Rosindell, and is a beacon of hope for lonely renters. The new rules were announced on 28th January 2021, and specify that tenants with well-behaved pets can move in with them, conditionally.
This all comes under the Model Tenancy Agreement, which is a voluntary but recommended government guide for landlords to follow. Under the proposed rules, tenants will need to pass a “responsible ownership test” before they can move in their pet. This would include:
- Proof of vaccinations
- Microchipping the pet
- De-worming and de-fleaing
- Ensuring the pet responds to basic commands
Although this means tenants won’t have an unconditional right to keep pets in their rental properties, it gives a bit of leeway for those stuck for somewhere to live.
What Will These New Rules Mean for Tenants?
This bill is a real triumph for people looking to move home with their pets into a rental property, but there are some drawbacks too. The positives and negatives include:
Positives of the New Tenancy Agreement Rules
There are many reasons the new standard tenancy agreement for pets will bring a positive change to renters. Some ways include:
- Providing a friend during the continued lockdown
- A boost in mental health
- Greater immunity to illness
- Taking pressure off the NHS
- Reducing loneliness
- Increasing pet adoption rates
- General happiness and wellbeing should soar
Negatives of the New Tenancy Agreement Rules
That said, there are concerns that the bill might mean landlords choose to inflate rent prices, making the picture even bleaker for renters. To add to this, the agreement doesn’t really cater for tenants who wish to get a pet once they move in; how can they prove it’s well-behaved if they don’t have it yet?
What’s more, there are questions as to what makes a well-behaved pet. It’s quite subjective, especially if a landlord doesn’t like animals to begin with. How standardised will tests to deduce pet behaviour be, and how often will pets pass these tests? Only time will tell.
What Will These New Rules Mean for Landlords?
For landlords, the picture isn’t so positive; concerns over damage to homes will be the main problem. If this is the case, the agreement will bring forth a process of having to object to the pet.
They will have to do so in writing within 28 days of a pet request from a tenant. The landlord must also be able to provide a valid reason. This reason could include:
- Property size
- Issues surrounding the property, i.e. it’s a block of flats
- It would be impractical to own a pet
Overall, the new rules could mean that properties deteriorate quicker than previously, especially if the property has furniture included. For example, fur might cover the property, smells can seep into the carpets and furniture, and scratches may appear on sofas. Because of this, landlords may have to rethink the layouts of their homes, and whether they want to provide furniture or not.
Ultimately, though, restrictions on pets are unfounded and, if the tenant can prove their pet is well-behaved and they are responsible owners, it will certainly help renters out.
Looking Forward to a Pet-Filled Future?
At Bird and Co., we love to see positive change like this. That said, if you’re an unhappy landlord looking to sell up with these new rules, we’re happy to help. Simply head to birdandco.co.uk for more information.