The government has updated the standard tenancy agreement to allow pets in rental properties. What does this mean for landlords and tenants?
The Model Tenancy Agreement is the contract the government recommends landlords to use. Through recent changes, landlords using the agreement will no longer be able to issue blanket bans on pets. However, tenants will still have to pay for any damage caused by their pet.
This change will make it easier for responsible tenants with well-behaved pets to secure privately rented accommodation. With the template contract, consent for pets in rental properties will be the default position. However, the standard agreement acts as only a guideline and is not legally binding.
With this tenancy agreement, landlords will now have to object in writing within 28 days of a tenant’s written pet request. Landlords must provide a good reason not to allow a tenant to have a pet in the property. For example, a reason could be the rental property is too small to practically have a pet.
Housing Minister Christopher Pincher says: “Through the changes to the tenancy agreement we are making today, we are bringing an end to the unfair blanket ban on pets introduced by some landlords.
“This strikes the right balance between helping more people find a home that’s right for them and their pet while ensuring landlords’ properties are safeguarded against inappropriate or badly behaved pets.”
A pet-friendly nation
Currently, more than half of adults in the UK own a pet. And more are welcoming pets into their lives during the pandemic as many people’s work-life balances have changed permanently. Additionally, with more people renting for longer, it will become even more important for landlords to adapt their rental properties to the needs of tenants.
Despite a large portion of the UK population being pet owners, only 7% of private landlords advertise pet-friendly properties. Many tenants who are pet owners are struggling to find suitable homes. In certain cases, this has even meant that people have to give up their pets.
Christopher Pincher comments: “We are a nation of animal lovers and over the last year more people than ever before have welcome pets into their lives and homes.
“But it can’t be right that only a tiny fraction of landlords advertise pet friendly properties and in some cases people have had to give up their beloved pets in order to find somewhere to live.”
The cons of allowing pets in rented accommodation
One of the main reasons landlords give for banning pets from their properties is the extra maintenance work and damage pets could potentially cause. The possibility of howling dogs disturbing neighbours is another reason. However, pet-free tenants could be just as likely to cause damage or disturbance in rental properties.
Mark Hayward, chief policy adviser at Propertymark, comments on the new changes: “Whilst we acknowledge that allowing pets can make a property more desirable and encourage tenants to rent for longer, even the best-behaved pets will have an impact on a property.
“The UK Government must recognise the impact of their decision to cap deposits and the knock-on costs that landlords face. This is a complex issue that is determined on a case-by-case basis highlighting the need for landlords to get advice from a professional letting agent.”
The pros of advertising pet-friendly rentals
Previous studies have shown that many tenants in the private rented sector are willing to pay more for pet-friendly properties. For landlords willing to relax their no pets policies, additional income could be an attractive boost.
By accepting renters with pets, landlords can increase demand for their properties and also attract long-term tenants, which can minimise void periods. Making tenants feel more at home in their rental properties can encourage them to take better care of the place.
Across the UK, there are even a number of build-to-rent developments that have been pioneering the push for pet-friendly rentals. The sector will likely boom over the coming years as more UK households are bringing pets in their homes.
Lets with Pets, a scheme by DogsTrust, provides helpful information and advice for tenants and landlords about privately renting with pets. There are also specialist landlord insurance policies available that cover accidental damage caused by a tenant’s pet. And more policies with pet coverage for rental accommodation will likely come to the market moving forward.