This is a time of year when many people consider buying a pet as a present but for the millions of people in the private rented sector (PRS), this is not an option.
Many landlords oppose the idea of allowing tenants to have pets as they fear their property will be damaged, may develop an unpleasant odour, and will decline in value.
But this view is now being challenged and the issue of allowing tenants to have pets must now be seriously considered by all landlords and their agents.
The Private Members' Bill by Romford MP Andrew Rosindell calling for tenants to be allowed to have pets and to restrict the right of landlords or their agents to include ‘no pets’ policies is due to have its Second Reading in February.
Rosindell’s Bill proposes that tenants be allowed to have pets if they can demonstrate that they are ‘responsible owners’ with a checklist of conditions to verify this which include a vet’s confirmation of vaccinations, spaying or neutering, that the animal is free of parasites and that the animal has been properly trained.
If these conditions are met, and the property is suitable, then it would be assumed that the tenant could have a pet.
Clearly there can be issues with inappropriate pet owners, but most people are responsible and regard their rented property as their home. They would be unlikely to want to live in a home damaged or destroyed by a wayward pet, so a blanket ban on pet ownership seems restrictive and unfair for the sensible majority.
Agents need to ensure that their landlords understand that allowing pets is a positive move which will be attractive to tenants, potentially increase rental income, could lengthen tenancies, and create a friendlier relationship.
The last year has shown that people now, more than ever, regard having a good home as the most important part of their life. They want to feel comfortable; they want to feel safe, and they want to surround themselves with the things that make them happiest. Often this means having a pet. The Kennel Club published a report which said that 40% of puppies bought this year were as a ‘Covid companion’ and two thirds of new dog owners said their pet was a lifeline during lockdown.
Agents should be assuring landlords that this Bill offers them protection for their properties whilst also giving tenants the chance to have companionship from a pet.
With appropriate insurance, the landlord can easily be covered for any damage caused by the pet.
Agents and landlords should create a set of pet rules which cover areas to ensure the tenant understands their responsibilities. This must include details about what the landlord finds acceptable and what is intolerable. This must be shared with the tenant prior to occupying the property.
Along with the rules, there need to be regular inspections, particularly in the early period, to ensure that the pet rules are being adhered to and the landlord and agent are happy with the way the tenancy is being undertaken.
Agents need to explain to landlords that this is the new norm. Landlords are providing homes and a natural part of being in a home is pet ownership.
Tenants expect their lives to broadly replicate those of homeowners and agents and landlords need to ensure that happens. Landlords also need to know that if they don’t adapt to these changes then other people will and they will gain the most in the future.
For example, Build to Rent (BTR) developers are increasingly developing pet-friendly properties as they see this as a major incentive to attract tenants. BTR company Fizzy Living says that 30% of its tenants own pets and it creates a welcoming environment for animals whilst Get Living states that 15% to 20% of enquiries are from people who say having a pet is important to them.
It is clear, then, that pet ownership is regarded as a fundamental right and that tenants should be treated in the same way as homeowners. The Bill by Andrew Rosindell should not even be regarded as controversial as it is simply offering a basic human right to tenants that they should never have had restricted.
This Bill, if introduced as legislation, is righting a wrong and should be welcomed by agents and landlords everywhere.
*David Alexander is the joint chief executive officer of apropos by DJ Alexander