It’s no secret that we are a nation of animal lovers! Pets have become part of our homes and families for years; keeping us company on nights in or protecting our gardens from unwanted guests. They are the embodiment of making a house a home, right? Not according to many landlords. In recent years pet policies have become restrictive for tenants in rented accommodation. Many landlords outline strict rules on allowing pets to live in their properties due to claims of damage, infestation, noise and issues around allergies.
However, things are changing. Many regulations are being introduced to encourage landlords to be more lenient in their policies. Below we outline the updates in these pet policies and the reasons why landlords may still feel uncomfortable in taking on tenants and their furry (or scaly) friends.
How many Pet owners are there in the UK?
As there are nearly 20 million pet owners in the UK, these changes in policies will be applicable to many people and their pets. Let’s break the issue down into numbers:
- 10.3 million homes currently own a cat, whilst 9.3 million own a dog
- 78% of pet owners struggle to find rented places that are pet-friendly
- 21% admit to secretly letting having their pets live with them anyway
- 7% of UK adverts featured on SpareRoom would consider pets – dropping to 5% in the London area, equating to just one in 20 homes
- 68% of landlords pet preference was a fish, followed by dogs at 57% and cats at 32%
Due to such a huge amount of UK residents being pet owners, landlords are likely to come across tenants hoping to move in with their pets very often. The answer is very often no. In fact, Battersea Cats & Dogs home state that 10% of their admissions are from landlords banning pets from residing in their rented properties. It is an unattractive prospect for many, however some tenants resort to paying extra to avoid having to give up their pets, with 28% of private rental sector tenants willing to pay an average of £24 more for their monthly rent payment. So is the extra money worth the extra worry for landlords?
According to Letting Agent Today, of 1,261 landlords surveyed, 69% said that they do not allow pets in their properties. Dogs can be noisy and bark throughout the day or night, causing friction with neighbours, many people are allergic to animal fur which may cause major problems for future tenants and there’s always the threat of flea infestations, continuous fouling and terrible odours. It’s enough to put most landlords off.
Arguably the number one issue that concerns landlords is the potential damage to their property. According to the Telegraph, more than £600 worth of damage is caused to homes by pets during their lifetime – a particularly unattractive statistic for a landlord. However, damage to a property by pets is significantly lower than expected in a pet-friendly rental household. The risks that landlords worry about reflect a minority of tenants and pets, as according to Cats Protection, 75% of cat-friendly private landlords report no problems regarding feline friends in rentals.
Change on the horizon
In February 2018, Labour Party’s Animal Welfare Act announced that they aim to strengthen the rights of tenants to have pets in their homes, as they recognise the growing number of people renting well into their 30s. In an attempt to bridge a mutual agreement and balance between tenant and landlord rights, they added under their ‘Domestic Pets’ proposal to “consult with landlords and tenants on the ability for tenants to keep pets as default unless there is evidence that the animal is causing a nuisance.”
Additionally, to help address the lack of pet-friendly rental accommodation in the UK, the ‘Think Tank for Pets’ was launched in November 2018. Made up of a committee boasting economists, charity representatives from Crisis and RSPCA, property professionals and vets, the initiative has put in a suggestion to look into how tenants are affected by pet bans in rentals. Their recent report found that providing lenient restrictions on pet tenants aided the increase of landlord income, with more tenants available to them and tenants more likely to stay with them for longer, and reduced issue of homelessness of animals within the UK.
Despite these events, the National Landlords Association states that a blanket approach towards keeping or refusing pets will be condemned, as ‘landlords should have a right to refuse permission so long as they justify their decision’. Many would argue that as the property owner, the landlord has the right to make their own rules, however on the flipside, it may be unfair to refuse a perfectly responsible tenant with a well-behaved pet before giving them a chance.