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Tenants could have the right to keep pets in rented accommodation, should Labour get into power. The party is targeting pet lovers with its pledges for animal welfare, which including renters having the right to keep pets. Many renters have found it difficult to secure suitable accommodation which allows pets. Under Labour, the promise is to do more for animal owners, so that they do not have to give up their pets if they move into rented accommodation.

Labour’s shadow environment secretary, Sue Hayman, said the fact that people cannot afford to buy their own home shouldn’t mean they are denied the pleasure of having a pet. Buying a home will be out of reach for many young people and already five million households are living in privately rented accommodation – a figure that is only likely to increase in the near future. That means more people will be unable to own pets because they are not homeowners. Labour wants to consult landlords to see if there is a way of giving tenants the default right of keeping pets. The change would mean tenants have the right to keep animals rather than be forced to give them up or be denied the chance to be a pet owner at all.

National Landlords Association chief executive, Richard Lambert, said about half of all landlords are reluctant to allow pets, because they believe there is an additional risk of damage and, therefore, increased repair bills. Schemes already exist, which are supported by the NLA, to encourage landlords to accept pet owners, like Lets With Pets, run by the Dog’s Trust. Also, some properties such as blocks of flats or homes without gardens would not be suitable for many animals.

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home has welcomed the proposal. Dee Mcintosh, director of communications, said the shelter has accepted many cats and dogs because their owners moved into rental accommodation which did not allow animals. The organisation said it would like to see more housing associations and local authorities have pet-friendly tenancy agreements.

At the moment, it seems as though there is a large section of potential tenants whose needs are not being addressed. Landlords could address the problem by making some properties more pet-friendly, perhaps with wooden or tiled floors instead of carpets, and fuss-free gardens. More and more hotels and holiday rentals are seeing the benefits of allowing pets – it widens the net of potential customers and could be more profitable. Many pet owners have said they would be prepared to pay a higher rent if it meant their animals could stay with them. There could also be clauses added to contracts saying that pet owners need to take out insurance against damage or extra cleaning as a result of their animals. There must be some middle ground where landlords are satisfied that their property is secure in the hands of pet owners and animal lovers can enjoy the benefits of living with pets in rental homes.

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