A pet is a huge commitment and meant to be for life – but often it’s only a choice for those able to own their own properties. In rented accommodation, there is hardly any choice. Is that fair – should all tenants be allowed to keep pets?
With the massive changes experienced over the past 18mths, the change in both our emotional and physical needs and the impact of our work/life imbalance have made many people realise that a furry friend can bring a much-needed change to their lives – especially those without the support of family nearby or those living alone.
Pets are known to improve the health and wellbeing of owners and pets alike with many notable benefits notable such as:
- Lower stress levels (Mental Health Foundation)
- People often state that they never feel lonely when they have a pet
- Pets can help you get out and about (yes even cats and rabbits like walks!)
- Animals of many types can keep you fit and agile (goat yoga)
- Owning a pet can teach children responsibility
- A pet can make you feel safe and needed (and visa versa)
- They are often a conversation starter and could even help you make friends
- They are the ultimate alarm clock!
But keeping a pet is not cheap, and costs can skyrocket depending on the pet type and what their physical and emotional needs are.
According to the pet charity PDSA, it costs between £4,500 to £13,000 to look after a dog over its lifetime, and that’s without adding in any possible medical problems they might develop.
The latest pet population data as compiled by the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) highlights that there are now 34m pets in the UK:
- 12m cats
- 12m dogs
- 3.2m small mammals
- 3m birds
- 1.5m reptiles
- Other smaller types of pet
However, the latest research by Dataloft shows that despite 40% of UK households owning a pet, only 7% of landlords advertise homes as suitable for pets.
Further research from Dataloft shows that 20% of English & 15% of Welsh households are currently living in the private rental sector, with numbers increasing since the start of the pandemic therefore demand for pet-friendly homes is increasing. This means that the issue of pet ownership for both tenants and landlords is and will continue to be a hot topic of conversation until a resolution is found.
Should all tenants be allowed to keep pets?
Many argue no and many more argue yes. But why is it such an emotive topic and where does our love of pets originate from?
Domestication of dogs is thought to have been between 13,000 and 30,000 years ago (give a take a few decades!) so it’s neither a new concept nor one that has faded or ‘gone out of fashion’. Pet keeping, as we understand it, is thought to have originated in or around Victorian times (19th century).
And since the start of the pandemic; ownership of pets has dramatically increased with 3.2m households having acquired a pet since on or around the start of 2020. This could possibly be one of the key drivers behind the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick calling on landlords to make it easier for responsible tenants to have well-behaved pets in their homes.
The overhaul of the tenancy agreement (section C 1.5) provides a model or suggested framework, however landlords are reluctant to accept pets without the protection of legislation which many want to include an ability to charge either a higher deposit, insist on additional insurance policies or provisions enshrined in law should the pet damage the property.
As the Renter’s Reform Bill continues along its legislative journey; questions then turn to how to ensure that pets included in the Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) are cared for and the property not put at risk from damage or infestation.
Concerns are being expressed in regards to pets who aren’t controlled. There is further discussion as to whether the current 5 week deposit rental cap is sufficient to cover the cost of any ‘potential damage’ especially as the model agreement states that the cap cannot be exceeded. The main risks being highlighted are that the landlord could be faced with potentially expensive cleaning/repair bills that exceed the 5 week deposit if the property is not returned in a similar condition (less Fair Wear and Tear) at the end of the tenancy.
Our webinar: The Inventory Super Sleuth – How To Spot Pet Damage looks at how inventory providers can ‘spot’ damage, what to include in the property report and why you need to look closely not just at check out but at the start of the tenancy!
Neither landlords, letting agents nor inventory providers can be expected to ‘police’ pets behaviour and or the factors surrounding their safety. There are, however, easy to implement options to ensure that, where possible, tenants and landlords are held to account if the property is not maintained as per the tenancy agreement.
Independent, clear, concise and comprehensive inventory and checkout reports can ensure that the property is protected and the tenants deposit not unfairly targeted.
Check out reports are going to be even more coveted and vital when devidenicn any pet damage and if the deposit does go to dispute. Often though the issues are not always easy to see or pick up so the inventory professional (or anyone conducting the report) will need to remain vigilant.
View our webinar: Hide ‘n Seek – 7 Tell Tale Signs to Look for at Check Out – to learn how to spot whether the tenant has looked after the property (or not!) and understand who is responsible for what.
Interim reports (self service/live inspection) can provide the evidence needed to ensure that both tenant and landlord are equally responsible for the property’s continued upkeep and overall safety.
As both a tenant and a cat owner, I appreciate that pets are an important part of the family, however, they do also need to be suitably controlled, cared for and not allowed to damage the rental property. It will therefore be interesting to see the detail that will underpin the actual application of The Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill as it will undoubtedly throw up many questions and problems to be thought through and or resolved.
Will we see AST’s detail the number and types of pets allowed; their breed, their size, their age and any known issues with behaviour? How will this be monitored/controlled?
Will landlords charge more in rent to offset the inability to demand a higher deposit if that is not addressed by the Renter’s Reform Bill or a review of the Tenant Fees Act? And what will be the effect on tenants ability to afford a property?
For inventory providers; a key question is how will it all be reflected within the inventory and checkout? Should or will there be a pet report or specific field where pet damage (or not!) is captured outside of the usual property components and condition comments? InventoryBase has already started to look at this and has ‘Pet Templates’ ready for use by providers. Visit the template library support section for more information.
Another and very important question in regards to the supplier industry, is how will clerks deal with abandoned pets at checkout?
This will be a very important issue to resolve, as clerks quite often find themselves in amongst tenants items when the property has either been abandoned or the tenant has failed to move all their belongings out. It is therefore vital to understand who will be responsible for managing a pet left alone or abandoned in the property – pet charities, RSPCA, the letting agent or landlord? Whoever may be ultimately responsible; the animal/pet and their welfare must always be paramount so clear and protected protocols must be put in place.
Another very important issue is whether properties will be independently assessed for suitability to house a pet or will it be a case of any type / any size? Legislation should cover this but it still needs to be discussed and determined who then would carry out this role.
Last but not least; will the landlord be bound by law to permit any domestic animal based on the tenants certificate of responsible animal guardianship? All very important aspects to think about and discuss as the call for tenants to be allowed pets in the property gathers momentum.
My final thought (at least for now) is that at the forefront of any and all discussions and agreements should be the welfare and safety of the animal or pet. To focus attention anywhere else would be a huge betrayal of the trust placed in us by the pets we seek to love and keep safe.