In hiding: the realities of renting with pets

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Tenant Fees Act is still creating

Up to a third of pet owners living in rented accommodation have to hide their pet from their landlord, according to a survey on 1,000 renters carried out by management company Quintain Living.

A statement reads, “Birds were named as the most secretly kept pets in the UK – a staggering 50 per cent of respondents who keep birds admitted hiding them from their landlord. Rabbits came in second place, cited by 43 per cent of people who own them. A truly unexpected animal finds itself coming in third place – horses, according to 33 per cent of respondents.”

Rather surprisingly, dogs placed fourth among the respondents’ the most hidden pets – followed by cats, fish and hamsters.

The survey found that 38 per cent of respondents “do not feel comfortable asking their landlord for permission to keep a pet”, and almost one third experienced difficulty finding a property to rent as a pet owner. Almost one in five pet owners said that they have considered giving up their pet in order to find somewhere to live.

This will come to no surprise to our readers, as we have previously covered the difficulties encountered by pet owners in rented accommodation. By late 2021, fewer than seven percent of UK rental properties were marked as accepting tenants with pets, and the situation can be even more dire depending on where you are in the country. Research by All About Cats set out to reveal the “best and worst” cities in the UK to find a pet-friendly rental property – and even in the best of them, the picture is bleak.

At the very bottom are Newcastle upon Tyne, Huddersfiel, Coventry and Leicester; in each of these places, fewer than 2 percent of lettings are advertised as pet-friendly. The top three cities, on the other hand, are Poole (15.69 percent), Glasgow (9.63 per cent), and Middlesbrough (9.30 per cent). 

Demand for pet friendly properties has increased by 120 percent since last summer, but has not been matched by an increase in availability

The fact two of the top three cities for pet-friendly rentals offer fewer than ten pet-friendly lettings every hundred – with an estimated 44 percent of households in the UK owning a pet even before the rise in pet ownership that came with the Covid-19 pandemic – is far from uplifting. Recent data by Rightmove shows that demand for pet friendly properties has increased by 120 percent since last summer, but has not been matched by an increase in availability. 

According to research by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, more than three quarters of renters are affected by landlord pet policies. As a result, too many pet owners face the very real risk of having to choose between their pets and a roof over their head whenever they need to find a new rented accommodation. Some choose to become homeless with their pets rather than giving them up; in some cases, this has led to tragic outcomes.

Our readers may remember how attempts have been made to change this state of affairs. In October 2020 year, Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell proposed a piece of legislation dubbed ‘Jasmine’s Law’ in Parliament; named after a dog who was separated from the owner, Jordan Adams, because of no-pet clauses, it aimed to place strict limits on the ability of landlords to impose “no pets” policies in rented accommodation – provided that the renters prove they are responsible owners.

blanket bans on pets are a huge problem for people who rent and many admit to hiding pets

While it was met favourably upon its introduction, the Bill never received a second reading, partly due to the early 2021 lockdown. However, in January 2021 there was a step forward: a change in the Model Tenancy Agreement meant that landlords would no longer be able to issue blanket bans on pets in this government’s recommended contract. Consent for pets is now the default position, and landlords “will have to object in writing within 28 days of a written pet request from a tenant” and provide a “good reason” to deny the request.

While this change recognised the need to make pet-friendly rentals the default, it is in no way legally binding. After the change came into effect, Andrew Rosindell said, “As the Housing Minister made clear in his statement, blanket bans on pets are ‘unfair’ and these changes are clear indications that the Government recognises the extent of the problem. I am delighted to have played a role in securing this change.

“Nevertheless, the Model Tenancy Agreement is just a template. It is not legally binding. Consequently, this campaign must continue, and we must turn these proposals into law to ensure a pet in every home.”

Allowing for landlords to require pet insurance, the charity argues, would encourage more of them to accept pets on their properties

According to charity AdvoCATS, the current Tenant Fees Act is still creating “a needless barrier” to pet ownership in rented accommodation that a new Model Tenancy Agreement simply cannot fix. The Act, which abolished the provision for landlords to request extra security deposits for pets, has “added to the problems faced by pet-owners or prospective pet-owners in securing rented accommodation,” according to research published by the charity.

The Heads for Tails report argues that “insurance options that include pet damage for both landlords and tenants are few and far between” and that, unable to request extra security deposits for pets, landlords who previously may have accepted pets no longer do so – and many of those who do now charge a monthly “pet rent” top up.

Allowing for landlords to require pet insurance, the charity argues, would encourage more of them to accept pets on their properties – although, given the scale of the problem, it remains to be seen whether would change enough minds to make pet-friendly accommodations easier to find.

Until action is taken, hundreds of thousands of pets in the UK will have to keep living in hiding for the foreseeable future.

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