It was the hot topic last week.. the new rules on the blanket ban on pets in rental properties. A highly controversial topic which I am sure prompted lots of in-office (or in-Zoom) conversations similar to those we had here amongst ourselves. From our conversations it seems most of us have had an experience with a curious puppy looking for its next pair of brand new shoes to chew on, or the dog that likes to dig everywhere in sight. One of our team even has a dog who likes to chew window frames, so you can imagine the scope of our conversation!
While pets can present the potential for property damage, it is worth bearing in mind that the tenant has an accountability here in terms of being a responsible pet owner. So where do the two meet? That is, the responsible landlord and the responsible tenant? Is there a middle ground that everyone could be happy with, or is it simply a matter of removing blanket bans and that being the correct approach? The answer unfortunately is not straightforward.
From a tenant’s perspective, it could be argued that they don’t want to be limited with where they can or cannot rent. Especially if the area they want to live in is in high demand, if they are competing with other tenants and are a pet owner, it can be difficult to secure a property should a landlord’s preference be “no pets”. A responsible pet owner who is a tenant will already feel they are limited in choice due to the type of property they need to accommodate their pet. That’s the downside.
The flip side of this from a tenant’s perspective is in relation to tenants who aren’t pet owners who may live in neighbouring properties. I can think of nothing worse than looking out of my back window and seeing my neighbours dog cooped up in a tiny 2m x 2m courtyard, but of course, this only applies to irresponsible pet owners who I would like to hope are few and far between. The vast majority of tenants who are pet owners would want the best for their pet and would consider this when choosing a rental.
From a landlord’s perspective I think the topic can become quite divisive. Some landlords may not be pet lovers and others might. Some landlords may see an upside to having a pet-friendly property so as to attract a wider range of tenant and others may see a downside to this, as they may have concerns about damages. A potential answer to this is insurance. However not all insurance policies will cover pet damage and even then, the particular damage caused may not be covered either. As the landlord may not be able to cover all eventualities s/he may wish to simply impose a ban of pets. With the change in rules which came into force last week such a blanket ban is no longer an option.
So what options are now available to landlords? The default position, as stated in the Model Agreement for an Assured Shorthold Tenancy issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government is that a tenant must still seek written consent from the landlord should they wish to keep pets or other animals at the property. The landlord however is prohibited from exercising a blanket ban on pets. Instead, if the landlord wishes to reject the request then s/he will have to respond, in writing, within a 28 day period, stating their reasons for doing so. Example reasons could be the size of the property is unsuitable for the pet in question. While the Model Tenancy Agreement is a guideline it is not legally binding there is a considerable push by some MPs to turn these proposals into law. Something most agents and landlords will be mindful of over the next few months.
One thing is for certain, there is no right or wrong answer here. With so many possible, grey scenarios it begs the questions are we going from one extreme to the other or is it a step in the right direction? I am sure time will be the judge of that.
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