Has the Government changed the law to give tenants an automatic right to keep pets?
The short answer may appear to be “yes” but – as always – the devil is in the detail.
Firstly, it’s important to stress that pet ownership within rental property is part of a Model Tenancy Agreement, developed by the Government. It’s only guidance as there is no legal requirement to use this particular type of agreement, in preference to others widely used throughout our industry.
Secondly, as the owner of a much-loved dog, I am certainly not against the idea in principle. Our animals often bring a lot of joy and most pet owners are sensible and responsible.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve seen some horror stories, ranging from chewed skirting boards and banisters to badly scratched hard flooring and carpets.
As with all things involving humans, poor pet owners can give responsible animal lovers a bad name!
So let’s look at what’s driving Government policy.
Currently, just 7% of private landlords advertise pet-friendly properties – forcing some tenants to give up their beloved pets all together when they need to move home.
Under the new agreement, Ministers say rejections should only be made where there is a good reason.
A good example is somebody hoping to move an excitable and noisy dog into a small flat, creating potential nuisance for new neighbours.
Now responsible tenants with well-behaved pets will be able to secure leases more easily through the new Model Tenancy Agreement, announced by the Government earlier this year.
Landlords using this type of agreement will have to offer consent for pets as the default position.
Those who object must outline their concerns in writing, within 28 days of a written pet request – and provide good reasons if they decide to turn it down.
To protect landlords, tenants will continue to have a legal duty to repair or cover the cost of damage.
All good stuff in principle but it’s important to stress there are constraints.
For a start, there are several types of legal tenancy agreements available and not all follow the Government model, as I explained at the outset.
Secondly, many leasehold properties in Brighton and Hove contain legally-binding clauses to say animals cannot be kept in the buildings.
So how do we get round the thorny issue of pet ownership and help wherever we can?
Before the Government capped tenancy deposits at a maximum of five weeks’ rent, landlords could insist on a larger deposit to cover the potential risk. That option is no longer available.
To compensate, some landlords are now charging higher rents to cover the risk of damage or noise and nuisance. Fair enough – but only if tenants can afford it.
This topic is unlikely to go away and may be covered in the pending Government White Paper, which we’re expecting in the Autumn. We discussed this in last month’s blog.
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