Good news for pet-owners in rented homes  - News - Leicester Animal Aidfeature image

Good news for pet-owners in rented homes

Pets are more important in our lives than ever – particularly during these past strange months. With so many of us working from home and often isolated from social contacts, mental health has become a huge issue across the country.

We all know that pets can be a real boon to our mental health. Their benefits include precious companionship and helping to reduce stress and anxiety. So it really is good news that the government has proposed a new standard tenancy agreement for landlords of rented properties, that enshrines the right of renters to keep well-behaved pets in their homes.

Progress for those in rented accommodation

Amendments to the Model Tenancy Agreement, which is the government’s recommended contract for landlords, see here, were announced at the end of January 2021.  Under this new agreement, landlords will no longer be able to impose a general ban on the keeping of pets in their rental properties.

Because the model contract is a recommendation rather than a mandatory requirement, some landlords may continue to omit the new rights from their agreements with renters. But, the government hopes that many will choose to adopt the provisions when letting their properties.

The new agreement will be welcomed by many, not least pet-loving renters seeking a new home. But it is a victory too for the campaigners and parliamentarians who made it happen. Prominent among them is Romford MP Andrew Rosindell, whose Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill had its first reading on the same day that the new Model Tenancy Agreement was published.

Andrew Rosindell has campaigned for the adoption of ‘Jasmine’s Law’, which aims to strengthen the rights of tenants to keep pets in their rented homes. The campaign is named for Jasmine – a lovely Weimaraner owned by the Adams family in Surrey. Jasmine was separated from her owner due to a no-pets rental policy, and has been a significant consideration in the government’s updated agreement.

The nation’s housing shortage has been called a crisis by campaigners and experts – and it can make the search for rented accommodation a challenge for anyone. But for those with pets, finding a home has become even more difficult.

According to government figures, only 7% of private landlords currently offer pet-friendly properties. In other words, more than 90% of landlords include a ban on pets in their tenancy contracts. This means many people struggle to find suitable homes and, in some cases, are forced to give up their dear pets altogether.

A change for the better

So, how does the new Model Tenancy Agreement change the rules for tenants with pets?

First announced on 28th January 2021, the Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill proposes that new tenants with well-behaved pets can move in with them, on the condition of a so-called ‘responsible ownership test’. According to the Bill, this may require proof that the pet has been appropriately vaccinated, micro-chipped, and responds to basic training commands.

There are concerns that proof of ‘responsible ownership’ may be somewhat nebulous in the eyes of some landlords. And sadly the bill provides little extra support for renters who would like to take on a new pet after they’ve already moved into a property. But despite these caveats, the new agreement template is certainly a change for the better, and one that will be applauded by many.

The lock-downs and restrictions imposed by the Coronavirus pandemic this year have, perhaps, shone a light on the mental health benefits of pets – as more of us find ourselves living isolated lives in our homes. With that in mind, it’s certainly good news that the government is now taking steps to address the issue of pets in rented accommodation. Even though the Model Tenancy Agreement’s voluntary nature won’t afford tenants an unconditional right to keep pets in their rental properties, it should nonetheless give more options to those who find themselves seeking a new place to live.