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Can I Bring My Dog? Changes to tenancy pet bans

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There are more young people and families renting than ever before – and for longer durations in life. It is well documented that a pet can significantly increase a person’s wellbeing and mental health, and yet only around 7% of landlords advertise their properties as suitable for pets, according to GOV.UK.

This leaves prospective tenants struggling to find a suitable home. It forces some animal-loving renters to give up their pets altogether.

What does the government want to change and why?

Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, announced on 4 January 2020 that the government’s model tenancy contract will be revised to end the pet ban on well-behaved pets in rental homes.

This is intended to help more landlords cater for responsible pet owners and increase their pool of potential renters. It could also mean tenants stay for longer or are willing to pay more to be able to both rent and have a pet.

However, this will not include smaller properties or flats where owning a pet would be impractical and detrimental to both the owner and animal’s welfare.

In short, Jenrick hopes this shift will encourage landlords to review the right to keep a pet on a case-by-case basis rather than applying a blanket ban on pets.

What about badly behaved pet damage?

While Jenrick wants it to become easier for tenants to have pets in their home, many landlords would argue that the legislation increases the risk of damage. The thought of property wear-and-tear being exacerbated by pets, and even damaged by neglected or untrained pets, is enough to put landlords off the idea entirely.

It is likely landlords would be more at ease if Jenrick also carefully considered how one might cover the costs of damage caused by pets, which can far exceed a deposit.

Jenrick and the government are clear that there should be a balance with responsible pet owners not being penalised and landlords being more flexible in their approach, and that landlords’ properties should be protected from damage by badly behaved pets – but not so much how.

The issue, then, is how would a landlord ensure that a pet is ‘well behaved’? What are the criteria? How could a prospective tenant give assurance? Surely there will always be an element of risk.

Will we see a change?

The comments beneath an article by Letting Agent Today are perhaps just a drop in the ocean of public opinion towards to this move. Some argue that it won’t change anything, while others are very much for it.