Landlords should be planning ahead for pets - and setting out rules to best protect their properties
By Helen Everritt, Manager, Gro Residential Management
As the new Renters (Reform) Bill continues to progress through the parliamentary process, the proposed changes to pet owners’ rights when applying for rental properties continues to attract plenty of attention.
In a proposed significant shift of rules, landlords will soon no longer be able to place a blanket ban on pets being kept in their properties, and will need to have ‘reasonable grounds’ for refusing tenants’ permission.
In general, having pets in rented properties is not usually welcomed by landlords, who, understandably, are keen to keep their properties in the best possible condition at all times.
As rental property management specialists, our team at Gro Residential Management handles requests from prospective tenants every week wanting to know if they will be able to keep a pet in a property they have seen advertised by our team.
Currently, their options are usually limited, as nationally, only around 7% of rental property landlords allow pets.
However, under the proposed new changes, landlords may see a decision to refuse pets being challenged through the courts, or via a new Private Rented Sector Ombudsman.
More likely, however, is that given the new approach, they will lose that prospective tenant to another landlord who has already made provisions to accommodate pets, in a way which protects their properties, and their investment.
Bill offers little clarity over what will be a ‘reasonable refusal’ to take pets
The Government’s commitment to making it easier for rental tenants to keep pets current lacks clarity over the finer detail.
Clearer guidance on what will be considered a reasonable refusal for a pet request will no doubt be provided in time, but at present it is not clear as to the grounds for refusal for keeping pets which will be accepted from landlords.
Of course, there will always be an element of common sense to take into account, such as if a tenant wished to keep a number of large dogs in a one bed apartment, within a shared complex, that would clearly be unsuitable.
Consideration will also of course need to be made for any others in shared accommodation, particularly with regards to any allergies, whilst live-in landlords will also have the right to deny a pet on the grounds of not wanting to live with one.
However, rather than looking for reasons to reject, it is apparent that landlords would be best placed to begin preparing their properties, and how they manage them, in anticipation of welcoming some new tenants of the non-human kind in the non-to-distant future.
Steps landlords can take now
At Gro Residential Management we encourage all landlords we represent to take a pro-active approach to their property management, and their relationship with tenants.
This will be crucial as these new reforms come into place, and tenants begin requesting permission to have pets in their homes.
Landlords would be best advised to start bringing their own clarity of thought to the situation now, taking steps to ensure they are ready for those pet requests.
As part of the Bill, the government is to amend the Tenant Fees Act 2019 to include pet insurance as a permitted payment.
This means that, as a condition of giving consent to keeping pets, landlords will be able to require tenants to have insurance covering the risk of pet damage, or require the tenant to pay the landlord’s reasonable costs of maintaining pet damage insurance.
Our team have already been helping landlords with regards to researching the cost of comprehensive insurance to cover properties against pet damage, and supporting others in preparing rules relating to the keeping of pets in their properties.
These rules can form part of a tenancy agreement, which can be discussed with tenants at the outset, setting clear and agreed boundaries and expectations, and can even include requesting to see the prospective tenant with their pet the pet before accepting their request.
A pet which cannot behave well at an initial meeting may well provide ‘reasonable grounds’ for refusal, or enough evidence to put a landlord’s mind at ease that the pet is friendly and well-behaved.
Longer term, landlords could also insist on carrying out more frequent property inspections to ensure any pet damage is spotted early, and that the tenant is following all rules set out.
With so much uncertainly still around this issue, our team is working now to help landlords prepare, and ensure they manage having tenants with pets successfully.
The Bill has complete its parliamentary stages and then gain Royal Assent before the Secretary of State. Six months’ notice will then be given for when these rules will apply to all new tenancies, with changes to apply to all existing tenancies at least 12 months later.
If you have any questions over the Renters (Reform) Bill, contact our team on 01482 566057 or email email@example.com