A pet project for landlords and agents?

by Gary Whittaker

Many landlords and agents are only too happy to permit tenants to keep pets. After all, many will themselves be animal lovers and appreciate the desire of many to keep a fluffy, furry or feathered friend. It might also be appreciated that to restrict accommodation to non-pet owners would reduce the target market for their properties.

Others, of course, may be a little less keen, with concerns about possible damage or noise that would annoy neighbours. However, landlords do not have a free hand to stop tenants having pets.

Defaults and doggies

Since 2015, there have been restrictions to the grounds on which landlords can refuse the keeping of pets by renters, but Labour plans a further tightening of the law in favour of tenants, with renters being given a 'default' right to keep animals. 

The policy announcement is part of a package of around 50 animal welfare proposals, most of which would have nothing to do with the rental sector - apart, perhaps, from an import ban that would prevent any tenant from bringing some foie gras home for tea. 

Labour argued that allowing people more certainty about keeping pets is a response to the fact that more people are having to live in rental accomodation into their 30s, rather than becoming owner occupiers. 

Quite apart from the fact that those renting because they are single and thus do not have the two incomes required may enjoy the companionship of a dog or cat, renters who have children might appreciate being able to let their kids to have a pet.

The current law

The present law, based on the 2015 Consumer Rights Act, requires that a landlord can only prevent a tenant keeping a pet on reasonable grounds, such as large size or a high potential to cause damage, or impact on the future rental prospect for a home. 

Of course, that may create some grey areas for interpretation - how large, for example, is too large ' The new law could create more uncertainty. 

Under the new rules, landlords would only be able to refuse a tenant the right to keep a pet if they could show it was a nuisance. It is proposing to meet landlords' bodies to discuss the plans, but it remains to be seen if there will be a consensus on what "evidence" would suffice in such cases, or whether the new law will strike the right balance.

Landlords love animals too 

Overall, landlord bodies are very sympathetic to the keeping of pets. National Landlords Association chief executive Richard Lambert said: "Tenants who keep pets do tend to stay for longer periods of time, and there are a few simple steps that landlords can take in order to mitigate the perceived increased risks, such as by inserting specific clauses and policies into their tenancy agreements."

However, he noted, there are cases such as the keeping of pets in high-rise blocks where this is really not in the interests of residents or the animals. 

Of course, this is currently just a policy idea being floated by the main opposition party eight months after a general election, meaning any implementation might only come five years from now. Nonetheless, landlords and agents will want the right balance to be struck between everyone's interests, in order to prevent any new law on pets being a dog's breakfast. 

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16-February-18Legal News