The rules around tenants with pets could be set to change when the Renters Reform Bill is enacted, so what do landlords need to know?
The Renters Reform Bill was introduced to Parliament on 17th May, and is expected to become law either later this year or early next year. Within the Bill, among other things, were proposals to abolish Section 21 evictions, to make periodic tenancies standard, and to give more rights to tenants with pets.
While probably biggest standout change will be the new eviction rules for landlords, the proposals around pets in rental properties have also caused a stir across the industry, with large numbers of landlords saying they may raise their rents if they are not allowed to refuse pets in their properties.
According to one government report from 2021, only 7% of landlords currently advertise pet-friendly properties. While the actual number of landlords who accept tenants with pets – upon request – may be much more than this, the new rules could affect a large proportion of the sector.
What are the proposals?
Under the Renters Reform Bill, tenants will be able to submit a request, in writing, to keep a pet at their rental property, and the landlord must either accept or decline this within 42 days. The request cannot be “unreasonably refused” by the landlord, and the response must also be in writing.
A “reasonable” refusal from a landlord would be because the pet would be in breach of an agreement with a superior landlord, or the landlord has been unable to gain the consent of a superior landlord, according to the Bill. This could include the owner of the lease, if it is a leasehold flat.
If the landlord consents to tenants with pets, the tenant must either take out an insurance that covers the risk of any damage caused by the pet, or must pay the landlord reasonable costs to cover any insurance taken out by the landlord for risk of damage.
Raising rents for tenants with pets
Understandably when a major change could be about to affect a sector, a number of property investors and landlords are already concerned about how the new rules could affect them, and there is still a fair amount of uncertainty surrounding many aspects of the Bill.
It is always a good idea to keep an eye on any upcoming changes to legislation as a landlord, and take steps to make sure you will be able to comply with any new laws once they do come into play. The government is also being urged to release more information about the latest proposals.
One poll by Mortgages for Business has found that 60% of landlords claim they will increase their rents and take out insurance to cover pet damage when the new rules come in surrounding tenants with pets. Meanwhile, 17% said they would not change their business model, but would raise rents.
Around 50% of landlords said they would ask for a larger deposit from tenants with pets than they do currently, in order to cover the costs of any potential damage caused by animals in a property.
Jeni Browne, director at Mortgages for Business, said: “An important unintended consequence of the ill-conceived Renters (Reform) Bill is that three-quarter of landlords are going to be forced to jack-up rents for all tenants in case some of them have a pet.
“No wonder Michael Gove is backtracking over half of it already. This legislation will be fabulous for the minority of tenants who are actually pet-owners but it’s not a great look for a government that’s supposed to be helping tenants in the face of a cost-of-living crisis.”