Campaigners have vowed not to pause their fight to help tenants keep their pets in private rented homes despite failing with their first attempt to change the law.
The charity AdvoCats was backing Romford MP Andrew Rosindell’s Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill which sunk without trace in the last session of Parliament due to restrictions on time forced by the COVID pandemic.
Now the MP and charity are drafting a presentation bill to go before this session of Parliament in a bid to raise awareness of the need to change the law.
The bill outlines the case for allowing landlords to charge the cost of pet rental insurance as a permitted payment with security deposits, holding deposits and rent.
Currently, the Tenant Fees Act 2019 stops landlords from charging an insurance fee.
Pet lovers suffer as tenant fee ban bites
AdvoCats wants the long-awaited Rent Reform Bill expected later this year to reverse the default ban on pets in rent agreements.
Instead of tenants seeking permission to keep their pets from landlords, the charity wants pets allowed unless the landlord has a specific objection.
The government published an updated Model Tenancy Agreement earlier this year that includes a clause along these lines, but landlords still have an option to allow pets or not.
The charity says that although the Tenant Fees Act had good intentions, the law has made matters worse for pet owners by taking away a landlord’s option to charge a deposit to cover damage caused by a cat or dog.
“This comes in a period in which increasing numbers are renting and, due to the pandemic, problems of loneliness and self-isolation have been exacerbated,” says a report by the charity.
“Pet ownership has been shown to provide significant benefits to pet, tenant and landlord, with pet-owners performing better than average on measures of physical and mental health and tending to stay longer in tenancies than non-pet owners.”
Half of pet owners ready to pay for insurance
The charity explains that changing the law only needs MPs to vote in favour of amending the Tenant Fees Act.
“The onus of pet damage insurance falling on tenants, rather than landlords, would allow tenants to build up a no claims history, and would avoid higher premiums for landlords in the event of a claim,” says the report.
“A number of insurance companies have expressed interest in providing pet damage insurance products, but would need the law to change for these insurance policies to be viable
“Public opinion is clearly in favour of making pet damage insurance an option for prospective tenants. 53% of pet owners, including 57% of dog owners and 55% of cat owners, say they would be willing to take out pet insurance if required by a landlord.”
Housing Minister Christopher Pincher revealed only 7% of landlords advertise pet friendly homes when he introduced the updated Model Tenancy Agreement in January 2020.
“We are a nation of animal lovers and over the last year more people than ever before have welcome pets into their lives and homes,” he said.
Where tenants can buy pets cover
“But it can’t be right that only a tiny fraction of landlords advertise pet friendly properties and, in some cases, people have had to give up their beloved pets to find somewhere to live.
“Through the changes to the tenancy agreement we are making today, we are bringing an end to the unfair blanket ban on pets introduced by some landlords. This strikes the right balance between helping more people find a home that’s right for them and their pet while ensuring landlords’ properties are safeguarded against inappropriate or badly behaved pets.”
Although Rosindell and the AdvoCats intend to keep up the pressure to change the law for pet owning renters, the forthcoming Rent Reform Bill is likely to include a clause making the Model Tenancy Agreement the default for landlords.
AdvoCats has also teamed up with insurance firm Onebroker, which offers one of the few tenant contents insurance policies that includes cover for pet damage.
“The cover includes damage caused to your landlord’s property, including chewing, scratching and tearing. It also includes cover for damage caused by the pet colliding with the landlord’s property. It means you can cover the cost to repair or replace any items without losing your deposit,” said a spokesman for the broker.