Landlords are standing by their right to ban pets from properties

A new report found that loosening pet restrictions could increase landlord income, send fewer pets to shelters and even reduce homelessness, but the National Landlords Association is having none of it

The National Landlords Association (NLA) has rejected a “blanket approach” after experts advised against banning pets from properties.

The suggestion was put forward by a think tank formed by flatshare finder SpareRoom to look into how tenants are affected by pet bans in private rentals.

The think tank consists of pet owners and experts in housing and animal welfare including charities, vets and landlords.

It is hoped the group will challenge landlords to change their minds about renting to pet-owning households and encourage more animal-friendly rentals in the UK, in light of the well-documented physical and mental health benefits of pet ownership – and the steady increase in the number of people forced by austerity to rent rather than buy a property.

The research also showed that a change in policy could increase income for landlords while reducing the number of pets put up for adoption in the UK.

NLA CEO Richard Lambert said that around half of landlords are reluctant to allow renters to keep pets due to a perceived added risk of damage to the property, and the increased costs of repair at the end of a tenancy.

However, the SpareRoom think tank’s research found that almost 70 per cent of landlords surveyed would not allow pets into their properties, citing smell and potential damage to the property as reasons.

The CEO added: “You can’t take a blanket approach to keeping or refusing pets. The NLA has consistently supported schemes that encourage landlords to take on pet owners, such as the Dog’s Trust’s ‘Lets With Pets’ and Cats Protection’s ‘Purrfect Landlords’, but landlords should have a right to refuse permission so long as they justify their decision.

“For example, common properties in the PRS, such as high rise flats or those without gardens, may simply not be suitable for keeping some animals nor beneficial to their welfare.

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However, Lambert conceded that tenants with pets tend to stay in a proper longer, and that there are some steps landlords can take to mitigate the perceived risks, such as inserting specific clauses into tenancy agreements.

The think tank also focused on the link between a ban on pets and homelessness, citing “many reported instances” of homeless people passing up accommodation because it would mean giving up their pets.

Rosie Downes, campaigns manager at homeless charity Crisis said: “We believe that no-one should ever have to face homelessness. But if it does happen then people shouldn’t have to face the prospect of being separated from their beloved pets in order to find a home.”

Nearly 20 million people in the UK own either a cat or a dog. A report created by the UK’s first ‘Political Think Tank Run by Pets and their People’ found that 78 per cent of pet owners have struggled to find pet-friendly places to live – though 21 per cent admit to secretly having pets in their rented accommodation anyway.

The research also showed that just seven per cent of UK ads on SpareRoom would consider pets, dropping to five per cent – one in 20 homes – in the London area.

One solution generated by the think tank is a ‘pet policy’ agreement between landlord and tenant which includes conditions such as regular property inspections and involvement of neighbours to check they have no issues with the pet. It was proposed that a free agreement template could be made available for download from the SpareRoom website.

It was also agreed that a signed agreement by a tenant to cover any cost incurred from damage to the property caused by a pet could help convince landlords to open their doors to furry family members, or charging a subsidy for pets on top of a month’s normal rent.

However any increase in cost risks pushing more people out of accommodation. The group agreed that the animal policy around social housing should be altered to guarantee vulnerable tenants a place to live without having to sacrifice their beloved companions. It was also thought that this would normalise renting to pet owners across the board.

Matt Hutchinson, communications director for SpareRoom said: “With more of us renting our homes it’s vital we have a conversation about what that means for quality of life.

“Ultimately, there’s no reason tenants shouldn’t be able to live with pets, subject to certain relevant conditions and checks being in place. By finding the obstacles and removing them, as well as seeing the positives, not just the negatives, we should be able to make it much easier for people to have a pet, whether they own their home or not.”