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Why government must recommit to the Renters Reform Bill for renters with pets

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home

4 min read Partner content

The Renters Reform Bill aims to balance the relationship between tenants and landlords, including granting tenants the right to keep pets. Any U-turn on the hard-won progress could lead to more pets being relinquished, and time is running out

The new year always brings with it a new sense of purpose and possibility. However, in 2024, it has also brought renewed and concerning speculation that the government is set to U-turn on the hard-won progress it has made on the Renters Reform Bill.

The Bill is wide-ranging and promises a reset of the balance between tenants and landlords in several key areas. It was announced with much fanfare by Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove in May 2023 and mentioned again in the King’s Speech back in November.

Among many other provisions, it contains welcome proposals to help support renters to have pets in their homes. It would introduce measures to ensure that landlords cannot unreasonably refuse a request from a tenant to keep a pet, and will give landlords the option of mandating insurance being taken out against potential damage caused by a pet to protect their property and better incentivise permitting pets in rented homes. 

Across the UK, there’s been an increase in the number of people renting their homes, and the numbers wanting a pet. Battersea research suggests that 76% of people living in the private rented sector either already own a pet or aspire to do so in the future. At the same time, major property portal Zoopla suggests that just 8% of its current listings are pet-friendly. Something must change for renters with pets, and the Renters Reform Bill offers that hope.  

A lack of housing options is one of the most common reasons that pets are relinquished to Battersea, with approximately one in ten of the animals in Battersea’s care being brought in as a direct result of this. We know this frequently shouldn’t need to happen, and the Bill would give both worried tenants and landlords greater peace of mind, meaning fewer animals will be unnecessarily parted from their owners.

After being introduced last spring, the Bill disappeared for several months until its Second Reading in October, with Committee Stage following in quick succession in November. However, despite expectations it would then quickly move to Report Stage and Third Reading before Christmas, it has gone silent once more. And in recent weeks, interested parties from all sides have been suggesting that further delays are now inevitable.

If it feels like we’ve been here before on animal welfare — it’s because we have. This Parliament has been dogged by slow-moving legislation, the government seemingly set on introducing measures confidently, only to either then face unexpected challenges within Parliament or to appear to lose confidence in their plan entirely.

The Kept Animals Bill was shelved in May 2023, having never moved after passing its Committee Stage back in November 2021. That legislation is now in several pieces, several of which are being taken forward as individual Private Members’ Bills — a welcome development, but still leaving an uncertain road ahead and a ticking clock before the forthcoming election.

Any sign of delay or distraction with legislation is now understandably met with a mixture of concern and exasperation. With the added complication of a General Election on the horizon, any delays could prove even more damaging to the chances of a Bill getting through its legislative stages in time.

There are undoubtedly still parts of the Bill that could be further strengthened, including reducing the deadline within which landlords must respond to a request to keep a pet from a tenant and providing guidance that clearly specifies what constitutes unreasonably withholding consent.

The importance of getting this done cannot be overstated. The first months of the year can be a tough time, and with added stresses such as the continued high cost of living, pets provide an important positive distraction and outlet for many people. Even the drive to get up and out of the house on a cold, wintry day to walk a dog and having the chance to interact with other members of the local community in the process can be hugely significant.  

Indeed, politicians from all sides recognised the importance of this issue when pets and housing clauses of the Bill were debated at Committee Stage. Speaking then, Housing Minister Jacob Young said: "We know that pets can bring happiness to their owners and provide a vital source of companionship."

Passing legislation that will make the process of owning a pet as a renter easier could mean so much to thousands of people across the country, whether it’s the stressed tenant who can’t find a pet-friendly property or the landlords open to providing one in need of reassurance. Time is continuing to move forward, and the election is drawing closer every day. It is imperative for everyone that the government makes good on its promises and finishes this key piece of legislation before time runs out.

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