When times are tough, we must ensure renters with pets have somewhere to go
Battersea’s Pet Friendly Properties campaign is encouraging collaborative solutions to ensure all tenants can access the joys of pet ownership.
Almost nine months have now passed since the Housing Secretary first unveiled his department’s new pet friendly policies in the long-awaited White Paper on rental reform.
The popular and balanced suite of proposals – which included giving all tenants the legal right to request a pet and allowing landlords greater protection through insurance – was warmly welcomed by both the public and all of us at Battersea.
We’ve long been banging the drum for pet-owning tenants, who are facing increasingly restricted access to affordable, pet friendly housing.
At Battersea, we see consistent, positive engagement with the landlord community as a key part of the solution. It’s with this conviction that we’ve been working alongside the rental sector to help facilitate change – ensuring landlords’ concerns are heard and addressed, all whilst advocating open communication channels with tenants to help devise workable solutions.
Despite this positive reception, renters, landlords and animal welfare charities alike still have no indication of when the Renters Reform Bill – designed to enshrine these long-awaited policies into law and ensure positive changes for struggling pet owners – might be introduced into Parliament.
We know that pet ownership brings enormous wellbeing benefits – with more than a third of people choosing to get pet for their mental health – and that, for many, having a dog or cat will make a real positive difference to their life.
Yet the current rental market is unsupportive of this, with opportunities few and far between for pet-owning tenants. According to Zoopla, just 7% of rentals are listed as being ‘pet friendly’. Add to this increasingly rife bidding wars, a dwindling number of rental properties across the board and nationwide rent rises, and a pet-owning tenant’s chances of finding an affordable home in their local area are meagre, at best.
There is little sign that this pressure will relax any time soon. With aspiring homeowners increasingly finding themselves priced out of the market and over half of renters now over the age of 351, restrictive pet policies in tenancies are adding a further, unnecessary layer of difficulty to an already strained system. At Battersea, we’re seeing the real-life effects of this, with pets arriving at our doors every day after their desperate owners have exhausted all other avenues for keeping their pet.
Fortunately, there are some glimmers of hope. Last month, Battersea hosted a parliamentary roundtable event alongside Mars Petcare, where we discussed what changes are needed in this area and how best to implement them.
It was a highly productive session, bringing together MPs, Peers, Housing Department officials and representatives from across the private rental and animal welfare sectors. The consensus was clear: not only would renters and pets benefit greatly from finding a pet friendly rental, they’d also be happier and likely to stay longer - thereby playing to their landlords’ favour.
What perhaps struck Battersea most about the discussion was just how united all attending parties were in the need for urgent change. With everyone pulling in the same direction, both political and sector appetite for the swift delivery of these policies was crystal clear.
But whilst this was undoubtedly a great next step, we now need to see grassroots work with landlord and tenant groups matched by movement in Parliament on the Renters’ Reform Bill. This is the only way of making sure the overwhelmingly positive policies proposed in last summer’s White Paper bring about tangible benefits for pet-owning tenants who are currently struggling.
Especially so given these policies already under challenge. Most recently, we were deeply concerned to learn that the Housing Committee has recommended that the Government abandon its plans to stop landlords from unreasonably blocking tenants from keeping pets. We, like many of our sector colleagues, can only hope the Government will stick to its promise and that private landlords will work with tenants to ensure responsible pet ownership.
Because as costs rise across the board, making sure people and their pets have somewhere to go is something Housing Secretary Michael Gove should be taking very seriously. It’s why Battersea has launched an action for our supporters to write to the Housing Secretary, urging him to bring the legislation forward.
Now is the time to seize the political initiative, and for everyone to come together and find collaborative solutions to a growing problem.
Find out more about Battersea’s Pet Friendly Properties campaign here.
1. Paragon Bank Report, December 2022: https://thenegotiator.co.uk/number-of-middle-age-renters-soars-by-70-in-just-10-years/
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.