The Tenant Fees Act is forcing tenants to choose between their pet and a roof over their head
Under the Tenant Fees Act, many landlords opt for blanket "no pets" bans in their contracts. The Act should be amended to allow landlords to stipulate that insurance policies which cover tenants for pet damage is held.
When the Tenant Fees Act was introduced in 2019, it heralded a long overdue end to unscrupulous landlords and lettings agencies being able to charge evermore ridiculous deposits and fees.
Unfortunately, it also took away an important negotiating tool for pet owning tenants – the 5 week deposit cap set within the legislation meant that landlords no longer had scope to charge a separate pet deposit; nor could they request that pet damage insurance was held.
Renting with pets has become increasingly difficult over the years, but this change in the law saw many more landlords – 1 in 5 who used to allow pets - opt for blanket “no pets” bans in their contracts, leading to many tenants having to make the heart-breaking choice of pet vs a roof over their head.
More tenants and less pet friendly landlords equal more surrendered animals and less potential adopters
Demand for pet friendly rental properties has increased 120 per cent since last summer, yet only 7 per cent of landlords advertise their properties as pet friendly. Consequently, rescue services across the country are overflowing with pets that had perfectly good, loving homes, but had to be surrendered so their owners could move house. Battersea alone cites rental reasons as being the second highest cause of pets taken in, and with more people renting than ever before, this is causing a very serious and growing problem.
More tenants and less pet friendly landlords equal more surrendered animals and less potential adopters. The equation simply doesn’t work, and change is desperately needed.
There is a solution, and it’s surprisingly simple. Insurance policies which cover tenants for pet damage are few and far between, and not very well publicised, but they are out there, and for extremely affordable premiums – often less than the monthly pet rents some landlords now charge – and with additional benefits: they are completely portable, claims can be paid directly to a landlord and tenants can build up a no claims history, or, conversely, bear the increased premium for any claim made.
With greater awareness will come greater take-up and choice in the marketplace, but the key to real change, proposed in the republished AdvoCATS report “Heads for Tails” of which I am the author, lies in amending the Tenant Fees Act 2019 to include the right for a landlord to stipulate that this type of insurance is held.
Add in the option for a pet deposit, with a financial cap so as not to falsely inflate the sum geographically, and you again grease the wheels of the pet friendly rental machine. These could both be added to the list of “Permitted Payments” using secondary legislation, needing a simple up/down vote in the House of Commons.
If lockdown has shown us anything, it is that company and interaction are integral to our wellbeing, and to some people, that’s achieved via pet ownership. Recent research indicates that over half of tenants would be willing to take out pet damage insurance if it meant they could keep their pets or adopt anew, and more than three quarters of landlords favour such options being available.
We have a chance now to change the law and make renting with pets easier and fairer for all – let’s grab it with both paws.
Jennifer Berezai is the co-founder of AdvoCATSeastmids.
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