Should Landlords Have To Accept Pets?

The Labour party recently announced plans to introduce a default right for tenants to be able to keep pets in their rental property.  The thinking behind the proposal is to increase tenant’s rights and reduce pressure on animal shelters as problems with accommodation are one of the bigger reasons given for having to rehome pets. It’s an admirable aim and there are many positive reasons for Landlords to allow pets but is it right to make this mandatory and what impact will this have?

What is a pet?

The first problem I can foresee with this proposal is the basic definition of what is considered a pet. A pet could be anything from a goldfish through to a large Alsatian dog and everything in-between. Some people even keep micro pigs as pets so would these also be allowed?!

I once had a Landlord who said they didn’t want any goldfish (I laughed as I thought they were joking but it turned out they weren’t!) but generally most Landlords consider their position to pets on a case by case basis as clearly all pets aren’t the same in terms of the potential damage they can cause. The problem with a proposal giving the default right to keep pets is that the Landlord loses control of what is brought into the property. It could be argued that the tenant is responsible for any damage caused so it shouldn’t matter but anyone who has been through a deposit dispute would know that it is far better to avoid these at all costs.

Suitability of Property

The other problem with not allowing Landlords the automatic right to refuse pets is that it doesn’t take account of the suitability of a property. A Landlord with a fully refurbished house may well have a different view on pets to a Landlord with a property where the carpets are already a couple of years old. Equally someone with a furnished property is likely to take a different view on accepting a tenant with a cat to a Landlord with an unfurnished property.

Many Landlords I know have different opinions on the suitability of pets across their own portfolio and will make decisions on a case by case basis. This approach allows for common-sense to be used as clearly not every pet would be suitable for every property.

Less Property

If this were to be introduced then it would definitely deter some people from becoming Landlords leaving tenants with even less choice. Tax changes and in particular the additional stamp duty rules have already meant that there are far less accidental Landlords who would have once rented their homes out rather than selling when moving. If Landlords couldn’t prevent tenants from keeping pets than this would be an additional factor to many deciding to avoid being Landlords altogether.

I believe this would also disproportionally affect properties at the nicer end of the spectrum and furnished properties as these would be the types of property Landlords would normally be the most adverse to allowing pets into.

I think the final thing to consider is that the rental market is often so busy to the extent that there are more than one set of tenants interested in a property. Landlords are frequently in the position of being able to choose their preferred tenants so the reality is that there would probably be some who would still refuse pets but without making this explicitly clear, something that would be hard to police.

My own view is that there are many good business reasons for Landlords to allow pets but to make this mandatory will have consequences and in all likelihood negatively affect the lettings market. It’s a long way from becoming law but is definitely a debate that is worth Landlords keeping an eye on.

For some more advice on having pets in your properties Click Here to read 3 Reasons To Consider Letting to Tenants With Pets.

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