It's well documented that the UK is a nation full of animal lovers, with 40% of people owning a pet of some description. Despite this, statistics show that just 7% of landlords advertise rental properties suitable for pets. It’s this gap in supply and demand that’s prompted the government to act – creating a model tenancy contract designed to remove any restrictions on tenants having ‘well-behaved’ pets in rental properties. But while the government might be hyping up its animal-loving credentials, the following issues have already cropped up, leading us to ask – will this actually make any difference to animal lovers in the private rented sphere?
These contracts are not mandatory or enforceable
Once again, while the idea might be good in principle, if these model tenancy contracts remain optional, the reality is likely to fall short of what is needed to achieve any real change. With the tenancy deposit capped at five or six weeks' rent following the tenant fee ban, more and more landlords are refusing pets as they cannot protect their property against potential damage. This risk was mitigated by higher deposits but to charge more than the capped deposit level would now be illegal.
Nebulous terms remain
While the new model contracts are being developed to clear up any confusion caused by the current vague language, it looks like they could be just as confusing. Even the initial stages have a flaw: they’re designed to remove all restrictions on ‘well-behaved’ pets, yet provide no definition of well-behaved. If a dog steals food off the table (an issue unlikely to have any impact on the property or its surrounds) does that preclude its owner from renting? Even within the early stages, the government concedes total bans on renters with pets can be implemented “where there is good reason”. As with the phrase “well behaved” it will be very hard to clearly define “good reason”, causing another stumbling block to any success.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has promised to implement model tenancy contracts by the end of the year but no firm date has yet been given. So don’t go skipping off to the pet shop just yet! Although the government’s intentions are good, this proposal needs a lot more fine-tuning and firming up before it’s likely to make a difference. Let’s hope the raft of other changes on the agenda alongside it is more clearly defined.
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