Navigating the barriers of being a pet owner in rented accommodation post coronavirus
In the UK, and there are similar issues in the USA, there are complexities and barriers in trying to be a pet owner in rented accommodation. In the UK, this has been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic. There will be many evictions when the election ban ends in England due to rent arrears. Some of these people will have pets. The first point to make is that it is quite difficult for UK citizines with cats and dogs to find rented accommodation because landlords place blanket bans on pet owners. There appears to be some differences between the UK and USA in this regard.
High percentage of pet owning renters in USA
In the USA the Humane Society tells me that although 78% of apartment buildings accept pets, there are weight limits which I presume primarily applies to dog owners. They also say that 72% of renters have pets but they find problems keeping themselves and their pets in rented accommodation. There are relinquishments to rescue centres.
UK difficulties in renting if you are a pet owner
In the UK, it’s worse, with the Dogs Trust telling us that one in three pet owners could not find a suitable rented property. Pet owners take seven times longer to rent a home compared with non-pet-owners. Almost half of cat and dog owners found letting agencies unhelpful. Almost 80% of cat and dog owners experience difficulties in finding a rented property that allows pets. Almost 50% of landlords provide no reason as to why pets are banned while 14% of pet owners have a pet in their rented accommodation without the landlord’s consent. It does not paint a good picture.
Research from CIA Landlord found that only 4% of UK landlords allow tenants to keep pets. It varies depending upon the city where you live. In Belfast, for instance, 11% of rented properties were available to pet owners while in Brighton 6% of rented properties were available. It is far worse in cities such as Leeds and Birmingham where the percentage of properties that do not allow pets are 99% and 98% respectively.
Landlords tend to place a blanket ban on pet owners for their convenience but they are, of course, limiting the field of potential renters. No doubt they think that the trade-off is beneficial to them. They can protect themselves through negotiating a higher deposit and amending the standard contract but they appear to be unwilling to do this because it is inconvenient and many landlords are what I would call informal landlords i.e. former owners who now let their property and do not have any real knowledge of landlord and tenant law. They don’t consider allowing pet owners due to their inexperience and lack of confidence.
New standard tenancy agreement – UK
In response to this barrier to the pet owning public who have to rent, the UK government has created a new standard tenancy agreement to help renters with well-behaved pets in England. They will be able to secure leases more easily through a new standard tenancy agreement. It makes it easier for tenants with pets to find rented accommodation and landlords will no longer be able to issue a blanket ban on pets. The government website states that just 7% of private landlords currently advertise pet friendly properties. The government has issued a new Model Tenancy Agreement. The default position will be that pets are allowed. Landlords have to object in writing within 28 days of a written request from a tenant. They have to provide a good reason if they object.
The Model Tenancy Agreement is the UK government’s recommended contract for landlords. Landlords are protected because tenants will have a legal duty to cover the cost of any damage to their property. Essentially, this legislation brings an end to the unfair blanket ban on pets introduced by some landlords.
The pandemic has brought a new dimension to these problems in two ways. There have been more pet adoptions during the pandemic because people have been isolated and on furlough. They decided they needed a companion animal for company and because they were on furlough they had more time to introduce themselves to this mode of living. Apparently about 2 million more pets have been adopted during the past 14 months of the pandemic. Some of these people will be renters and some of them will not have told the landlord. There are more pets in rented accommodation in the UK.
Many of these renters will be in arrears of rent because of financial struggles brought about by the coronavirus pandemic as a consequence of losing their jobs, or if they are self-employed, losing sources of income. The UK government placed a ban on evictions by landlords throughout the pandemic but this ends on May 31. Between October and December last year more than 2,000 possession orders were made and they will be acted upon when the election ban ends. There will be pet owners without a home which will invariably mean that there will be pets in shelters.
This problem of homelessness has been looming for a long time. Simply putting back the moment of eviction does not, at the end of the day, prevent eviction. And it is probably fair to say that a lot of renters have abused the ban on eviction by deliberately not paying rent even if they can afford it. They will walk away from the property at the end of this month and disappear leaving the landlord out of pocket.
Increased pet relinquishments to come?
I think that we can expect more companion animals in shelters as we get back to normal from the pandemic because of the above-mentioned factors and increased abandonments of pets in any case because those that have adopted during the pandemic have found that there are unsuited to the task of caring for a companion animal.
SOME PAGES ON RELINQUISHMENT: