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Dogs Trust And Cats Protection Join Forces To Call For New Laws To Protect Pet-Owning Tenants

The UK is a nation of animal lovers, but under half of the nation’s landlords advertise their properties as pet-friendly*.

Further to this, animal charities across the UK are experiencing an increase in the number of animals needing their support, with many owners citing housing issues as a reason for rehoming their pets. 

Around one in ten of those owners calling Dogs Trust cite issues with housing as the reasons for needing to rehome their dog. This includes people being forced to move or downsize as rent prices increase, but cannot find suitable, affordable pet-friendly properties.

Meanwhile, Cats Protection says that last year it took in around 1,300 cats – the equivalent of at least three cats each day – due to landlords not allowing them in their properties, making it the eighth most-cited reason as to why cats are given up to the charity. 

Both charities are now calling on the Government to introduce better protection for responsible renters with pets. 

Currently, there are no legal rights for renters with pets, and landlords can refuse to rent to them. The Government updated its Model Tenancy Agreement in 2021 to remove blanket bans on pets from the standard contract. Under this agreement, any restrictions on pet ownership must be ‘reasonable’, however, there is no legal requirement for landlords to use it.

The Government has outlined plans to introduce better protection for tenants as part of its Renters Reform Bill, due to be put forward to Parliament in the next few months. Draft policies outlined last year included giving tenants the right to request a pet in the property which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse.

Dogs Trust and Cats Protection have teamed up to give renters and landlords the following advice for renting with pets:

If you’re a renter: 

  • Start your search early – pet-friendly rented housing can be hard to find, so start looking in good time if you know you’ll need to move. If an advert doesn’t mention pets, make an enquiry – some landlords may agree if they’re asked.
  • Create a Pet CV so you can assure your prospective landlord that you’re a responsible owner and your pet is unlikely to cause a problem. This should include vet records to confirm your pet has been neutered, microchipped, vaccinated and protected against fleas and other parasites. Cats Protection and Dogs Trust both offer a free a template Pet CV on their websites.
  • If you’re moving, ask your landlord for a pet reference which you can show to a new landlord to confirm your pet hasn’t caused a problem in previous rental properties.
  • Don’t be tempted to sneak in a pet without your landlord’s permission. You could lose your tenancy and be left in the stressful situation of having to find a new home for yourself and your pet at short notice, or even needing to give your pet up to a rehoming charity. If your landlord has given you permission to keep a pet in your property, make sure you get it in writing. This will help prevent any problems from arising in the future. Make sure your pet has everything they need to ensure they are happy, settled and calm in your rented home. Cats will need access to a scratching post, litter tray and plenty of toys and activities to keep them stimulated.Dogs will need someone around for most of the day whilst they settle into their new environment. Their favourite cosy bed, and other familiar items, will help them to feel at home and providing their favourite toys and enrichment can help to prevent boredom. Just like their feline friends, dogs should always have access to fresh clean water. Sticking to a familiar routine of walks and meal times can help make any house move less disruptive for your pooch and you can check out the best new local walks together! 
  • Speak to Cats Protection (www.cats.org.uk) or Dogs Trust ( https://www.letswithpets.org.uk/  – both of which have a wealth of information available to help pet-owning tenants. 

If you are a landlord: 

  • Advertise your property as ‘pets considered’ – that way you won’t put off prospective tenants and can decide on a case-by-case basis. If you use a letting agent, make sure they’re aware you’re happy to consider pets.
  • Ask your prospective tenant to put together a ‘Pet CV’ to find out more about their cat or dog. It should include vet records so you can see the pet has been neutered, vaccinated and protected against fleas and other parasites.
  • If possible, ask your new tenant to provide a pet reference from a previous landlord to confirm their cat or dog has not caused any problems in the past
  • The government updated its model tenancy agreement for landlords in 2021 to make well-behaved pets with responsible owners the default position for rented properties. Under the new agreement, rejections should only be made where there is good reason, such as in small spaces where it may be impractical to have a pet.
  • If you think your property is not suited to pets, you may be surprised. There are many reasons why flats and apartments may be ideal for some cats – perhaps those who can’t go outside due to health conditions or disabilities, or those which simply prefer the indoor life.
  • Remember – most owners consider their pet to be part of the family, so it makes sense they’ll feel more settled in a rental property that allows pets. Cats Protection and Dogs Trust’s research shows that a pet-friendly rental is likely to attract people who may feel more settled and stay for longer.

To increase the availability of pet-friendly properties, Dogs Trust has been providing advice and resources to pet owners, landlords and letting agencies for more than a decade through its Lets with Pets scheme. Cats Protection also operates its Purr-fect Landlords programme, which provides advice to tenants, landlords and social housing providers on how to conduct discussions aimed at keeping cats in rented properties.    

Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director of Dogs Trust, says:

“2022 was the busiest year in our history for relinquishment enquiries. Sadly, one of the most common reasons we see dogs handed in to our rehoming centres is due to a change in the owner’s living circumstances and a lack of available pet-friendly accommodation. 

For most dog owners, being separated from their dog is no different from being separated from a family member, so the introduction of new protection for renters will help ensure that fewer owners are forced to make the heart-breaking decision to give up their beloved pets.   

“We are pleased to see that the Government has plans to include pet-friendly policies in its Renters Reform Bill, and hope to see these rights enshrined into law soon so that the benefits of pet ownership are no longer exclusive to homeowners, but open to renters as well.”

Madison Rogers, Head of Advocacy and Government Relations for Cats Protection says:

“Pet ownership should not be a privilege in modern society and Cats Protection is urging the Government to move forward with planned legislation to end blanket ‘no pets’ policies and give renters with pets better protections.

“In the meantime, there are a few things renters looking for a pet-friendly property can do: start looking for pet-friendly housing early, proactively ask letting agents or landlords if they allow pets even if it says ‘no pets’ on the advert and create a Pet CV outlining the measures you will take to be a responsible pet owner, such as providing veterinary records and details of your pet’s behaviours.”

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*According to research conducted in 2021 by Dogs Trust and Cats Protection, landlords are split on whether they allow pets, with 46% saying they allow pets. However, the number of tenants saying their tenancy allows pets is much lower than this, with just 30% saying their landlord would allow a dog in the property and 32% saying cats are permitted.

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