BLOG: Pets make a home: the benefits of pets in rented accommodation
Following the recent event “Pets make a home: the benefits of pets in rented accommodation”, Dr Gareth Young reflects on the issues raised and what we can do. We are […]
Published: 28 Jun, 2024

Following the recent event “Pets make a home: the benefits of pets in rented accommodation”, Dr Gareth Young reflects on the issues raised and what we can do.

We are a nation of animal lovers. Many of us happily and excitedly share our homes with our pets, knowing the joy they give us. In fact, many see their pets as part of the family, with 92% of cat owners saying they consider their cat part of their family. Sadly, some people are being excluded from the joy and companionship of keeping a pet because of their housing situation and the precarity of their housing futures.

Evidence shows that pets have a positive impact on tenants’ lives and yet for many tenants in the UK they are unable to keep pets, or in some cases remain united with their pets, because of restrictions in their tenancies. Over the last twenty years we have seen the private rented sector (PRS) nearly double in size as the social rented sector has shrunk and home-ownership has become more of an less of a possibility for many people. Often restrictive tenancies that have blanket ‘no pet’ policies, which means tenants are faced with having to give up their pets. These policies also have very serious implications for people experiencing domestic abuse, which sadly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience at some point in their lives.

Recognising these distinct, but overlapping, issues, we hosted Pets make a home: the benefits of pets in rented accommodation webinar as part of our ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion in housing work. We were delighted to have Dr. Kelly Henderson – the founder and Managing Director of Addressing Domestic Abuse – to chair the event, with presentations from Dr. Tom Simcock following on from his, and his colleague’s, research for Battersea Dogs & Cats Home who showed us the evidence of the benefits of people keeping pets in rented accommodation, followed by a talk from Alice Palombo, Natalie Ratcliffe and Amy Hyde from Cats Protection about their Purrfect Landlords Campaign which calls for an end to blanket ‘no pet’ policies, and they spoke about their specialist cat fostering service for those fleeing domestic abuse, Lifeline.    

Tom’s research, which was commissioned by Battersea Dogs & Cats Home to get a better understanding of pet-friendly rentals and to undertake in-depth cost benefit analysis of landlords renting to pet owners, showed that on average, landlords can expect to gain more financially from renting to tenants with pets than they spend on associated expenses. This means that renting to pet owners can be financially beneficial to landlords. Other benefits to landlords – and tenants alike – are that on average, renters with pets stay in a property for longer. This gives the tenants and pets more security and ability to make longer-term plans, while reducing any void periods for landlords. Pet owners also reported more satisfaction in their properties, as well as feeling part of their communities. However, because of landlord pet policies, many renters face barriers finding properties, and when they do, they can often be more expensive.

After Tom set the scene, we were joined by Alice, from Cats Protection, who spoke about the charity’s housing work. The equivalent of 3 cats a day come into Cat’s Protection’s care because of landlords not allowing pets. Through their Purrfect Landlords campaign, the charity works with tenants and landlords to encourage landlords to allow tenants to keep pets- this includes recommending tenants use Cats Protection’s Pet CV to prospective landlords about their cat. Cats Protection and Dogs Trust research into the rental market found that 33% of private landlords who don’t currently allow pets say nothing would persuade them to. Its clear blanket ‘no pet’ barriers are not the only barriers to pet owners renting with their pets. Cats Protection is calling for legislation to encourage more landlords to keep pets. Steps have been made in the right direction to support pet owning tenants with England amending the Model Tenancy Agreement in 2021 to end ‘no pet’ polices, so instead consent for pets is the default position, and landlords will have to object in writing within 28 days of a written pet request from a tenant and provide a good reason. With the Renters Reform Bill being dropped because of the General Election, Scotland could be the first place in the UK to give both social and private tenants the right to keep pets under the Housing (Scotland) Bill.

This laid a contextual foundation for  Amy and Natalie from  service, who talked about the role they play in helping to keep people and their pets together in a passionate, and hard-hitting, presentation that really highlighted how important pets are to people and their mental health. We heard how a lack of provision and places for people to go with their pets means that people suffering abuse can often not leave a harmful environment, or will return to an abuser  they have previously left, because of their fears for the safety of their pet. Lifeline provides support to victim-survivors of domestic abuse, often via referrals from support workers, to ensure that their pets are collected safely and placed in loving, temporary foster homes until their owners are ready to have them back . The process is all done confidentially, so the foster carers do not know who’s pet they’re caring for, but via Lifeline give regular updates to the  owners to help maintain their bond and reassure them  that their pets are  safe and happy until they can find accommodation where they can all be reunited. 

What can be done?

The reality is that allowing people to rent with their pets is advantageous to the landlord, to the tenant and to the animals. What these presentations highlight is that pets do not present a major risk for landlords and that the advantages can be mutually beneficial to all and can see people sustaining tenancies for longer. There are tangible actions that can be taken immediately, including challenging blanket bans on pets, as well as helping to push for cultural changes to better understand the human-animal bond and to be aware of the trauma related to being told you have to give up your pet. With new requirements from the Regulator of Social Housing under the Social Housing Regulation) Act requiring providers to have a policy for how they respond to domestic abuse, this is a good time to consider how organisations can support those people with pets, removing a possible barrier for people remaining in abusive homes.

We run the risk of history repeating itself, however. In 2010, The Care Homes and Sheltered Accommodation (Domestic Pets) Bill received its second reading in the House of Commons and enjoyed cross-party support because of the recognised health benefits for the elderly. However, the Bill ran out of time because of the general election.For change to happen we need policy reforms and cultural shifts in attitudes towards the human-animal bond. Given the Renters Reform Bill has faced a similar fate to the Care Homes Bill, it is so important we continue to talk about these issues, and continue to champion the work being done my Tom, Alice, Natalie, Amy and Kelly and many others who are supporting people to have happier, and safer, housing futures by being able to stay united with their pets.

Links:

If you would like to support the Lifeline service you could donate here: https://www.cats.org.uk/lifeline-donate or consider applying to foster a cat: https://www.cats.org.uk/what-we-do/cp-lifeline/become-a-lifeline-volunteer

Here are the top findings from the Cats Protection and Dogs Trust Housing survey: https://www.cats.org.uk/what-we-do/campaigning/purrfectlandlords/purrfect-landlords-survey-key-findings#:~:text=A%20survey%20of%20landlords%2C%20letting,were%20advertised%20as%20pet-friendly

For more information on the Links Group: https://thelinksgroup.org.uk/ and the pet fostering services available:

For more information on the support available at Cats Protection relating to pets and housing: https://www.cats.org.uk/what-we-do/campaigning/purrfectlandlords

You can find more out about the Battersea Cats & Dogs Home commissioned research here, where you can also download the full report. If you would like to read more about the evidence review, you can download the open-access paper here.

To find our more about the work of Addressing Domestic Abuse, you can visit their website.

We are a nation of animal lovers. For many of us sharing our homes with our pets is something we do happily and excitedly, knowing the joy they give us. In fact, many see their pets as one of the family, with 92% of cat owners saying they consider their cat as part of their family.   Sadly, some people are being excluded from the joy and companionship of keeping a pet because of their housing situation and the precarity of their housing futures.

Evidence shows that pets have a positive impact on tenants’ lives and yet for many tenants in the UK they are unable to keep pets, or in some cases remain united with their pets, because of restrictions in their tenancies. Over the last twenty years we have seen the private rented sector (PRS) nearly double in size as the social rented sector has shrunk and home-ownership has become more of an less of a possibility for many people. Often restrictive tenancies that have blanket ‘no pet’ policies, which means tenants are faced with having to give up their pets. These policies also have very serious implications for people experiencing domestic abuse, which sadly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience at some point in their lives.

Recognising these distinct, but overlapping, issues, we hosted Pets make a home: the benefits of pets in rented accommodation webinar as part of our ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion in housing work. We were delighted to have Dr. Kelly Henderson – the founder and Managing Director of Addressing Domestic Abuse – to chair the event, with presentations from Dr. Tom Simcock following on from his, and his colleague’s, research for Battersea Dogs & Cats Home who showed us the evidence of the benefits of people keeping pets in rented accommodation, followed by a talk from Alice Palombo, Natalie Ratcliffe and Amy Hyde from Cats Protection about their Purrfect Landlords Campaign which calls for an end to blanket ‘no pet’ policies, and they spoke about their specialist cat fostering service for those fleeing domestic abuse, Lifeline.    

Tom’s research, which was commissioned by Battersea Dogs & Cats Home to get a better understanding of pet-friendly rentals and to undertake in-depth cost benefit analysis of landlords renting to pet owners, showed that on average, landlords can expect to gain more financially from renting to tenants with pets than they spend on associated expenses. This means that renting to pet owners can be financially beneficial to landlords. Other benefits to landlords – and tenants alike – are that on average, renters with pets stay in a property for longer. This gives the tenants and pets more security and ability to make longer-term plans, while reducing any void periods for landlords. Pet owners also reported more satisfaction in their properties, as well as feeling part of their communities. However, because of landlord pet policies, many renters face barriers finding properties, and when they do, they can often be more expensive.

After Tom set the scene, we were joined by Alice, from Cats Protection, who spoke about the charity’s housing work. The equivalent of 3 cats a day come into Cat’s Protection’s care because of landlords not allowing pets. Through their Purrfect Landlords campaign, the charity works with tenants and landlords to encourage landlords to allow tenants to keep pets- this includes recommending tenants use Cats Protection’s Pet CV to prospective landlords about their cat. Cats Protection and Dogs Trust research into the rental market found that 33% of private landlords who don’t currently allow pets say nothing would persuade them to. Its clear blanket ‘no pet’ barriers are not the only barriers to pet owners renting with their pets. Cats Protection is calling for legislation to encourage more landlords to keep pets. Steps have been made in the right direction to support pet owning tenants with England amending the Model Tenancy Agreement in 2021 to end ‘no pet’ polices, so instead consent for pets is the default position, and landlords will have to object in writing within 28 days of a written pet request from a tenant and provide a good reason. With the Renters Reform Bill being dropped because of the General Election, Scotland could be the first place in the UK to give both social and private tenants the right to keep pets under the Housing (Scotland) Bill.

This laid a contextual foundation for  Amy and Natalie from  service, who talked about the role they play in helping to keep people and their pets together in a passionate, and hard-hitting, presentation that really highlighted how important pets are to people and their mental health. We heard how a lack of provision and places for people to go with their pets means that people suffering abuse can often not leave a harmful environment, or will return to an abuser  they have previously left, because of their fears for the safety of their pet. Lifeline provides support to victim-survivors of domestic abuse, often via referrals from support workers, to ensure that their pets are collected safely and placed in loving, temporary foster homes until their owners are ready to have them back . The process is all done confidentially, so the foster carers do not know who’s pet they’re caring for, but via Lifeline give regular updates to the  owners to help maintain their bond and reassure them  that their pets are  safe and happy until they can find accommodation where they can all be reunited. 

What can be done?

The reality is that allowing people to rent with their pets is advantageous to the landlord, to the tenant and to the animals. What these presentations highlight is that pets do not present a major risk for landlords and that the advantages can be mutually beneficial to all and can see people sustaining tenancies for longer. There are tangible actions that can be taken immediately, including challenging blanket bans on pets, as well as helping to push for cultural changes to better understand the human-animal bond and to be aware of the trauma related to being told you have to give up your pet. With new requirements from the Regulator of Social Housing under the Social Housing Regulation) Act requiring providers to have a policy for how they respond to domestic abuse, this is a good time to consider how organisations can support those people with pets, removing a possible barrier for people remaining in abusive homes.

We run the risk of history repeating itself, however. In 2010, The Care Homes and Sheltered Accommodation (Domestic Pets) Bill received its second reading in the House of Commons and enjoyed cross-party support because of the recognised health benefits for the elderly. However, the Bill ran out of time because of the general election.For change to happen we need policy reforms and cultural shifts in attitudes towards the human-animal bond. Given the Renters Reform Bill has faced a similar fate to the Care Homes Bill, it is so important we continue to talk about these issues, and continue to champion the work being done my Tom, Alice, Natalie, Amy and Kelly and many others who are supporting people to have happier, and safer, housing futures by being able to stay united with their pets.

Links:

If you would like to support the Lifeline service you could donate here: https://www.cats.org.uk/lifeline-donate or consider applying to foster a cat: https://www.cats.org.uk/what-we-do/cp-lifeline/become-a-lifeline-volunteer

Here are the top findings from the Cats Protection and Dogs Trust Housing survey: https://www.cats.org.uk/what-we-do/campaigning/purrfectlandlords/purrfect-landlords-survey-key-findings#:~:text=A%20survey%20of%20landlords%2C%20letting,were%20advertised%20as%20pet-friendly

For more information on the Links Group: https://thelinksgroup.org.uk/ and the pet fostering services available:

For more information on the support available at Cats Protection relating to pets and housing: https://www.cats.org.uk/what-we-do/campaigning/purrfectlandlords

You can find more out about the Battersea Cats & Dogs Home commissioned research here, where you can also download the full report. If you would like to read more about the evidence review, you can download the open-access paper here.

To find our more about the work of Addressing Domestic Abuse, you can visit their website.

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