Un-pet-friendly renting a problem in Wales, according to RSPCA Cymru
With `no pets' terms an all too common sight on advertisements for private rental properties, it is unsurprising that many find seeking suitable accommodation for themselves and their companion animals a daunting task. UK estimates suggest that only 7% of landlords list their property as suitable for pets, but that 76% of tenants either already own a pet or aspire to do so. The number of pet-friendly properties could be even lower in Wales, as the Welsh Government has yet to follow in the footsteps of England by introducing model tenancy agreements that specifically discourage blanket bans on pet ownership, unless there is a justifiable reason.
The Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 is set to come into force on July 15 with a series of model written statements that landlords can use as the basis for their tenancy agreements having been published by Welsh Government since the beginning of 2022. Despite consistent calls from RSPCA Cymru and others, there are still no model statements or tenancy agreements relevant to Wales that make specific reference to pet ownership, meaning that responsible animal owners may inevitably find themselves at a disadvantage in an increasingly competitive rental market for simply having a pet. For many, this means a choice between renting a home or keeping their pet.
According to Rightmove, the increase in rent prices driven by high tenant demand and low numbers of rental properties available has affected Wales more than any other area of the UK over the last year, with the annual increase in rent having risen by 20% in some areas. Because of this, RSPCA Cymru is concerned that without intervention from Welsh Government, pet owners will inevitably find themselves at a further disadvantage when seeking appropriate accommodation against the backdrop of the rising cost of living. For example, should pet owners find themselves having to seek cheaper accommodation as a result of rising costs, finding another property that accepts their pets might prove an almost impossible task. This could sadly lead to a rise in animal abandonments if people are left with no option other than to choose between accessing affordable accomodation or keeping their beloved companion animals, or increased homelessness should owners refuse to give up their pets.
While just over 16% of rental homes in Cardiff allow pets according to online letting agency Mashroom, the city still significantly lags behind others in the UK, with both Glasgow and Edinburgh nearer the 50% mark, despite Scotland having no model tenancy agreements on pets in place either. Accessing rented accommodation with companion animals poses many challenges to tenants in Wales as landlords may be apprehensive about taking requests for pets in rented properties through fear of an animal damaging the property, or causing a nuisance. However, if managed correctly, allowing the keeping of pets can yield wide-ranging social benefits, promote responsible animal ownership and facilitate happy, healthy tenants. This can also benefit the landlord by helping to maintain longer-term, successful letting arrangements.
Companion animals also play an important role in improving their owners' mental health and wellbeing, while helping to reduce loneliness, which raises questions about whether it is fair to deprive tenants of these benefits because they rent, rather than own, their property. With many animal rescue and rehoming centres currently at capacity in Wales, making it easier for people who rent to have a pet could also help reduce the pressure these organisations are under and ensure that more animals are able to find the loving forever homes they deserve.
With Wales commonly - and correctly - recognised as `a nation of animal lovers' by Welsh Government and the wider public, it is surprising that we still continue to lag behind when it comes to requiring landlords not to place blanket bans on pets in rented accommodation, despite having the perfect opportunity to do so via the incoming Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016. Because of this, we are calling for more support to be given to pet owners who rent and for pet-friendly properties to become the norm rather than a rarity in Wales. For this to happen, action against unjustified no-pets clauses is urgently needed and it is vital that the Welsh Government gives this issue the attention it deserves while making improvements to the rental industry in Wales.
If you'd like to join our calls or `no pets clauses' to be banned in Wales, you can help by signing this petition here, which RSPCA Cymru is supporting:: https://petitions.senedd.wales/petitions/244977