NOAH has launched a campaign ‘Securing the Right to Rent with Pets: Making One Health Housing a Reality’, to help improve access to pets for people living in rented or socially owned housing. This includes encouraging wider use of the Government’s recommended Model Tenancy Agreement and introducing new pet-friendly policies to protect tenants and property owners to promote responsible pet ownership.
Our pets are important for many reasons. They are a source of genuine companionship for many – which explains why more than 17 million British households own at least one pet – and being in the presence of pets has been scientifically proven to improve mental health, reducing feelings of stress, anxiety and improve our overall mood, helping to combat mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders and depression. Having a pet also encourages a healthier lifestyle, by helping create better daily routines and increasing cardiovascular exercise through taking a companion animal for a walk or playing with them, therefore improving physical health too.
As a nation, the UK faces a rising loneliness crisis, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Research from Campaign to End Loneliness found that 25 million people in England feel often, sometimes or always lonely – and the reduced ability during the lockdowns for people to socially interact or leave home for long periods of time has undoubtedly resulted in an increase in feelings of loneliness or social isolation in the population. NOAH’s own study found that 67% people believe having a pet provides companionship and friendship and 52% believe that pets help those who may be feeling lonely.
Despite the significant and clear benefits, owning a pet in rented accommodation remains very difficult. According to rental start-up Home Made, only 2.8% of property owners in the UK advertise homes as suitable for tenants with pets, whilst Tenants Voice reports that 78% of pet owners report experiencing problems finding a suitable rental property.
Dawn Howard, NOAH Chief Executive explains:
“We understand that renting with pets comes with a level of concern for landlords, whether this is perceived fear of damage to the property or badly behaved pets – however, we truly believe that widening access to pets will actually bring benefits to landlords that outweigh these often-inflated fears. For example, the RSPCA found tenants who are given permission to look after a pet in their rental property were likely to live in that property for twice as long compared to other tenants – creating long-term, secure tenants for landlords. Allowing responsibly kept pets also increases the pool of prospective renters for properties, meaning landlords are far less likely to struggle to find tenants, and will in turn have a more secure stream of income.
“It is these very benefits that we are keen to maximise in collaboration with landlords and housing associations, whilst ensuring we tackle any problems that could arise from pets in rented properties.”
The housing market is changing, and more people than ever are living in the rented sector. In 2017, the number of people living in the private rented sector rose by 63% over a 10-year period, to 4.5 million people. This figure is growing, as the housing market continues to become more volatile. Young people are disproportionately represented in this figure, with 35% of under 30s living in the private rented sector – and yet the latest pet population figures show this is the demographic that is most keen to become new pet owners. As it becomes increasingly difficult to get on the property ladder, and the number of rented homes advertised as pet friendly continue to decline, this could impact even more on our health and the health of our companion animals.
The UK is currently undergoing a huge cultural shift, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. NOAH is keen to ensure that animal welfare or indeed human health are not harmed by denying access to pets.
“We welcome the gathering momentum in Parliament, kick-started by the amendments made to the Model Tenancy which we greatly welcome. Our campaign will seek to promote wider adoption of the updated Model Tenancy Agreement, as well as spending time understanding what other policies could support pet ownership in rented properties, to ensure both animal and human wellbeing is a priority in these rapidly evolving times,” Dawn Howard adds.