Senedd inquiry could help end ‘unfairness’ for renters wanting to adopt pets  

Senedd inquiry could help end ‘unfairness’ for renters wanting to adopt pets  

The Senedd's Local Government and Housing Committee has launched a "hugely welcome" inquiry - looking at whether people with pets face barriers accessing private rented housing in Wales, following tireless campaigning by the RSPCA.

The animal welfare charity has long called for a change in the law to prevent private landlords from initiating blanket bans on the keeping of pets in private rental properties.

RSPCA Cymru believes allowing pets in privately rented properties can yield wide-ranging social benefits, help promote responsible animal ownership and facilitate happy, healthy tenants.

However, too many tenants in Wales are either blocked from getting a pet - or face the heartbreaking proposition of having to give up an animal to rent somewhere to live. 

Now, Senedd Members will look into the issue as part of a wider inquiry into the private rented sector, including the supply, quality and affordability of accommodation, the challenges facing landlords, and barriers to accessing the sector for prospective tenants.

Billie-Jade Thomas, RSPCA Cymru’s public affairs manager, said:

Pets are members of the family - but too often in Wales, those in the private rented sector either aren’t allowed to get a pet, or face the heartbreaking decision of having to give up their beloved animals to get a roof over their heads. Enough is enough, and we must end this unfairness.

In Wales, more than half of households own a pet - but those in the private rented sector are being unfairly penalised purely because of where they live.

At a time when our animal centres are full to bursting, and with many private renters able to offer a wonderful home to animals, the current situation is an own goal for pet welfare.

As such, it’s hugely welcome that the Local Government and Housing Committee has launched an inquiry into the private rented sector, and it's great this will specifically look at pet owners - hopefully helping pave the way for much-needed change in Wales.

The charity has previously worked with Senedd Members on proposals for legislation to help private renters; and RSPCA plans for a Pets in Housing (Wales) Bill were taken forward by Luke Fletcher MS, who tabled the idea into a Senedd ballot for backbench laws. Such a Bill would ensure responsible pet owners are not punished as a consequence of the type of accommodation they live in, including making allowing a pet a legal default in the social housing and private rented sector - unless there is a justifiable reason not to do so.

Luke Fletcher MS, who represents South Wales West, said:

The keeping of pets in social and private rental accommodations, as well as homeless shelters, is an important but often overlooked issue - especially in terms of tenants' rights.

Everyone should be entitled to a home for themselves and their companion animals - pets are good for our mental and physical health and become members of their respective families in their own right. As it stands, too many people are forced to give up their pets in exchange for safe and secure accommodation and that is something that must be changed.

The RSPCA is concerned Wales is at risk of falling behind other UK nations on the issue - with the Welsh Government, so far, unwilling to act. 

In England, the UK Government previously announced positive plans - contained within the ‘A Fairer Private Rented Sector’ White Paper -

To ensure landlords do not unreasonably withhold consent when a tenant requests to have a pet in their home, with the tenant able to challenge a decision.

While the law is yet to be changed, this announcement marked a big step forward.

The RSPCA produces its own model tenancy agreements - and its work with the housing sector includes promoting a well-enforced 'pets policy' for private landlords. 

RSPCA Cymru have also long called for private landlords - who, under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, must be registered - to be given materials promoting the benefit of Pets Policies, and the importance of responsible pet ownership, as part of the registration process. The charity previously published bespoke guidance for landlords and tenants

A recent RSPCA survey* found that of those who refused permission to keep a pet in a privately rented home, 64% were not given any reason at all by the landlord. Other reasons tenants were given for not being allowed a pet included concerns about damage to the property, insurance issues and the smell.

Billie added:

Sadly, we know many prospective pet owners are just being told ‘no’ by their landlords - often with no good reason given at all.

Wales is a nation of animal lovers - and pet ownership can be so rewarding. It seems grossly unfair that people are being denied the chance to take on a pet purely because of where they live; but by changing the law and encouraging responsible ownership in the private sector, the Welsh Government could protect animal welfare and help facilitate happier, healthier tenants. The RSPCA looks forward to presenting this evidence to the Committee.

Flintshire Councillor Sam Swash - who represents the Mancot ward - has also campaigned for change; and hopes the Senedd committee inquiry will pave the way for Welsh Government action.

Last year, Cllr Swash tabled a petition with the Senedd - which received 857 signatures - calling for change in Wales, which argued that the benefits of pet ownership should not be exclusive to homeowners.

Following the announcement of the inquiry, Cllr Swash, said:

I very much welcome the news that the Local Government and Housing Committee’s inquiry into the private rented sector will cover pets in rented accommodation.

To date, the Welsh Government’s unwillingness to ban no pet clauses in response to the petition has been incredibly disappointing and is based on increasingly spurious reasoning.

I am hopeful that the inquiry will help to shine a spotlight on the seriousness of this issue and encourage the Minister for Climate Change to legislate. The harm caused to both tenants and pets by blanket no-pet clauses is significant and far-reaching; a ban on these clauses in tenancy agreements in Wales would provide an additional safety net to pets whilst strengthening the rights of tenants across the country.

More information on the RSPCA's campaigning work can be found on the charity’s website. They also produce a ‘Good Practice Guide’ for the housing sector which is available online.