International Cat Care are proud to support AdvoCATS ‘Heads for Tails!’ campaign for a simple change in the law to make renting with pets easier.
AdvoCATS is an East Midlands, UK based non-profit organisation, run by volunteers, that offers free support and advice to both landlords and tenants, as well as assistance to pet owners who experience difficulty finding rental accommodation.
The campaign is calling to amend the Tenant Fees Act 2019, to allow a landlord to either request a financially capped pet deposit or stipulate pet damage insurance must be held by any tenant wanting to keep a pet or pets. This will make it easier for those renting with pets, by preventing excessive rental charges (that can cost hundreds of pounds per year), whilst protecting landlords from having to pay for property damage caused by pets.
Did you know? 
- 1 in 5 UK landlords have stopped allowing pets since the introduction of the Tenant Fees Act 2019
- 55% of UK landlords impose blanket No Pets clauses in rental contracts
- Only 7% of UK landlords actively market their properties as pet friendly
- Rehoming organisations are seeing more pets surrendered because of rental issues
We spoke to co-founder Jen Berezai about the important work carried out by AdvoCATS and asked her for her top tips for making renting with pets easier…
How did AdvoCATS come about and how did you become involved with the charity?
AdvoCATS began in 2018 with myself and three others who’d been volunteering for a [pet] rescue [organisation]. We’d seen the problems that people were having, either surrendering pets because of rental issues or not being able to adopt pets because their contracts said ‘no pets’. We decided that perhaps there was something we could do about this, as we’d had a couple of instances where we had been able to negotiate [on behalf of pet owners] and we thought…this warrants its own charity, its own identity, and AdvoCATS was born.[AdvoCATS] started off doing grassroots work (within the East Midlands) where we physically go and meet tenants and/or landlords and put together the documentation to demonstrate responsible pet ownership. Then nationally for the past 18 months, we’ve been involved in the campaign for amending the law to make renting with pets easier.
Tell us more about the current Heads for Tails campaign and why changing the Tenant Fees Act (2019) will make renting with pets easier for those living in the UK?
Heads for Tails was born out of a previous campaign for a bill dubbed Jasmine’s Law that was raised by Romford MP Andrew Rosindell back in October 2020. Jasmine’s Law wanted to ban ‘no pets’ clauses in rental contracts. [However], landlords were very concerned that they could no longer protect their properties against the risk of pet damage, largely since the introduction of the Tenant Fees Act in 2019. [Though] the act had very good aims in streamlining the process and costs for tenants, landlords could no longer ask for a separate pet deposit or stipulate requirements (such as payments) from pet owners…which [risks] leaving them out of pocket.
In January 2021, Andrew’s bill was coming up for its second reading but unfortunately due to the second lockdown, parliament suspended business and the bill ran out of time. [During this time, AdvoCATS] had gone away and done some research with Andrew’s backing on pet damage insurance options and [reviewed] the whole problem of renting with pets. We felt that we had a good base of support and ideas of what could change, so we added [more] research (with the help of supporters such as the Society for Companion Animal Studies). That became the Heads For Tails Report and subsequently, the proposal for amending the [Tenant Fees] Act.
What we’re trying to do, is introduce two options to the list of permitted payments that would give the landlord the right to either:
- Ask for either a financially capped pet deposit, or
- Stipulate to a tenant that if they want to come into their property with a pet, they must have pet damage insurance.
It’s all about being as fair as possible [and protecting] both parties. It’s only going to work if the majority of people are happy.
What are some of the impacts of failing to provide pet-friendly housing that people may be surprised to learn?
I think the pandemic really underlined to a lot of people the importance of pets. People who had never experienced isolation or loneliness because of their job or social circles…suddenly had that thrust on them. People do feel their animals contribute to their mental health and to them feeling better. Savings of nearly 2.5 billion pounds to the NHS have been pinpointed [to pet ownership] through [things like] less blood pressure medication and less antidepressants. There is a practical cost there [too]. Every £1 spent facilitating animal ownership has been shown to result in £3 back to the economy. Pets can make a big difference.
What can tenants do to demonstrate that they are responsible pet owners and strengthen their rental application?
The most important thing to do is demonstrate that you look after your pet. A vet reference is a must, confirming that the pet is neutered [particularly in the case of cats and potential urine spraying problems], has regular health checks, and is in receipt of regular flea and worm treatment [evidence of purchase via the clinic or an online retailer]. A previous or existing landlord reference is like gold dust. If you’ve been living in a property for a few years with pets and your landlord is happy, [asking them to] put that in writing…that’s very valuable for a potential landlord to consider.
Then [there’s] the pet CV. Rather than the landlord thinking they’re just asking about a cat, [they] can see that you’re asking about “Buttons”, see a picture of Buttons and have an idea about what Button’s temperament is like. [For example] If they’re an indoor cat and litter trained with no toileting issues. There’s a lot of information you can pull together to demonstrate that you love and are responsible for your pet.
There are a suitable majority [of landlords] who are just wary, and any information you can provide to meet their fears is valuable. If they are a landlord that will consider pets, there will also be a lot of [competition] for that property and you can help elevate your application [this way].
What advice do you have for landlords who are concerned about renting to tenants with cats or other pets?
I understand [their concerns] but we are really trying to push awareness about pet damage insurance [for tenants]. Meet the tenant and their pet where they are currently living. That will allow you to see what the current property is like or ask for pictures. AdvoCATS will put together pictures of the interior of where someone is currently living to show that the carpets aren’t ripped up by the cat [for example]. Ask for the information, ask what [tenants] can do to show you that they are responsible and that they care.
What are some of the more surprising benefits you’ve discovered about renting to pet owners?
Tenants with pets do tend to stay longer in properties. The majority are clean-living, responsible pet owners, [who] will look after their home well and are likely to be more active in their community. Animals are part of the family unit, and their importance has really been highlighted recently by current events (such as the situation in Ukraine).
What are the different ways people can get behind the important work being carried out by AdvoCATS and their supporters?
Follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook for campaign updates and [plenty of] cat memes and pictures. [For those] in the UK, write to or email your MP or share and tag them in the #HeadsForTails campaign. We’ve already got just over 40 MPs and peers backing the campaign, let’s get some more on board…
To find out more about AdvoCATS visit: https://www.advocatseastmids.org.uk
 AdvoCATS, Jen Berezai, Heads For Tails! Report [internet], England: AdvoCATS Eastmids; 2021 [cited 09 May 2022]. Available from: https://www.advocatseastmids.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Heads-for-Tails-September-2021.pdf
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 Sophie Hall, Luke Dolling, et al. Companion animal economics: the economic impact of companion animals in the UK. Research report [Internet]. United Kingdom: CABI; 2016 [cited 09 May 2022]. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/315656980_Companion_animal_economics_the_economic_impact_of_companion_animals_in_the_UK_Research_report Perlman, D, et al. Cats as Companions: Can Cats Help Tackle Loneliness. Research report [Internet]. United Kingdom: APGOCATS; 2020 [cited 09 May 2022]. Available from: http://www.apgocats.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/APGOCATS_Loneliness-Report.pdf
I am the feline behaviour specialist at feline charity ‘International Cat Care’. We are about engaging, educating and empowering people throughout the world to improve the health and welfare of cats by sharing advice, training and passion.