Pets are a huge part of people’s lives. In the UK, they are often considered part of the family and help to improve both the mental and physical health of their owners. However, renting with pets in the current climate can prove to be a challenge for tenants and landlords alike.


The pandemic saw a surge in those wanting to keep pets. A report by the property website Rightmove from 2021 found that they saw an increase in demand of 120% for pet-friendly properties that year. The number of households with a pet surged from 41% in 2019, to 59% in 2020, a clear reflection of increased time spent at home as a result of the Covid pandemic and a rise in flexible working.


Unfortunately though, not all those who wish to keep pets are allowed to. Landlords often don’t like the idea of their tenants renting with pets, with concerns about damage to their property as well as smell. In 2020, just 7% of landlords advertised their property as being suitable for those with pets.


But what rights do tenants have to keep pets? And when can their landlord say no to such a request? Keep reading to learn more.


What is the law as it currently stands?


Young asian woman over isolated background having doubts


At the moment, landlords can still quite easily say no to pets under the Housing Act 1988. This is usually done through a clause in the tenancy agreement between landlord and tenant. If a tenant does want to keep a pet in their rental property, they will usually need permission from their landlord to do so. However, there is no obligation on the landlord’s behalf to allow it.


Some landlords may even charge extra rent for those with pets. The Tenant Fees Act 2019 made this a more popular option for landlords due to the restriction on charging a higher deposit. While this legislation banned landlords from forcing tenants with pets to take out pet insurance, the Renters (Reform) Bill 2022-2023 will reverse this ban.


Model Tenancy Agreement


Rental agreement paperwork; document is mock-up


Confusion around the status of the law arose following the publication of the government’s new Model Tenancy Agreement (MTA) in January 2021. Within the MTA, a relaxed attitude towards the keeping of pets is the default stance.


However, it should be noted that the Model Tenancy Agreement (MTA) is not legislation. Instead, as its name suggests, it is a model for a tenancy agreement for landlords entering into assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs) in the private sector. Landlords do not have to follow this guidance or use the MTA as their tenancy agreement. However, for those that do, the guidance features a clause (C3.5) which prohibits a blanket ban on pets in rental properties.


This clause includes the following:


·       A Tenant must seek the prior written consent of the Landlord should they wish to keep pets or other animals at the Property


·       A Landlord must not unreasonably withhold or delay a written request from a Tenant without considering the request on its own merits.


·       The Landlord should accept such a request where they are satisfied the Tenant is a responsible pet owner and the pet is of a kind that is suitable in relation to the nature of the premises at which it will be kept.


·       Consent is deemed to be granted unless the written request is turned down by a Landlord with good reason in writing within 28 days of receiving the request.


·       Landlord is prohibited from charging a fee to a Tenant who wishes to keep pets or other animals at the Property.


·       Permission may be given on the condition that the Tenant pays an additional reasonable amount towards the deposit, but the deposit must not breach the deposit cap requirements under the Tenant Fees Act 2019 (see section B10).


While this is positive for those whose landlords choose to follow the model tenancy agreement, it doesn’t exactly help those who don’t. Nevertheless, it does reflect a sea change in the property landscape regarding the approach towards pets.


Renters (Reform Bill) – a green light for pet owners?


Cheerful girl playing with her pet chihuahua isolated over pink background, screaming


The Renters (Reform) Bill was introduced to Parliament in May 2023 with the promise of making it easier for the 4.6 million private tenants in the UK to keep pets. But does it do so?


The bill promises a number of different measures affecting renters and landlords when it comes to keeping pets. Let’s take a look at what it proposes:


·       The landlord must not reasonably refuse a tenant’s request to keep a pet


·       Landlords will be able to require that tenants take out insurance covering pet damage


·       Responsibility for preventing and resolving damage caused by a tenant will also be that of the tenant


The legislation is likely to only be introduced by the end of 2024 but will initially only affect new tenancies. There will then be a 12-month gap before it is implemented for existing tenancies, in order to give time to “transition to a new system”. With the legislation still in the report stage, many have criticised the bill’s slow progress through parliament after a “better deal for renters” was originally promised in the Conservative manifesto of 2019.


When can it be deemed reasonable for a landlord to refuse a tenant having a pet?


new house / home moving and relocation concept. Happy asian couple receiving apartment key from real estate agent / realtor.


Landlords should assess each situation on a case-by-case basis. The government claim that the diversity of the private rented sector means that it would “not be possible to legislate for every situation where a landlord would or would not be able to ‘reasonably’ refuse a pet.”


If tenants feel that their landlord has been unreasonable in denying the keeping of pets, they may escalate their complaint to the Private rented Sector Ombudsman. Failing that, they may go through court. However, the latter may be a costly alternative.


Our thoughts


The Renters (Reform) Bill is a positive step for tenants renting with pets. By allowing tenants to keep pets in private accommodation, unless the landlord has a reasonable reason not to allow it, tenants will have more choice over where they can live.


With just 7% of landlords advertising their properties as being pet friendly, it can often prove difficult for these individuals to find somewhere to live. Pet-friendly properties are also generally more expensive due to the lack of availability of pet-friendly properties.


Following the implementation of the Renters (Reform) Bill, landlords can rest assured in the knowledge that any damage caused by pets will be the responsibility of the tenant by requiring them to take out insurance. If the tenant does not have insurance, the cost for damages will be taken out of the deposit.


In the meantime, while the default is still for landlords to refuse pets, tenants with pets should have an honest discussion with their landlord about their pet if they have one or are thinking of getting one. For example, while a landlord may be reluctant to allow a tenant to keep a Great Dane in a one bedroom flat, they may be more willing to allow a cat to be kept.


It is important not to keep a pet in your rented home without the consent of your landlord. If your rental agreement does not allow for pets and your landlord finds out, this will be considered a breach of contract. Your landlord would then be within their rights to start the eviction process.


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