Renting with Pets – Where Do I Stand?

 

Dogs provide a source of support that, many would argue, is comparable to that gained from human relationships. Dogs are regarded as family members. People can become very distressed when they have to part with a much-loved family pet. In this article, Holidays4Dogs considers the issues of renting with pets. New Government proposals in the form of a new Model Tenancy Agreement may help millions of pet owners to secure accommodation, without giving up their animals. 

Historically, people living in private and social rented accommodation have had difficulty finding housing if they own pets. According to Dogs Trust, one of the main reasons for people giving up their animals is due to a change in housing circumstances.

However, on the 4th of January (2020), the housing secretary, Robert Jenrick MP, called on landlords to be more lenient when it comes to allowing pets in their properties. To this end, he announced an overhaul of tenancy agreements which will be mutually beneficial to all parties.

The Dogs Trust have been working with landlords, letting agencies and the property industry as a whole. For over a decade, they have campaigned to make pet ownership more accessible to tenants.

The proposed changes come at a time when more people than ever are renting their homes.

Previously, the majority of landlords put an automatic blanket ban on dogs, or cats, on their properties. This meant that many existing pet owners struggled to find suitable accommodation. Many others find they have to give up their pet altogether. But will proposals make any difference to renters with pets?

The current situation (2024).

The Renters (Reform) Bill was introduced to Parliament in May 2023. It set out to make adjustments to tenancy contracts – thereby removing strict restrictions on pets. The aim is to encourage more landlords to be more flexible with responsible pet-owning tenants.

However, likely, the bill will not come into effect until the end of 2024. It will only affect new tenancies, with a 12-month gap before existing tenancies are incorporated.

Unfortunately –  this is not legislation, but a Model Tenancy Agreement (MTA) published by the government in 2021. Due to the diversity of the rental market, the Government claim they would not be able to legislate for every situation where a landlord could reasonably refuse a pet. This means that landlords can lawfully still refuse to accept pets.

The progress of the bill through the stages of parliamentary debate has drawn much criticism – not least because a “better deal for renters” was promised by the Conservative manifesto in 2019.

However, the Dogs Trust state any changes made to the model tenancy contract must be supported with guidance. In particular, this should advise how landlords can put these changes into practice. Thus, making it fair and beneficial, for both tenant and landlord.

Holidays4Dogs welcomes these changes. We believe people living in rented homes should not be denied the choice to own a pet.

However, there is a concern that some landlords will charge a higher rent for pet owners. According to Landlord Law Services, while landlords cannot charge a high deposit, (due to the Tenant Fees Bill), they can charge a higher rent for tenants with pets.

It is also highly likely there will be clauses for vaccination and a requirement for regular flea and tick treatment. In addition, it will be the responsibility of renters to take out insurance against damage by pets.

Additionally, tenants with pets may have to agree to more property inspections, than those without pets. Landlord Law Services recommends quarterly inspections which many tenants may consider to be too intrusive.

Will my landlord be able to prevent me from keeping a pet?

As we have mentioned, the proposals for changes regarding renting with pets, are not yet embedded in law. Instead, it surrounds a Model Tenancy Agreement that landlords may, or may not, subscribe to. Those landlords that choose to follow the guidance set out in the MTA should abide by clause C3.5 as follows:-

A tenant must seek 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 request from the tenant without considering the request on its own merits.

The landlord should accept 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 on which it will be kept.

Consent is deemed to be granted unless the written request is turned down by the landlord within 28 days.

The landlord is prohibited from charging a fee to the tenant who wishes to keep pets, or any other animals at the property. Permission may be given on the condition an additional reasonable amount towards the deposit, but the deposit must not breach the deposit cap requirements under the Tenant Fees Act 2019.

Under the MTA, clause C3.5 prohibits landlords from exercising a blanket ban on pets. However, as we have said – this is not currently law and so, while this does help tenants whose landlords choose to follow the guidance, it will not be helpful for pet owners whose landlords choose not to.

Nevertheless, the bill will hopefully mark a general change in attitude toward pets within the rental market – especially, if landlords following the guidance, have positive outcomes.

On what grounds might my landlord refuse permission for a pet?

For landlords following the MTA guidance, the request to keep a pet should be considered on individual merit. For example, if a request was to keep a giant breed of dog in a flat, this would be a reasonable reason for the landlord not to consent. They might, however, grant a request for a caged pet, or a cat.

It is important to have an honest discussion with your landlord about your pet. In addition, it is important to convey that you are a responsible owner and assure the landlord your pet is well-behaved, non-destructive and clean in the house.

It may well be useful to share this article with them.

What can I do if my landlord refuses my request for a pet?

Until the Renters (Reform Bill) becomes law – landlords can still ban people from keeping pets on their properties so, you must still request to keep a pet in writing. You must not get a pet without your landlord’s written consent. If your tenancy agreement states – “no pets” – you will be in breach of the agreement if you subsequently acquire a pet. As a result, your landlord will have the right to start eviction proceedings.

If your landlord is following MTA guidance and has unfairly denied your request to keep a pet, you can get in touch with the Private Rented Sector Ombudsman, or take the case to court. However, the latter could be costly.

Conclusion

Overall, the Model Tenancy Agreement changes are certainly a step in the right direction, but many would like to see this extended to make blanket bans on pets embedded in law. As it stands, landlords may find they can let their properties more easily by following MTA guidelines, bearing in mind that 40% of UK households own a pet.

For pet owners, this should provide more choice in terms of accommodation. Crucially, it should help prevent many pet owners from having to make the heartbreaking decision to give up their much-loved pet.