Discover your obligations when it comes to renting to tenants with pets and understand the potential implications of the Renters (Reform) Bill.
With more than half of UK households owning at least one pet, it’s not uncommon to encounter potential tenants who come complete with furry companions.
Many landlords admit feeling torn when it comes to tenants with pets, caught between the desire to be pet-friendly or uphold other considerations, like concerns about property damage.
And with the Renters (Reform) Bill seemingly tipping the scales in favour of pet owners, it’s a scenario that you might start dealing with more frequently in the coming months.
- Can landlords refuse pets in 2023?
- What can a landlord do if a tenant keeps a pet without permission?
- What’s the law around renting to tenants with assistance animals?
- Will the Renters (Reform) Bill force landlords to accept pets?
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Can landlords refuse pets in 2023?
In January 2021, the government updated the Model Tenancy Agreement to encourage landlords to move away from blanket bans on pets. The default position was adjusted to allow pets unless there is a specific ‘no pets’ clause in the tenancy agreement.
Specifically, the updated model agreement requires tenants to seek consent for a pet, to which landlords must respond within a specified period, usually within 28 days.
Landlords can’t ‘unreasonably withhold or delay’ this written request and must give consent if they believe the tenant is a ‘responsible pet owner’, and that the pet is suitable for the property.
Moreover, landlords aren’t allowed to impose any extra, non-refundable fees on pet owners and to request a deposit exceeding five weeks’ rent due to concerns about potential pet-related damage.
Landlords who prefer to keep their properties pet-free may choose to include a ‘no pets’ clause in the tenancy agreement, explicitly prohibiting tenants from keeping any cats, dogs, birds, or other pets or animals (excl. guide animals when reasonably necessary).
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However, you should be aware that a blanket ban on pets might be struck out in the courts as it may be considered an unfair term under The Consumer Rights Act 2015.
As an OpenRent landlord, you can express your preference by selecting, or deselecting, the ‘Pets Allowed’ option under the ‘Tenant Preferences’ section when creating your advert.
Plus, our Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) include a clause which requires the tenant to seek consent from the landlord before bringing a pet into the property.
What can a landlord do if a tenant keeps a pet without permission?
If the pet is causing nuisance to other residents or significant damage to the property, then you may be able to evict the tenant using a Section 8 notice. If that’s the case, it’s essential to be prepared to demonstrate the pet’s impact on neighbours or property damage.
For tailored advice on your situation and assistance with serving notices, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our partner legal experts.
Unfortunately, there’s not much else that can easily be done to remove the pet without evicting the tenants.
If the pet causes damage to the property, you may be able to claim this back from the deposit at the end of the tenancy.
Alternatively, if needed, you can pursue legal action against the tenants at the end of the tenancy to recover expenses for repairs caused by the pet.
Keep in mind that if your tenants have been paying rent on time, causing no complaints, and you have not found any issues during property inspections, then evicting them may not be your best option.
It’s always advisable to attempt to discuss matters with your tenants and seek a solution before escalating the issue to the courts.
What’s the law around renting to tenants with assistance dogs?
If there’s a ‘no pets’ clause in your tenancy agreement which bans pets, tenants can still ask you to change it to allow them to have an assistance animal. For example, if they’re visually impaired and rely on a guide dog.
In this case, you must agree to do this if your tenant is disabled and they need an assistance dog to be able to live in the property.
This is known as making a ‘reasonable adjustment’. Refusing to do so may be considered discriminatory behaviour and could potentially lead to legal consequences.
In some circumstances, a landlord may be able to decline to make a reasonable adjustment if they can provide a valid reason, such as health and safety concerns.
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Will the Renters (Reform) Bill force landlords to accept pets?
The Renters (Reform) Bill proposes that tenants can make a request in writing to have a pet in their rented property.
Following a tenant’s request, the landlord can ask for more information about the pet. Should the tenant fail to provide this information, the landlord reserves the right to decline consent.
However, any refusal must be justified by a valid reason, and the landlord is obligated to respond within six weeks of the initial request.
In cases where the landlord needs more details, they have seven days from the provision of such information to make a decision.
The government acknowledges situations where it will always be reasonable for a landlord to refuse a request, such as in rent-to-rent contracts where the superior landlord explicitly prohibits pets.
If a tenant disagrees with the landlord’s decision or believes that the landlord has ‘unreasonably’ refused, they will have the option to escalate their enquiry to the new property Ombudsman.
Will landlords be able to charge tenants for pet-related damage?
As part of the Renters (Reform) Bill, the government plans to revise the Tenant Fees Act 2019 to include pet insurance as a permitted payment. This means that landlords may be able to ask their tenants to insure their pets to cover any damage that could occur at their property.
If a landlord has already purchased insurance that covers potential damages caused by pets, the tenant may be responsible for reimbursing the landlord for the costs related to any pet damage.
As the Bill has a long journey ahead of it before becoming law, if it ever does, there will likely be more details coming out soon about tenants’ rights to keep pets in rented properties.
Stay in the loop by checking our comprehensive timeline for updates, or find out more about what other changes may be on the horizon for landlords.