Pets in rented accommodation – what is the legal position?

- Wed 18 Aug 2021

It is hardly surprising many people are minded there is a ‘new law’ relating to the keeping of pets when headlines read “Renters in England set to be allowed to keep well-behaved pets” (published 28 Jan 2021 by the BBC). But what is the correct position?

Put simply, there isn’t a ‘new law’ relating to pets despite the commonly held view otherwise.

The headline above is misleading but the BBC article following from the headline, if read carefully, explained that it is only the Governments ‘model tenancy agreement’ that has been amended to include a clause favouring those tenants whom wish to keep a pet. In effect, consent for a pet is the automatic default position. By way of illustration an extract from the subject tenancy clause reads “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”.

The Governments ‘model tenancy agreement’ is available for anyone to use free of charge. However many do not choose to use it, not least as it is a cumbersome 64 pages long….. As such many letting agents and landlords favour use of their own form of tenancy agreement which is likely to prohibit the keeping of pets unless there is agreement otherwise.

They say that almost half the population in Britain has a pet of some sort. We are reportedly a nation of animal lovers after all. As this article is being written, in an office of 11 staff there are 14 pets between them - interestingly 13 dogs and only 1 cat! So why is there a general reluctance for a landlord to accept tenants with pets?

The main reasons for this are the potential damage that pets can cause to the property, the risk of flea infestation, and the potential costs and additional work involved in preparing it for a new tenant after the departure of the pet owning tenant particularly taking into account the fact that many people are allergic to certain animals. Therefore a property where tenants have been allowed to keep a dog or a cat may need expensive treatment to make it safe for people with these allergies to later live in.

Historically it has been common for landlord to request a higher deposit from a tenant with pets in order to reduce the risk of additional costs at the end of the tenancy to remedy any issues caused by said pet. However the Tenant Fees Act 2019 put a legal cap on the amount of deposit to be paid by tenants with the maximum amount being equivalent five times the weekly rent. Clearly many consider this insufficient to either deal with or, give assurance with regard the potential for damage.

On a practical level therefore at this point in time, whether a landlord considers a tenant with a pet is entirely at their own discretion unless of course the property is leasehold in which case there may be a restrictive covenant in the Head Lease prohibiting the keeping of pets. The only other exception relating to registered assistance dogs where disability legislation prohibits anyone renting a property from discriminating against a disabled person.

We would encourage landlords to consider each request upon its individual merits (or otherwise) according to circumstances and the suitability of the property in question where we are always happy to provide advice and guidance when needed.