Renting with pets – what are the rules for landlords and tenants?

Renting with pets is an emotive topic, often dividing landlords and tenants, for obvious reasons. Two recent government measures have brought pets to the forefront of industry conversation, with big implications for renting.

The government’s model tenancy agreement has been updated to allow tenants to keep pets by default. Meanwhile, the newly proposed pet protection bill is awaiting Parliament approval.

The Renters Reform Bill white paper has announced changes that will make it easier for tenants to keep pets – including giving tenants the right to request a pet and allowing pet insurance as a permitted tenant payment.

These changes will certainly impact pet owners, but what do they mean for landlords and tenants? 

Related article: Government White Paper for Landlords and Renters 2022

Tenants currently renting with pets

Renters with pets often struggle to find accommodation that will accept them. In 2020, only 7% of landlords advertised their property as suitable for pets (GOV.UK). With such a small proportion of pet-friendly rentals, some tenants have no choice but to give up their pets.

Before the Tenant Fee Ban, many landlords allowed pets, while simply increasing tenancy deposits to mitigate potential damage. With deposits in England limited to 5 weeks’ rent, landlords no longer have this option.

In Wales and Scotland, landlords can request an additional deposit for pets, on top of the tenancy deposit, to cover any damage caused by animals.

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New pet insurance amendment to Tenant Fee Ban

In the government’s Renters Reform Bill white paper, they have pledged to “legislate to ensure landlords do not unreasonably withhold consent when a tenant requests to have a pet in their home, with the tenant able to challenge a decision”.

The Tenant Fees Act 2019 will also be amended to all pet insurance as a permitted payment. This means landlords will be able to require pet insurance so that any damage to their property is covered. 

The government says they will encourage a “common-sense approach” and believe that “alongside greater security and quality, these measures will help tenants truly feel like their house is their home”.

Dogs and Domestic Animals Accommodation Protection Bill 

The proposed Dogs and Domestic Animals Accommodation Protection Bill is designed to help responsible pet owners find suitable rental properties.

Currently awaiting its second reading, the bill hopes to allow dogs and other animals to be kept in rental accommodation in England.

MP Andrew Rosindell, sponsor of the bill, says:

“For most people, being separated from their dog is no different from being separated from their brother or sister”

“Sadly, pet owners who move into rented accommodation face the reality that their family could be torn apart, because most landlords in Britain have unnecessary bans or restrictions on pets ownership.”

Related article: 5 Landlord Updates to Expect in Spring 2021

Prioritising animal welfare – certification for pet owners

Although the bill hopes to help responsible renters, its focus is the protection and welfare of domestic animals. As well as giving tenants the right to keep pets in their rental property, the bill proposes pet owners have a certificate of responsible animal guardianship.

Certificates will be issued subject to a responsible ownership test, conducted by a registered vet, including:

  • Microchipping (for dogs and cats)
  • De-worming and de-fleaing
  • Required vaccinations
  • Ability to respond to basic commands

The bill also proposes that all information regarding an animal and its ownership be entered into a database – including mandatory microchipping for all dogs and cats.

Exemptions to the pet bill

If the proposed bill goes ahead, tenants will not have an unconditional right to keep a pet.

Tenants can’t have a dog or domestic animal unless they hold a responsible animal guardianship certificate and can care for the animal. If living in the rental accommodation puts the animal at risk, or causes danger or nuisance to people nearby, they will not be allowed.

Certificate of exemption for renting with pets

If the bill passes, landlords may also restrict their tenant’s right to keep dogs or domestic animals if they hold a certificate of exemption.

Such certificates may be issued if:

  • The landlord or another tenant has a religious or medical reason not to come into contact with a dog or domestic animal
  • The accommodation is unsuitable for the animal

Certificates of exemption may be provided for:

  • Groups of dwellings within a building or area
  • Entire buildings
  • Specific orders, families, species or breeds of animal

Find out more about insurance for pet-related property damage.

Model tenancy agreement changed to allow renting with pets

Alongside the proposed bill, the Ministry of Housing updated its standard tenancy agreement so that landlords cannot issue a ‘blanket ban’ on pets in their tenancy.

Allowing pets is now the default position on the government’s recommended model tenancy agreement.

If a landlord doesn’t want their tenant to have a pet, they must object in writing within 28 days of a written request from the tenant. The landlord must provide a good reason, such as in smaller properties where owning a pet would be impractical. 

Despite the change to the model tenancy agreement, properties can still be advertised as ‘no pets’ or ‘no pets considered’. The update just means that tenants in-situ can put forward a written request to keep a pet to the landlord, and the landlord has 28 days to object with a good reason.

Tenants will still have a legal duty to cover the costs of any damage caused by pets.

Housing Minister Christopher Pincher MP said:

We are a nation of animal lovers and over the last year more people than ever before have welcomed pets into their lives and homes.

This [change] strikes the right balance between helping more people find a home that’s right for them and their pet while ensuring landlords’ properties are safeguarded against inappropriate or badly behaved pets.

Has the Tenant Fee Ban made this worse for pet owners?

The Tenant Fee Ban, introduced in 2019, prevents the majority of lettings-related fees from being passed onto tenants.

The list of acceptable fees does not currently include a deposit for pet-related damage. Andrew Rosindell MP, who is currently moving the recent pet Bill through parliament, believes that the Tenant Fee Ban is actually making matters worse for responsible pet owners. He says:

“The Tenant Fees Act of 2019 had positive aims but it has clearly been harmful to the cause of greater pet ownership for renters, an issue which has come to a head given the loneliness and self-isolation many have suffered during this pandemic, something which a dog or a cat could really ameliorate.

“Amending it to allow for landlords to require insurance as part of the permitted payments might only be a start, but it would be a positive start and I hope the government explores this as an option.”

Rosindell’s suggestion was shut down by the government and the Housing Minister Eddie Hughes stated that “The government has no plans  at this time  to amend the Tenant Fees Act 2019”, yet the Renters Reform Bill white paper has since stated that pet insurance will be added as a permitted payment.

How are landlords feeling about renting with pets?

Back in 2016, 64% of our landlords reported that they would be happy to accept a tenant renting with pets. But with the Tenant Fee Ban capping deposits in 2018, no doubt some landlords will feel differently.

What are your thoughts on the latest proposals for renting with pets? Do you think renters should be allowed to keep pets by default? Let us know in the comments below.

Pet damage insurance is available for both landlords and tenants here.

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