The Government offers a model assured shorthold tenancy (AST) agreement for private landlords to use which aims to strike a fair balance between landlords and tenants.
In January 2021, the Government announced a change to the model tenancy agreement to assist renters with ‘well behaved pets’, who find it increasingly difficult to find landlords willing to allow pets in their rental properties. Previously, the model tenancy agreement contained a clause whereby pets were banned unless the tenant obtained written landlord consent. The Government now supports making it easier for responsible pet-owners to rent within the UK. Statistically only 7% of private landlords advertise pet friendly properties. The push for change was led by the Housing Minister, the Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP, who said “we are a nation of animal lovers and over the last year more people than ever before have welcome pets into their lives and homes”.
The new default position under the model tenancy agreement is that landlord consent will be given for pets, and landlords will now have to object in writing within 28 days of a written pet request from a tenant providing a good reason for the objection. Good reasons may include where the property is too small to keep a pet or where the property is a flat with no outside space where owning a pet could be seen as impractical. Landlords should accept the request where they are satisfied the tenant is a responsible pet owner and the pet is of a kind that is suitable to the property. It is not yet clear what remedies will be available if a tenant feels that their pet request has been unfairly declined.
Previously, some landlords allowed pets as long as the tenant paid an additional deposit in case any damage was caused. However, following the Tenant Fees Act 2019, landlords should be cautious that the total deposit does not breach the maximum deposit cap introduced by this legislation. It must also be protected in an authorised tenancy deposit scheme.
It is noted that whilst these changes may be beneficial to many UK renters whose landlords use the model tenancy agreement, many landlords do not make use of this, meaning this change is not currently mandatory.
There is, however, talk of introducing legislation that would go a step further than the model tenancy agreement. The Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill is currently making its way through Parliament which aims to establish tenants’ rights to keep dogs and other animals in their rented properties. As the Bill is in its early stages it is not known when or even it will be passed. The effect of the Bill would mean that landlords who object to pets must hold a certificate of exemption, which may be provided on the basis of a religious or medical reason or because the accommodation is unsuitable.
If you are considering allowing pets in a rented property, consider the following steps to reduce the risk of any later dispute:-
- Add a specific pet clause to the tenancy agreement;
- Ask for details about the pet in question; and
- Conduct a thorough inventory report.