Landlords and Pets – Must I accept pets?

On 28th January 2021, the government published the new version of the Model Tenancy Agreement including provisions to make it easier for tenants with well-behaved pets to secure leases. This agreement prohibits landlords from issuing a blanket ban on pets, providing a glimmer of hope for “responsible” pet owners, albeit conditional. Instead, landlords will have 28 days to object in writing to any formal pet request from the tenant with valid reasoning behind their position. Where there is good reason, such as the impracticality of pets within smaller properties, allergy risks or untrained pets, landlords have the right to object. The consent of the landlord here is paramount.  By no means do tenants now have an unconditional right to house pets within their rental properties.

The changes, to date, are not yet mandatory as the government’s Model Tenancy Agreement is “recommended” as a guideline or template for landlords to follow. Landlords have no obligation to use the government drafted document. A tenancy agreement is a binding document which should reflect the terms of both parties and can be amended accordingly. The Model Tenancy Agreement merely encourages landlords to consider allowing pets within their properties. Should you choose to use this agreement, there is plenty of room for interpretation; there is currently no definition of “a pet” and nothing which outlines what is required to be a “responsible pet owner”. The current PainSmith Tenancy Agreement and additional animal clauses remain more than sufficient and those currently using them can continue to do so.

While landlords can consent to pets on the condition that an additional deposit is paid by the tenant, this must not breach the five-week deposit cap where the annual rental is less than £50,000 or six weeks where it is £50,000 or more. As there is currently no restriction on charging different rents to different tenants, one potential solution could be to increase the monthly rent for pet owners. If advertised properly by saying rent may vary upon the circumstances of the Tenancy, a property which rents for £1000 pcm could increase to £1050 pcm for the addition of pets. In this way, landlords benefit from retaining this additional rental income instead of returning a deposit at the end at the end of the tenancy if there was no pet damage.

The debate surrounding landlords and tenants with pets remains ongoing with the Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill which is currently in its second stage of reading in the House of Commons. A Bill which also proposes the right to keep domestic animals in accommodation if a certificate has been issued by a veterinary surgeon covering the health and training of the pet. This, however, is a Private Members’ Bill which rarely become law unless adopted by the Government. Until then, the matter remains open to interpretation.