Despite considerable campaigning by tenant’s groups, it’s currently not unlawful to prohibit a tenant from keeping a pet in their property. They would usually just require (depending on the wording of the tenancy agreement) the permission of the landlord. It’s then down to the landlord as to whether they allow permission or not.
However, with the proposed reforms this will change. Amongst many other proposed changes, it is expected that it will become unlawful for a landlord to deny a tenant permission to keep a pet in the property without justification.
So… what is likely to be a justified reason for declining permission?
Currently, this is all very unclear, and the devil is in the detail plus no doubt some satellite litigation to thrash out what is and isn’t reasonable grounds for refusal. I suspect consideration will be paid to risk or actual damage to the property and in more extreme examples, risk or actual injury to tenants and neighbours, excessive noise levels and of course unsuitability of the property (think pot belly pig in a one-bedroom flat).
What is expected is that where the terms of a lease specifically prohibit pets a landlord will be justified in refusing to allow the tenant to keep a pet to avoid risk of forfeiture (the loss of rights, property, or money, especially as a result of breaking a legal agreement)
One particular area of concern is HMOs and balancing the rights of tenants – the tenant that wishes to keep a pet versus the tenant with an allergy.
This is no doubt going to be an interesting change to the law.
What can you do to manage tenancies with pets?
If you do agree to allow your tenants keep a pet, it’s important to establish some ground rules for both parties which can be included in the tenancy. This could include outlining which areas of the property can and cannot be used by pets or ensuring any losses arising from the damage caused by a pet can be recovered under the deposit.
It is a good idea to gather information on the tenant’s history with having a pet in a rented property. As a landlord, you can get a pet reference from the tenant’s previous landlord.
Having prior information about a tenant’s history with keeping a pet in a rental property is incredibly useful for landlords. It can provide them with vital insight into the tenant’s ability to responsibly care for their pet and mitigate potential risks. It can also help to ensure that future tenants are not subjected to any unnecessary noise or disruption from the pet, as well as reducing the risk of any damage to the property. Overall, it is important for landlords to consider very carefully whether they are comfortable allowing tenants to keep a pet in their rental property. This will help to avoid any potential issues and ensure that both parties rights are protected under the law.
Requiring a tenant to take out a pet insurance policy is a sensible way to deal with pets in tenancies. Ideally the policy would be held by the landlord (to avoid it being cancelled by the tenant) and paid for by the tenant. Frustratingly, this arrangement is prohibited under the Tenant Fees Act 2019 as insurance is not one of the permitted payments, a landlord cannot therefore require a tenant to make payments toward the policy cover. It is however, widely expected that the Tenant Fees Act will be amended to support the move to prohibit landlords from unreasonably refusing permission for tenants to have pets.
Let’s watch this space!