Over the past few weeks, I have had an increasing number of both landlords and tenants posting enquiries on our Landlord Law site about ‘this new law for pets’.
Let me make things clear. There is no new pet’s law.
I am concerned that a number of organisations, including the government, appear to be sending out messages giving this false impression.
So what has actually happened about pets?
The government has a ‘model tenancy agreement’ which is available for anyone to use free of charge. All that has happened is that they have changed the clause in that agreement on pets to make it more favourable to tenants wanting to keep a pet.
That’s all. No new law. No new legal obligations.
About the Model Tenancy Agreement
You will find it here. It has been around for a long time but so far as I am aware, is not used that much.
Letting agents generally have their own form of tenancy agreement which they prefer to use, as do many landlords. Other landlords will use a purchased agreement from online stationers such as Lawpack or Oyez, or an agreement provided by one of the Landlord Associations – the NRLA has a good one.
My Landlord Law site also provides tenancy agreements for our members, which are regularly updated, and this is one reason why members join and remain with us for so long.
Although the government’s model agreement is well drafted (and I often refer to it for guidance when I am amending my own agreements) it is not popular largely because
- It is very long at some 64 pages, and
- It is really designed for longer tenancy fixed terms of two years or more, whereas landlords and agents prefer to grant terms of 12 or 6 months.
What’s this new pet clause?
The new clause can be found on page 29, clause 1.5 which reads:
A Tenant must seek the prior written consent of the Landlord should they wish to keep pets or other animals at the Property. A Landlord must not unreasonably withhold or delay a written request from a Tenant without considering the request on its own merits. The Landlord should accept such a request where they are satisfied the Tenant is a responsible pet owner and the pet is of a kind that is suitable in relation to the nature of the premises at which it will be kept. 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. A Landlord is prohibited from charging a fee to a Tenant who wishes to keep pets or other animals at the Property. Permission may be given on the condition that the Tenant pays an additional reasonable amount towards the deposit, but the deposit must not breach the deposit cap requirements under the Tenant Fees Act 2019
There is then a guidance note below which starts off by saying that the clause prohibits a landlord from exercising a blanket ban on pets – something which will deter most landlords from using it!
The note goes on to say that ‘Landlord consent is … the default position unless otherwise specified in writing by a landlord.’ As you will see from the clause, landlords must object to the tenants request within 28 days otherwise the request will be ‘deemed to be granted’.
The previous clause, from the 2016 edition of the Model Agreement was as follows:
The Tenant must not keep any pets or other animals at the Property without the prior written consent of the Landlord which must not be unreasonably withheld or delayed. If permission is given, it may be given on the condition that the Tenant pays an additional reasonable amount towards the deposit.
Which has the advantage of being shorter and more to the liking of most landlords. Under this clause (which is still a perfectly valid clause to use) tenants can ask for permission which the landlord can only refuse on ‘reasonable grounds’.
Why landlords don’t want tenants with pets
The trouble is – there are quite a few ‘reasonable grounds’ available to landlords if they don’t want tenants to keep pets.
Pets, particularly dogs and cats can be very destructive.
- They often damage furniture by scratching or biting – meaning it has to be replaced at the end of the tenancy
- Carpets may be infested with fleas, damaged by scratching and in some serious cases may be soaked in urine
- Walls, skirting boards, doors and windows may be scratched and chewed
- Some smaller pets, for example, rabbits, are often ferocious ‘chewers’ and will chew through electrical cables if allowed to run free, which can be a fire risk.
There is also the fact that many people are allergic to certain animals – and so 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 live in.
This can all cost a lot of time and money to put right. Plus:
- Most landlords consider the current deposit allowance (mostly 5x the weekly rent) to be insufficient to deal with this kind of damage
- It can also take some time for the repair and cleaning to be done – which will delay the re-letting of the property. During which time landlords will get no income but will still have to pay the outgoings on the property, such as their mortgage payments
Most long term landlords will have had experience of properties being left in a shocking condition due to damage by tenants pets and are, frankly, unwilling to risk it happening again. For example, see this post.
So what can tenants do if they want to keep a pet?
Persuade your landlord that your pet will not cause any damage! For example by getting a reference from your current landlord or maybe inviting your landlord to visit your current home so they can see for themselves.
Many landlords will only now permit pets if the tenants pay a higher rent – known as a ‘pet rent’. This is to cover the extra wear and tear at the property due to the pet, and also the potential additional costs that may be incurred when the tenant vacates.
If you are currently paying a ‘pet rent’ you may be able to persuade your landlord to reduce it if you can prove that you have kept the property spotless and that there is no pet damage. Landlords are generally sympathetic to tenants’ desire to keep a pet – so long as the pets do not damage their property!
I hope this will answer people’s questions about the ‘new pets law’. And explain what the problems are with pets in rented properties.