Renters (Reform) Bill: Your guide to pets in lets
The government has set out new regulation for tenants who own pets - plus more ways for landlords to recoup costs in case of damages.
It has been traditionally more difficult for renters to find a property when they have a furry, fuzzy, scaly, or feathery friend. The Renters (Reform) Bill sets out more freedom for tenants with pets, while outlying plans to protect landlords from damage.
- Are tenants currently allowed a pet in a rented home?
- What's covered in the current model tenancy agreement pet clause?
- What will be the new rules for pets under the Renters (Reform) Bill?
- What if the landlord refuses to allow a pet?
- Will tenants pay for damages caused by pets?
- When will the changes be introduced?
Are tenants currently allowed a pet in a rented home?
Pet ownership in a rented property is currently at the landlord's discretion. Government data from 2021 indicates that only 7% of private landlords advertised a pet friendly rental - despite a 120% increase in demand for pet-friendly rental properties during the pandemic.
In January 2021, the government revised its Model Tenancy Agreement to help renters with well-behaved pets. This agreement encouraged landlords to no longer issue a blanket ban on pets by default. Instead, the default position was changed to consent for pets, with landlords having 28 days to request a written pet request.
What's covered in the current model tenancy agreement pet clause?
Landlords and agents should note that these additions are currently not legal requirements - the government's model agreement is optional to use.
The pet clause in tenancy agreements in England outlines that a tenant must have their landlord's written permission to keep pets in a property. The landlord:
- can't "unreasonably withhold or delay" that written request
- should give their consent if they believe that the tenant is a "responsible pet owner" and that the pet is suitable for the property
- can't charge an additional non-refundable fee to the pet-owner
The landlord could choose to up the deposit to cover any potential unforeseen expenditure caused by the pet, but that deposit still can't pass the deposit cap as outlined in the Tenant Fees Act 2019.
The landlord's consent for pets is the "default position" using this model. If the landlord doesn't reply within 28 days to the tenants' request, the request will be automatically granted to the tenant.
What will be the new rules for pets under the Renters (Reform) Bill?
The Renters (Reform) Bill indicates that tenants can make a request in writing to have a pet in their rented property. A landlord must have a “reasonable” ground to if they wish to refuse this request.
Commenting on this point, Chris Norris, Policy Director at the National Resident Landlords Association (NRLA) said: "It still remains unclear as to the exact grounds on which landlords can refuse to let to tenants with a pet, so the government must provide greater clarity on this point”.
The Bill outlines that the landlord has to give in or refuse consent by the 42nd day after the date of the request. This can be delayed by a further seven more days if the landlord reasonably requests further information from the tenant. If the tenant does not provide the information, the landlord is not required to give or refuse consent.
What if the landlord refuses to allow a pet?
The government acknowledges that there will be situations where it will "always be reasonable for a landlord to refuse a request". This can be, for example, in a rent-to-rent contract agreement where the superior landlord prohibits pets.
If a tenant disagrees with the landlord's decision, or believes that the landlord has "unreasonably" refused, the tenant will be able to choose to escalate their enquiry to the new property ombudsman. This new redress scheme will aim to solve disputes between landlords and tenants without involving the court.
Will tenants pay for damages caused by pets?
As part of the Renters (Reform) Bill, the government will amend the Tenant Fees Act 2019 to include pet insurance as a permitted payment. This means that landlords can require pet insurance, to cover any damage at their property
Alternatively if a landlord has already taken out insurance, the tenant must provide means for the landlord to “recoup the reasonable costs of maintaining this insurance, including the premium for a policy that covers only pet damage and any excess fees.”
When will the changes be introduced?
The Renters (Reform) Bill must go through the parliamentary process and achieve Royal Assent before it becomes law. The government has indicated that rules for pets will follow a two step process:
- Step one: The government will give six months notice for when these rules will apply to all new tenancies
- Step two: The changes to pets in lets will apply to all existing tenancies at least 12 months after step one.
This article is intended as a guide only and does not constitute legal advice. For more information visit gov.uk.