Legislation Regarding Pets in Rentals

Pets are now allowed by default in the government’s model tenancy agreement. Parliament is currently considering the proposed Renters Reform Bill.

Several changes announced in the Renters Reform Bill white paper will ease tenants’ ability to keep pets, including allowing them to request a pet and permitting pet insurance payments. Under the Tenant Fees Act 2019, landlords cannot request certain fees and tenancy deposits cannot exceed certain limits.

Currently residing tenants with pets

Only 7% of landlords advertised their property as pet-friendly in 2020 (GOV.UK). Some tenants must give up their pets due to the lack of pet-friendly rentals. To mitigate potential damage, many landlords allowed pets before the Tenant Fees Act 2019 took effect. As deposits in England are limited to 5 weeks’ rent, landlords do not have this option anymore.

Pets can be charged an additional deposit in Wales and Scotland, on top of the tenancy deposit, in order to cover any damage caused by them.

Tenant Fees Act 2019 amendment on pet insurance

In the government’s Renters Reform Bill white paper, it is proposed to “legislate to ensure landlords do not unreasonably withhold consent when a tenant requests to have a pet in their home, with the tenant able to challenge a decision”.

As part of the amendments to the Tenant Fees Act 2019, pet insurance will also be included as a permitted payment. Consequently, landlords will be able to require tenants to obtain pet insurance to cover any damage to their property.

Dogs and Domestic Animals Accommodation Protection Bill

In order to assist responsible pet owners in finding suitable rental properties, the proposed Dogs and Domestic Animals Accommodation Protection Bill was introduced.

While the bill aims to help responsible renters, it focuses primarily on domestic animals’ protection and welfare. It also proposes that pet owners receive a certificate of responsible animal guardianship in addition to being permitted to keep pets in their rental properties.

Registered veterinarians will conduct a responsible ownership test before issuing certificates, which includes:

  • Microchipping (for dogs and cats)
  • De-worming and de-fleeing
  • Required vaccinations
  • Ability to respond to basic commands

Also proposed in the bill is the mandatory microchipping of dogs and cats and the entry of all information about animals and their owners into a database.

Pet bill exemptions

Renters will not have an unconditional right to keep pets if the proposed bill passes.

Animal guardianship certificates are required for tenants who want to keep a dog or a domestic animal. Renters will not be permitted to live in rental accommodations if the animal or others nearby are at risk.

Certificate of exemption for renting with pets

Renters holding a certificate of exemption may also have their right to keep dogs or domestic animals restricted if the bill passes.

Such certificates may be issued if:

  • The landlord or another tenant has a religious or medical reason not to come into contact with a dog or domestic animal
  • The accommodation is unsuitable for the animal
  • Certificates of exemption may be provided for:
  • Groups of dwellings within a building or area
  • Entire buildings
  • Specific orders, families, species or breeds of animal

The landlord must object in writing within 28 days of receiving a written request from the tenant if they do not want the tenant to have a pet. There must be a valid reason, such as in smaller properties where pets would be impossible to keep.

Although the model tenancy agreement has changed, properties can still be advertised as ‘no pets’ or ‘no pets considered. According to the update, tenants can write to their landlords asking for permission to keep a pet, and the landlord has 28 days to object.

Tenants will still have a legal duty to cover the costs of any damage caused by pets.

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