Government Model Rental Agreement Allows Pets by Default

By 3 min read • February 8, 2021

Landlords using the government’s model tenancy contract will now find they are saying “yes” to pets in their rental properties. Changes have been made to the wording of the contract, which removes the previous ‘ban’ on pets in rental homes. 

The new rules state tenants can submit a request to their landlord, asking for permission to have a pet in their rental home. Whereas previously landlords had the right to prohibit pets, without giving a reason now they must respond within 28 days and have a legitimate reason to decline the tenant’s request. 

Can Landlords say “No”?

Wanting to protect an investment from damage is no longer a good enough reason. Valid reasons to say “no” to pets include a small property with no garden being unsuitable for a large dog or a parrot is likely to upset the neighbours by making a lot of noise. 

There is also a higher risk of property damage when a landlord allows pets, and since the Tenant Fees Act 2019, landlords can no longer charge higher deposits to cover the cost of potential damage. This has led to a practice referred to as a ‘pet rent’ where landlords now charge a higher monthly rent to cover potential damage.

“Not being allowed to have a pet is just one of many indignities private renters encounter while trying to navigate the housing market, lifestyle choices shouldn’t be at the mercy of landlords, who should have a very good reason to deny their tenants a pet,” says deputy director, Dan Wilson Craw.

The Risk of Retaliatory Evictions

Dan Wilson Craw claims some tenants won’t want to ask their landlord about keeping a pet, for fear of being evicted. 

“To give this protection any teeth, the government must get moving on plans to reform tenancies so that tenants have the security and the confidence to ask for a pet.”

If pets are not something you want to encourage in your rental properties you can use a different tenancy agreement; there are other model forms available for landlords to use, including this one on the Law Depot page and this one on the Rocket Lawyer page. If you let via a letting agent and use their tenant finder service, they will sort all of this for you. 

Just say “Yes” to Pets!

Don’t be too quick to dismiss the notion of allowing pets. Pets are good for our mental health, and during the pandemic, pets have been a lifeline for many people stuck at home, isolated from family and friends. 

The National Residential Landlords Association is calling on the government to allow deposit rules to be more flexible, so landlords can charge more to cover the cost of damage if they agree to let a tenant have a pet. The NRLA also suggests tenants buy a pet insurance policy that includes cover for damage or pay for the cost of a landlord’s pet insurance policy.

Pet charities are advising caution where pets are concerned. There has been a huge spike in pet ownership since lockdown, but many families have rushed out to buy a so-called ‘lockdown puppy’ without giving much thought to how they will take care of the animal once things return to normal. Dog charities say a change of circumstances is the main reason why pets end up in rescue centres, often because owners are being forced to move into rental accommodation where the landlord refuses to allow pets.

Make an Informed Decision on Pets in Your Properties 

If your tenant puts in a request to keep a pet, give it due consideration. Weigh up the following:

  • Has the property recently been renovated with new flooring, etc?
  • Is the tenant a reliable type you’d prefer to keep if possible?
  • Does the tenant work full-time?
  • Does the property have a garden?
  • Is the property adjoined to another one, which might lead to noise complaints?
  • Does the tenant seem knowledgeable about pets in general (i.e. aware that pets need a routine exercise plan)

Don’t be too quick to refuse a tenant’s request to keep a pet. In the right circumstances, allowing tenants to have pets can encourage them to stay in the property long-term. If you do say “yes”, make sure you carry out regular property inspections so you can spot the signs of damage early. Read our comprehensive guide to pets in rentals if you need more guidance.

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