Renting Property to Tenants With Pets
Can a landlord refuse to rent to a tenant with pets?
Landlord and Tenant News – Can Landlords refuse pets?
Updated in May 2023
Demand for rental property is at a premium. Almost as soon as a property is placed with a letting agent or on a website, such as Rightmove, the property is snapped up.
However, landlord and tenant solicitors are increasingly being asked if a landlord can refuse to rent a property to a tenant with pets or can refuse to allow an existing tenant’s request to have a pet in their rented accommodation. These are common questions as there has been a massive rise in demand for pet friendly rental accommodation, particularly those that will accept dogs following the COVID-19 lockdown related rise in dog ownership.
The Increased demand for pet friendly rental property is also causing a spike in deposit disputes at the end of tenancy agreements.
In this article landlord and tenant expert Nollienne Alparaque answers the question 'can landlords refuse pets?'
UK Online and London Based Landlord and Tenant Solicitors
The landlord and tenant pet statistics
According to Rightmove research, the demand for pet-friendly rental property has increased by one hundred and twenty per cent since summer 2020. Over the same period the demand for rental property increased by a more modest thirteen per cent.
It is suspected that the increase in pet ownership has also helped drive the rise in tenants looking for rental property with outdoor space. Rental searches for properties with gardens are up by thirty nine percent over the same period.
The Rightmove figures are to be contrasted with The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) February 2020 figures on pet ownership. Their statistics indicated that only seven per cent of private landlords advertise their rental property as ‘pet friendly’. If you are a home owner with experience of puppy training you can perhaps understand why so few landlords specify that they are ‘pet friendly’ in circumstances where a deposit is unlikely to cover the full cost of replacement flooring or chewed skirting boards.
Can a landlord refuse to rent their property to a tenant with pets?
In January 2021, the government made it easier for tenants to rent with pets by publishing a new standard tenancy agreement. This agreement helps pet owners through pet friendly provisions in the new standard tenancy agreement. This was followed by the Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill which is currently awaiting its Second Reading.
While landlords can still technically say no to tenants who would like to live with a pet, they are no longer allowed to issue blanket bans on tenants having pets. Instead, under the government issued model tenancy agreement and terms the default position on rental property and pets is that a landlord will rent to tenants with pets.
While the Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill proposes an outlaw on blanket bans, it does also outline that owners of the pets must obtain a certificate of responsible animal guardianship. In addition, dogs must be vaccinated and microchipped, and must be able to respond to commands by owners.
In contrast to a blanket ban, if a landlord doesn’t want to rent out their property to a tenant with pets, then they have to object in writing within twenty-eight days of a written pet request from a tenant. The landlord has to provide a good reason for their objection to a pet.
A landlord would have a good reason to object to a pet if, for example, the property is in a block of flats and the management company does not allow pets. The fact that a landlord does not like dogs or has had a bad experience with a deposit dispute in the past because of the previous damage caused by a pet would not be classed as good reason as that would be prejudging the new tenant and their pet.
Further updates and clarification on these issues were added as a part of the Renters Reform Bill, introduced to Parliament in May 2023. The latest proposed legislation provides tenants with the right to request a pet at the property, which must be considered by the landlord and not ‘unreasonably’ refused.
To support this, landlords will be able to require pet insurance to cover any damage to the property caused by a pet.
The removal of the blanket ban will only apply to tenancies once the Renters Reform Bill has been law. Existing agreements will not be affected by the change until a fixed term becomes periodic or a new tenancy is entered.
Renting to tenants with pets and avoiding tenancy deposit disputes
Whilst many pet owners have historically struggled to find pet friendly rental accommodation and have had to make the awful choice of rehoming their pet in order to find suitable rental accommodation for their family, landlords are saying that the new model tenancy agreement and Renters Reform Bill goes too far.
That is because the law has not changed on how much a landlord can request as an advance deposit. The law doesn’t allow landlords to ask for a higher deposit if a tenant has a pet and they are therefore deemed to be ‘high risk’ in terms of damage to the property, above and beyond normal wear and tear.
Whilst landlords can seek to recover the cost of repairing their property because of pet damage, most are wary of deposit disputes and don’t believe that even the retention of the full deposit would necessarily cover the cost of pet damage.
It is all very well for the government to say that tenants can be sued if the deposit does not cover the damage caused by their pet but the reality is many landlords are wary of starting county court proceedings where their tenant may not have the resources to pay the additional damages and legal costs.
This issue has been partly addressed in the Renters Reform Bill by providing landlords with the ability to require a tenant to take out pet insurance.
As landlord and tenant solicitors we have a great track record of resolving deposit disputes quickly and without the need for court proceedings. For an initial consultation call 0203 959 9123.
Renting to tenants with pets and pet rent
As a landlord cannot ask for a larger deposit because they are renting a property to a tenant with a Doberman or renting a fully furnished flat to a tenant with house cats, the landlord should consider the option of a pet rent.
Whilst a landlord can't ask for more deposit or require the tenant to pay for the property to be professionally cleaned at the end of the tenancy agreement, a landlord is allowed to charge more in rent if a tenant has a pet. That does make sense as a landlord risks higher overheads if the pet is not well behaved and causes damage to the property, especially as the costs of repairs may not be fully covered by retention of the deposit.
Some tenants argue that landlords being able to charge pet rent is unfair as it penalises the responsible pet owner and their well-behaved pet. Some well-behaved pet owners would far prefer to pay a larger deposit in the full expectation that their deposit would be returned to them at the end of the tenancy agreement, whereas pet rent is lost to them forever.
Whilst the landlord may also prefer a larger deposit to cover a tenant with a pet that is not an option because statute governs the maximum a landlord can require a tenant to pay as a deposit.
If you are not sure about your right to charge a pet rent or you are embroiled in a deposit dispute because a tenant’s pet has caused damage to a rental property it is best to seek landlord and tenant legal advice as soon as you can so you understand your legal options.