renting with pets

How the rules for renting with pets could change for landlords

The number of tenants that are interested in renting with pets has increased since the pandemic, and the rules on this topic for landlords are set to change.

As the Renters Reform Bill has slowly made its way through Parliament since its first reading in May last year, the news has focused on certain major changes that it intends to make to the private rented sector. These include the way evictions are carried out, changes to tenancy agreement terms, and more rights for tenants renting with pets.

Figures show that there has been a 120% increase in tenants requesting pet-friendly rental homes since the pandemic, yet according to a government analysis in 2021, only 7% of private landlords advertise their properties as such.

While that is not to say that a pet would not be accepted if it were requested at some of the remaining 93% of rental properties, it appears that if the Renters Reform Bill goes ahead in its current form, there is likely to be a sharp rise in the number of rental homes housing pets.

The existing rules on renting with pets

For now, landlords and property investors should be aware of the existing regulations and processes around renting with pets. While landlords in England are strongly advised against any form of blanket ban when advertising a property, they can technically include the term “no pets” in their listing.

Some landlords will have it written into their tenancy agreement that renting with pets is prohibited. The tenant does have the right to request a pet, though, but landlords are under no obligation to say yes.

The most common reason that a landlord would say no to people renting with pets is due to the potential damage it could cause to the property. Some properties – particularly flats – would be deemed unsuitable for pets such as cats or dogs, which is another common reason to refuse.

While it may be tempting to request a higher tenancy deposit for people renting with a pet, this is currently not allowed in England, as deposits are capped at five weeks’ rent payment. Instead, a landlord can charge extra rent if they want to, which is often done as a way of essentially insuring against damage or dirt caused by the animal.

However, tenants are not obliged to carry out professional cleaning or de-flea treatments at the end of a tenancy – they must, though, return the property in the same condition as they found it at the start of the tenancy.

The new rules

As yet, it is unclear when the Renters Reform Bill will be introduced, but it is a good idea for UK landlords to be aware of the potential rule changes around renting with pets when it does come into force.

Under the proposed legislation, every tenant will be able to request in writing to have a pet in their rental property. Landlords must then refuse or consent within 28 days, and once consent is given, it can’t be withdrawn. If the landlord wants to refuse, they must provide “reasonable” grounds for this, although these grounds have yet to be clarified.

As part of the Renters Reform Bill, there is also the promise of a new Property Ombudsman to help deal with disputes between landlords and tenants. If the tenant believes the landlord’s refusal is not reasonable, they will be able to contact the new ombudsman to deal with the issue.

Unlike before, in terms of covering the potential risk of having tenants renting with pets, the Bill will give landlords the right to request insurance to specifically cover damage caused by pets, which the tenant will be liable to pay.

A complex situation

Commenting on the introduction of new rules around renting with pets, Kim Lidbury, group director, property management at Leaders Romans Group, said: “The introduction of pet-friendly policies in rental agreements is a nuanced issue that requires careful consideration to balance the interests of tenants with those of landlords.

“Not all property types may be suitable for pets, for instance flats within blocks and properties without gardens. The Third Reading of the Bill recently included a mandate that tenants either maintain insurance to cover potential pet damage or compensate the landlord for the reasonable cost of obtaining such insurance.

“This is a positive step forward which does seem to address landlords’ concerns while also enhancing the lives of tenants and their pets. However more detail is still required to ensure that pets can only be requested in an appropriate property.”

Read more UK property news here.

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