Can Landlords Refuse Pets? A Guide For Pets in Your Property
Can Landlords Refuse Pets? A Guide For Pets in Your Property
Renting out your property to someone with a pet might seem risky. A tenant with an old, docile cat may pose no risk to your property, but an energetic Pomeranian chewing machine on the other hand… let’s just say you might need some new wall corner coverings! No wonder some landlords find it easier just to say ‘no pets’.
However, the current law on pets in rentals (UK) means landlords can no longer ban pets in their rental properties without a reasonable justification.
Despite these new laws, you could still retain certain rights over your landlord pet policy. Our wonderful property management services team at Flex Living has put together this guide to remind landlords of their rights and responsibilities when it comes to tenants with pets.
What is the new law on pets in rental properties?
The recently approved Renters Reform Bill makes it easier for tenants to bring their much-loved companions into your property by barring landlords from placing blanket bans on pets. In short, landlords can no longer ban pets in rental accommodations without a reasonable justification. In addition, tenants are allowed to challenge your reason for wanting to deny pets in the property.
In the media, there is an overwhelmingly positive narrative for tenants. Most articles suggest that the new laws mean landlords have no way to refuse pets in their properties. However, as a landlord, you should be aware of a few caveats to this government prohibition on pet blanket bans.
Can you refuse pets under the new law?
The current default position on pets and rental properties is that a landlord should rent to tenants with pets. However, if you don’t want to rent your home to a pet-owning tenant (and have a reasonable justification as to why), you must object (in writing) within 28 days of a written pet request from a tenant. This objection must contain a justifiable reason for your refusal to accommodate pets. So, what counts as a justifiable reason?
A reasonable objection to tenants having pets might include:
- Lack of space
- Your insurance policy
- Conditions of the building
- The management company of a block of flats does not allow pets
Non-reasonable objections include:
- Not liking dogs
- A bad previous experience with pet-related damage and a deposit dispute
If your reason for objection prejudges the new tenant and their pet, then you don’t have sufficient reason for refusing pets in your property. If you are really against having pets in your property, why not try doing a corporate let instead? With a corporate let agreement, you let directly to companies instead of individuals. This means the same laws protecting tenants and their furry friends don’t apply.
Can a landlord refuse smaller pets under the new law?
So what about smaller animals that are usually contained in a cage or tank? (Think reptiles, fish and hamsters). Unless clearly stated in the rental agreement, you cannot legally refuse a tenant’s wish to bring these pets into your home (unless of course ‘no pets’ is clearly stated in the rental agreement that the tenant signed before moving in).
Generally, when a landlord says they don’t want pets in their property, they usually refer to cats and dogs that risk damaging the property. Animals enclosed in cages and tanks, such as lizards, goldfish and hamsters, are typically considered low risk, and your tenant will probably expect the same. There are fewer ways to prove that these animals threaten your property or are a nuisance to others. Therefore, it is more difficult to refuse a tenant’s possession of these pets in the home. Of course, renters should still ask for your permission and communicate their needs if they intend to move in with a pet.
What other laws do you need to know?
a. The Consumer Rights Act 2015
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 bans ‘unfair terms’ in a contract. So, a ‘no pet’ blanket ban in a tenancy agreement could be struck out if challenged in court.
- If you do have a ‘no pet’ clause in your rental contract: you must back this up with a valid reason for rejecting a pet
- If you don’t include a ‘no pet’ clause in your rental contract: tenants can still ask permission to keep pets. A tenant could legally challenge you in court if they can argue that permission was unreasonably refused.
b. The Equality Act 2010
Furthermore, also keep in mind that the Equality Act 2010 deems it unlawful and discriminatory for landlords to prohibit tenants from bringing their assistance dogs into rental properties. So, even if you specify a ‘no pets’ rule in your rental contract, you must still allow a disabled person to keep their assistance animal to avoid breaching Article 14 of the Human Rights Act (Prohibition of Discrimination).
How to Set Your Landlord Pet Policy
With the new laws favouring tenants and setting pet allowance as a default, you must be very clear in your rental contract about what you do and do not accept. Below is a list of ways you can set your pet policy and prepare for a pet in your property.
1. State objectives clearly in your Tenancy Agreement contract
When advertising your property on the rental market, ensure you clearly state that you allow tenants to bring their pets. If you don’t accept pets (due to legitimate reasons like allergies or lack of space), ensure this is stipulated in your advertisement (and in your Tenancy Agreement contract later on).
Sometimes, the decision is taken out of your hands as a landlord. If you own the property as a leaseholder, approving pets is the freeholder’s responsibility. If the freeholder’s building lease contains a clause that bans pets, then you (the landlord) will be unable to rent out the property as pet-friendly.
2. Obtain a certificate of exemption
The Dogs and Domestic Animals Accommodation Protection Bill means landlords can restrict their tenant’s right to bring dogs and other domestic animals into the property if they retain a certificate of exemption. To avoid disputes with your tenant, you can obtain a certificate of exemption to prove you have a justifiable reason for barring pets from your property.
You may qualify for a certificate of exemption if:
- You or another tenant has a religious or medical reason not to be in contact with a dog or domestic animal
- The accommodation is unsuitable for the animal
A certificate of exemption could be provided for:
- Various dwellings within a building
- Entire buildings
- Specific breeds and species of animal
3. Ask tenant for a certificate of responsible animal guardianship
The Dogs and Domestic Animals Accommodation Protection Bill requires tenants who want to live with their pets to have a certificate of responsible animal guardianship. The goal is to help ensure responsible renters and promote domestic animals’ welfare. Tenants can acquire a certificate from a registered vet after completing a ‘responsible ownership test’.
The test checks that the pet is:
- Microchipped (in the case of cats and dogs)
- De-wormed and De-fleaed
- Fully vaccinated
- Trained to listen and respond to command
As a landlord, you can ask your tenant to show proof of this certificate for some peace of mind. You can only decline pet requests from tenants with responsible guardianship certificates if the pet is a hazard or nuisance to other people
4. Ask tenant for pet insurance
Since the 2019 Tenant Fee Ban, landlords cannot charge tenants extra fees (other than holding deposits and rental payments). However, the Government advises an amendment to the Tenant Fees Act allowing landlords to request pet insurance. If pets are fully insured, the insurance policy will likely cover any sudden or unexpected damage to the property. You could also try adding it to your existing landlord insurance.
Double check with your present insurance provider if your policy covers accidental pet damage. In most cases, you may have to take out a different pet insurance policy or see if it can be added to your current landlord insurance policy.
5. Ask tenant for a pet reference
If your tenant lived with their pet in a previous property, you could ask (but not force) your tenant to provide a reference from their former landlord. If the animal did not cause any damage at the last property, it is unlikely it will cause any damage to yours. If the tenant has not lived anywhere with an animal before, you could ask them to provide a reference from the vet (to ensure the pet is well-behaved and has had all of its vaccinations). You could also meet with the tenant and their pet before they move in to get a sense of the animal’s behaviour.
6. Arrange routine inspections
You could arrange regular inspections to give you peace of mind that your property remains in good condition while accommodating the tenant’s pet. However, remember that you must pre-arrange inspection times with the tenant, who must also be present at the inspection.
Benefits of renting to pet-owning tenants
If you’re feeling uneasy about the law on pets in rentals, remember there are benefits to allowing domestic animals in your home:
1. Gain access to a larger share of tenants in the rental market
According to the UK Government, only 7% of landlords advertised pet-friendly properties in 2020. Yet, with the rise in pet ownership since Covid-19, there is a significant number of renters needing pet-friendly accommodation. According to ‘Lets with Pets’ – a campaign by the Dogs Trust’, almost half of households in the UK currently own a pet.
2. Tenants may stay longer
Given the reluctance of many landlords to host pets, tenants who find a place willing to accept their furry companions are much less likely to leave. These tenants will appreciate your flexibility and willingness to accommodate their pets.
3. Attract responsible tenants
Owning a pet is a big responsibility, and many people take pet ownership rather seriously. Having a pet requires routine commitment, a stable income and a dependable personality. These are all desirable qualities to look for in a tenant!
Recent laws mean landlords can no longer ban pets in their rental properties without a reasonable justification. A reasonable justification may range from allergen concerns to unaccommodating building structures and regulations. You must clearly state ‘no pets’ and your reasoning in your rental agreement. Keep in mind that if a tenant needs a pet due to a disability (for example, a guide dog), you are legally obliged to allow their pet.
Allowing pets will open up your property to a broader range of people so you can secure a tenant quickly. If you are worried about the damage threat that animals pose to your property, you can ask the tenant to take out pet insurance, or even add pet insurance to your existing landlord insurance.
At Flex Living, our property management services team communicates directly with hundreds of London landlords to help them stay up-to-date with recent developments in property law. If you want information on another legal change that could affect you as a landlord, you might find this article on landlord electrical safety certificate useful.