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Daniel Chard from Bird and Co. Conveyancing Solicitors discusses the new rules for tenants with pets, and what this will mean for tenants and landlords.

For decades, landlords have had the right to refuse tenants based on their beloved furry friends. That said, with pets becoming increasingly more important in our lives, and with a mental health crisis on our hands, the government are pushing for change.

So, what will these new laws for moving house with your pets entail, and what will this mean for landlords and tenants alike? Daniel Chard from Bird and Co. discusses.

National Landlord Investment Show – MPU

What Were the Previous Rules for Tenants with Pets?

With the housing crisis as it stands, finding suitable accommodation to rent is tough enough. But for those who already have a pet, it is even trickier to find somewhere to call home.

In England, a landlord can only legally charge a deposit of five weeks’ rent. This restricts them from adding a higher deposit for pets. However, some landlords choose to up rents in case the pet causes any damage.

Everywhere else in the UK, landlords can request a pet deposit; an additional deposit on top of your security deposit which will be returned after your tenancy. This will cover any potential damage your animal may cause.

That said, in 2020 only seven percent of landlords advertised their property as suitable for pets. In these cases, they most likely included pet clauses in their rental contracts to allow for pets.

So, for over 90 percent of landlords, a blanket ban on pets of any kind was included in their contract. If a tenancy agreement included a ban on pets, getting one was reasonable grounds for eviction. This has, in reality, torn families apart, and some have even had to leave their dear pets behind.

What Are the New Rules for Tenants with Pets?

The coronavirus has been a turning point, as most people are still working from home and mental health has become a huge issue across the country. Because of this, the mental health benefits of pets, including reducing stress and anxiety and providing companionship, can’t be ignored. So, it’s great to see the government addressing this issue through providing stricter rules on landlord restrictions to allow for this remedy.

The Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill was brought forward by Tory MP Andrew Rosindell, and is a beacon of hope for lonely renters. The new rules were announced on 28th January 2021, and specify that tenants with well-behaved pets can move in with them, conditionally.

This all comes under the Model Tenancy Agreement, which is a voluntary but recommended government guide for landlords to follow. Under the proposed rules, tenants will need to pass a “responsible ownership test” before they can move in their pet. This would include:

  • Proof of vaccinations
  • Microchipping the pet
  • De-worming and de-fleaing
  • Ensuring the pet responds to basic commands

Although this means tenants won’t have an unconditional right to keep pets in their rental properties, it gives a bit of leeway for those stuck for somewhere to live.

What Will These New Rules Mean for Tenants?

This bill is a real triumph for people looking to move home with their pets into a rental property, but there are some drawbacks too. The positives and negatives include:

Positives of the New Tenancy Agreement Rules

There are many reasons the new standard tenancy agreement for pets will bring a positive change to renters. Some ways include:

  • Providing a friend during the continued lockdown
  • A boost in mental health
  • Greater immunity to illness
  • Taking pressure off the NHS
  • Reducing loneliness
  • Increasing pet adoption rates
  • General happiness and wellbeing should soar

Negatives of the New Tenancy Agreement Rules

That said, there are concerns that the bill might mean landlords choose to inflate rent prices, making the picture even bleaker for renters. To add to this, the agreement doesn’t really cater for tenants who wish to get a pet once they move in; how can they prove it’s well-behaved if they don’t have it yet?

What’s more, there are questions as to what makes a well-behaved pet. It’s quite subjective, especially if a landlord doesn’t like animals to begin with. How standardised will tests to deduce pet behaviour be, and how often will pets pass these tests? Only time will tell.

What Will These New Rules Mean for Landlords?

For landlords, the picture isn’t so positive; concerns over damage to homes will be the main problem. If this is the case, the agreement will bring forth a process of having to object to the pet.

They will have to do so in writing within 28 days of a pet request from a tenant. The landlord must also be able to provide a valid reason. This reason could include:

  • Property size
  • Issues surrounding the property, i.e. it’s a block of flats
  • It would be impractical to own a pet

Overall, the new rules could mean that properties deteriorate quicker than previously, especially if the property has furniture included. For example, fur might cover the property, smells can seep into the carpets and furniture, and scratches may appear on sofas. Because of this, landlords may have to rethink the layouts of their homes, and whether they want to provide furniture or not.

Ultimately, though, restrictions on pets are unfounded and, if the tenant can prove their pet is well-behaved and they are responsible owners, it will certainly help renters out.

Looking Forward to a Pet-Filled Future?

At Bird and Co., we love to see positive change like this. That said, if you’re an unhappy landlord looking to sell up with these new rules, we’re happy to help. Simply head to birdandco.co.uk for more information.

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Daniel Chard
Daniel Chard, Partner at Bird and Co. Solicitors

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    14 Comments

    1. When will politicians start to realise that property is a long term investment and the constant and ongoing landlord bashing is making it an unstable market.

      Invest now and your investment might be taken away by Government next year the way things are going.

      Who wants to invest in a market where the rules change about 3-4 times are year – never in the favour of landlords!!.

      This will encourage significant hikes in rent and landlords will demand guarantors to counter the risks imposed and give them some chance of recovering debts.

      I conclude the Government is round the preverbial bend!

      Moreover, who in the right mind would ever want to follow any Government guidelines when those setting them are from a different planet.

    2. I agree Will, such as Jenrick do not have a clue of the realities of being an owner of rented property.

      There are at present thousands of tenants playing the system, landlords owed multiples of thousands in unpaid rent and unable to do any other than sit on the sidelines whilst tenants in many cases are receiving rental payments via UC yet not paying any rent. plus a lot of chancers just piling in because of the Covid epidemic.

      The latest additions to the totally unfair catalogue of restrictions on dealing with this are not just the nowminimum six months notice (again to people who are months and years in arrears) but proposing anyone with so say mental health issues etc gets a stay of indeterminate length, all paid for by the property owner who in many cases is facing very severe financial hardship.

      All this from a government who are using the private landlord as a free accommodation provider.

      1. I am sure there are also thousands of landlords who play the system. Please don’t try to say that landlords suffer financial hardship, they enter into the property market usually with an idea of buy to let and charge inflated rents for inferior properties. Also if you can be an accommodation provider for your local authority even better for you, so sorry but no sympathy from me.
        Please also remember that all pet owners are not irresponsible.

        1. I agree. If you have the luxury of owning a property you are clearly not under financial hardship. Financial hardship is living pay-check to pay-check, coming from a background of extreme poverty, living with a disability, or mental health conditions. People literally die under such circumstances and any legislation supporting tenant rights is welcome. Having been ripped off as a student far too many times, it’s a relief, although a small one, to see such legislation passed. Landlords complaining about changes to legislation need to get a grip. As far as I’m aware these changes aren’t even legally binding and merely recommendations.

    3. Clearly this is a one sided approach from the tenant’s view.

      I experienced a tenant who bought a cat while renting from me; the cat scratched away much wallpaper and, unknown at the time, left cat flea eggs in the carpets, which hatched and plagued the next tenant.

      A neighbor, single mother, inherited her mother’s house and rented it out; the tenant brought (without warning) a dog which she proceeded to exercise in the back garden, which it ruined using it as a toilet and regularly brought mud into the house ruining the carpet; all those items of mental health suffering applied to my neighbor – as to anyone whose property has been trashed by a tenant.

      You just have to walk down the street and observe those with pet dogs to see that the great majority do not train their dogs, landlords dislike pets for good reason.

    4. I am a private tenant who has a 2 year old boxer dog. I have a beautiful home and a fantastic dog I pay all my rent in time part housing benefit and a substantial amount I pay for myself from my benefits as I am living with an incurable illness. So please don’t assume that all dog owners are the same as I have seen families with children who behave like animals at best but no landlord would refuse to have children in their house so an automatic refusal is very unfair which is exactly what happened yesterday when I applied for a bungalow as I’m in a house at present and struggling with the stairs and my illness if anything I have always improved the house I live in I have excellent references for myself and my dog no rent arrears and clearly I’m a NO GOOD TENANT without even having asked for my name that in my opinion is discrimination

    5. If someone wants a cat they should be able to, or a dog. Make them pay a non refundable deposit everyone is a winner.

    6. I foolishly agreed that my tenants could look after their mothers dog for three days a week as she was a career who lived in so wasn’t at home for those three days. They paid an additional deposit but when they moved out it turned out that the dog had been urinating in the house and whilst they mopped it up, it had seeped under the wooden flooring and into the underlay. The deposit nowhere near covered the fact that all the downstairs skirting and architrave had to be taken off so the flooring could be taken up.

      Successive governments have made it a nightmare for landlords affording rights so tenants can get away with not paying rent for months on end and now denying landlords the right to say what can happen in their property. Not all landlords are raking in thousands, I am fortunate that I inherited my parents house and rent that out and when I moved I had saved enough that I didn’t need my first home as a deposit and rent that out. I pay tax on the rental income and I have a buy to let mortgage that I have to pay so the returns aren’t that great. When my mortgage term ends I am likely to sell my old home (and pay tax on that sale) and probably sell my parents house and again pay tax on that. That will be another two reasonably priced houses that will be removed from the rental market, because the government aren’t looking after those who have stepped in because of the shortage of social housing.

    7. If this is now law, why is it not enforced?
      I’m recently divorced and looking for a home form me and my dog. I’ve found several homes around the country. But all have refused to accept a dog.
      I do accept the arguments of the landlords above. But some of us are responsible pet owners who do take a pride in our homes. I’ll readily accept paying a little extra. But it seems majority of landlords are just sticking two fingers up at this new law and nobody cares.

    8. We are a couple I our 70’s who lost their home after being caught in a scam and now live in a rented property. We have two well behaved dogs who are very well looked after and trained. I have won many obedience competitions and have rosettes to prove this. Also Good Citizen awards. We live far away from our family and health is deteriorating so could do with being near them however there are no housing association lists we can go on and could be years waiting for social housing. Years we might not have. My point is that when housing is available at auction, it is impossible to bid for them because of greedy people buying them up for their property portfolio. Local and poorer paid people don’t stand a chance! Their should be a limit on how many properties a person can have. These greedy people then charge rents so high that many have no option but to go onto benefits. Something thankfully that we don’t need to do. We have never owed a penny in our lives, don’t smoke or drink, are clean and respectable and our current landlords of 5 years have no complaints about us or our dogs but I have to resign myself that I will never be able to return to the place where I was born and where my children and grandchildren live. Once our 6 and 7 year old dogs die, it is time for us to go also.

    9. We’ve been renting houses for over 10 years. We have a cat that have been with us for 7 years and she’s lived with us at 2 different places so far. The cat came after a difficult times for our family, she brought so much joy to our life and helped us, especially our child tremendously; yes, pets really have positive mental health benefits. We got a permission from our landlord, never hid anything from her. After we moved, we got all our deposit back, no damage done by a cat, she was well trained and we took care about the house. We always pay rent on time and our landlords never had any trouble with us, we always have a good relationship with landlords. Generally, we that kind of tenants most of landlords would like to have, but we have a pet so non of the above matters because we can’t get over that blanket NO PETS that in practice still exists. Now, we have to move again and it’s impossible to find a place that would accept pets in the area we want to move. This new so called law, that is not really a law as it is not enforceable, didn’t help at all. Agencies don’t even talk to us after we tell them that we have a pet. I don’t want to hide anything, I’m open and honest. They don’t listen to any of our arguments, that we can provide references or pay more deposit. No pets, that’s it!

      1. I know the feeling, I’m also ringing about properties and as soon as you ask about pets they say they will get back to me and never do unless it’s a straight no answer. I dont think estate agents care and try to get someone with no pets. I’m just going to move in somewhere and dont even mention I have pets. It’s harder for the landlord then to give a good reason why you cant have your pets. Good luck

    10. We are in the process of buying a flat and whilst we don’t have a dog, our daughter who visits us regularly does have a well behaved Labrador who is her “family”. Does anyone know if visiting dogs count if the flat has a no animals policy counts?
      I know there has been a lot of discussion above about mean landlord, but often the policy (for flats) is set by the Head Leaseholder not the landlord.

    11. As someone who helps with a family members property which is leased out. First of all its not a cash cow with inflated lease demands, this is what is needed to cover the mortgage, the agency fees and damages / repairs / upgrades to the property. Landlords have so little rights when it comes to eviction to tenants who refuse to pay rent, they then have to cover all the cost of the damage and clean up. Landlords charge what they need to just break even and even then they rarely make a profit at the end.

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