9 August 2023

Pets And Residential Tenancy Agreements

6 mins

Currently, blanket bans on having pets in residential tenancies are permitted in law. Landlords consider this to be a reasonable stance given the potential damage to a tenanted property that can be caused by pets.

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Currently, blanket bans on having pets in residential tenancies are permitted in law. Landlords consider this to be a reasonable stance given the potential damage to a tenanted property that can be caused by pets.

A term within an assured shorthold tenancy may provide that pets are not permitted without the prior consent of the landlord and may go further and state that such consent will not be unreasonably withheld.

1. Current guidance on Pets and Residential Tenancy Agreements

The current guidance suggests that there should be no prohibition on keeping pets stated in a residential tenancy agreement but if there is then there should be an implied duty to act reasonably when considering whether to grant consent.

In the case of Victory Place Management Company Ltd v Kuehn & Anor [2018]  an injunction that had been awarded by the court at first instance to remove a pet dog was upheld by the Court of Appeal on the basis that the landlord’s decision not to grant consent for a dog to reside at the property was not unreasonable and that the exercise of the discretion in taking relevant matters into account and refraining from taking irrelevant matters into account had been proper.

However, questions are still raised as to whether such blanket bans breach the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and/or the Equality Act 2010.

2. The Rent Reform Bill

The Government announced their proposals to change the position regarding pets and residential tenancy agreements in April 2019 when the Rent Reform Bill was proposed.  Following further consultations and the Queen’s speech a White Paper relating to this bill was published in June 2022 on the GOV.co.uk website.

Originally, the main intentions of the Rent Reform Bill were to abolish Section 21 Notices and drive out rogue landlords.  However, the White Paper has set out further proposals with a main aim being to allow tenants to treat the house as their home. To achieve this aim a 12-point plan was set out. Point 11 of that plan gives tenants the right to request to keep a pet which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse.

Furthermore, Chapter 6.2 states that the Government will ‘legislate to ensure landlords do not unreasonably withhold consent when the tenant requests to have a pet in their home, with the tenant able to challenge the decision’.  Furthermore, if a tenant does request to keep a pet in the property the landlord must provide any reasons for any refusal.

3. Proposed change to The Tenants Fees Act 2019

This has caused concerns amongst landlords who often consider that it is reasonable to refuse a request for consent because of the potential damage a pet could do to their property.  As such it has also been proposed that there will be a change to The Tenants Fees Act 2019. Under the legislation, certain payments are strictly prohibited. It has therefore been proposed that the Act be amended to allow landlords to require tenants with pets to have pet damage home insurance and to make pet insurance a permitted payment. However, again there are concerns amongst landlords that a requirement for pet insurance is simply not sufficient.

The Rent Reform Bill will be proceeding and currently it seems that this Bill is set to receive assent and become law in late 2023.  It is believed that this will only apply to any new tenancies that come into existence following the implementation of the legislation.

In readiness for this change the Government has amended its model tenancy agreement. It is not a legal requirement to use this form of agreement however it acts as useful guidance as to how the Government intends to implement the Rent Reform Bill.

Clause 1.5 of the model agreement has been amended to take into account the following:-

  • That the tenant must seek prior written consent to keep a pet from the landlord;
  • The landlord must consider each tenant’s request to keep a pet on its own merits;
  • A landlord cannot charge a fee but can request an additional deposit providing it does not increase the deposit above the limit set out in The Tenants Fees Act 2019; and
  • Consent will be deemed granted unless the written request is turned down for a good reason in writing within 28 days of the request being made.

Landlords are concerned that this amended agreement is far too restrictive and that the universal deposit cap affords no greater protection to the landlord in respect of a property occupied by a pet and the additional damage that may be caused thereby, to those without. Furthermore there remain uncertainties in relation to the Rent Reform Bill such as whether it applies to multiple pets and what reasons would be considered unreasonable.

4. The Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill

Another bill that has been proposed is The Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill which also set out proposals to remove blanket bans on keeping pets and allow responsible pet owners to live with pets in any rented or leasehold residential property. This bill proposed certificates would need to be held in relation to certain pets, which would need to be obtained from a vet and certain pets, such as dogs, would need to be vaccinated and microchipped (the latter of which is already a legal requirement). However it is unclear whether this Bill will go forward.

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