Pet friendly Model Tenancy released by UK government
The headlines published around this topic have been misleading. There has been no change in the law regarding landlords accepting pets in properties.
The government publish a Model Tenancy Agreement which can be used in the private rented sector where an assured shorthold tenancy is being entered into.
It is not compulsory for landlords to use the Model Tenancy Agreement.
The clause in the example agreement relating to pets has been changed from a blanket ban on tenants having pets to giving tenants the right to request in writing, permission from the landlord to have a pet.
The landlord ‘must not unreasonably withhold or delay a written request from a Tenant without considering the request on its own merits. (sic) The Landlord should accept such a request where they are satisfied the Tenant is a responsible pet owner and the pet is of a kind that is suitable in relation to the nature of the premises at which it will be kept.’
Ignoring the awful wording on this clause, the intention is to make it much easier for tenants to have pets in their rental properties. The full clause is below:
“A Tenant must seek the prior written consent of the Landlord should they wish to keep pets or other animals at the Property. A Landlord must not unreasonably withhold or delay a written request from a Tenant without considering the request on its own merits. The Landlord should accept such a request where they are satisfied the Tenant is a responsible pet owner and the pet is of a kind that is suitable in relation to the nature of the premises at which it will be kept. Consent is deemed to be granted unless the written request is turned down by a Landlord with good reason in writing within 28 days of receiving the request. A Landlord is prohibited from charging a fee to a Tenant who wishes to keep pets or other animals at the Property. Permission may be given on the condition that the Tenant pays an additional reasonable amount towards the deposit, but the deposit must not breach the deposit cap requirements under the Tenant Fees Act 2019(see section B10).”
The UK is a pet loving country, 41% of all households have a pet, 23% have at least one dog, according to statista.com; so it does make sense for landlords to welcome responsible pet owners into their properties. Landlords are of course concerned about the potential additional damage which could be caused by pets, and especially as they can’t charge deposits higher than six weeks’ rent due to the Tenant Fee Act.
Will this become law?
At the moment, the change to Model Tenancy Agreement is more symbolic than anything else, an indication that the government wishes the private rented sector to be more accepting of tenants with pets.
To create legislation to enforce this policy would be complex, defining what a ‘responsible pet owner’ is for example would be difficult; on the other hand, a policy like this would be popular with renters who make up approximately 37% of all households (ONS).
Theoretically, landlords can evict tenants who breach clauses in their tenancy agreements by having a pet using Section 8 during the fixed term of a tenancy. Unless the landlord can prove significant damage or other disturbances caused by the pet, the judge may well throw the application for possession.
In pre Covid times, landlords could easily evict a tenant using a Section 21 Notice after a the end of a fixed term. The notice for these notices is currently six months’ and courts are backlogged meaning that evicting a tenant using this method would be a very long winded and not worth the hassle if a tenants’ pet is not causing any issues in a property. Government plans to abolish so called ‘no fault evictions‘ (the use of Section 21 Notices), will put pay to the possibility of removing tenants in this way because they have pets.
In practical terms, unless a pet is very destructive or disruptive, landlords will have no power to prevent tenants from having pets in their properties.