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Can landlords refuse pets in their property?

by | Nov 21, 2022

Home $ Property Management for landlords $ Rent from Private Landlords Not Agents $ Can landlords refuse pets in their property?

Introduction

You may have had a cat in the past who caused trouble to a property or perhaps a dog who has chewed up the furniture. Horror stories like this are why landlords generally prefer not to have pets in their properties. 

Nonetheless, there are many renters across the UK who have pets but are able to find a suitable landlord and property to accommodate their furry friends. So read on below how you can find the best property for you and how a landlord can use their rights to enforce rules legally so you know you aren’t being taken advantage of.

How to rent a property to tenants with pets

Generally, a private landlord is entirely within their rights to refuse a tenant into their property if they have a pet. However, sometimes taking these additional regulations to refuse a tenant who has pets can be restrictive and just harm the pool of tenants you can have in your property.

It is a good idea to obtain some sort of referencing from the pet to see if it will actually become a risk to the property before you refuse a tenant. Asking questions like the age of the pet, how long the owner has had them and the number of animals there are is all a good idea to get an idea of the risk involved to a property.

A dog in a house with a tenant

Is it legal to refuse to rent a property to tenants with pets?

Yes, just like a landlord can refuse a tenant access to their property because they don’t have the right referencing according to their standards. Having a pet can be part of these standards which will deny a tenant from being able to rent.

There are no rules specifically around pets although it is common for landlords to be able to legally charge an extra tenancy deposit if there is a pet in case there is damage from the pet throughout the tenancy.

It is also legal for a landlord to charge extra rent in a property that has pets when working out how much rent to charge. This is because things like fur removal treatment from carpets and de-fleeing are all expensive services a landlord has to provide if the pet does cause this damage.

How do tenancy deposits work with pets?

Under the law, a landlord can collect up to 5 weeks’ rent from a tenant before they move into a property. As well as this rent, if there is a pet that is seen to be high risk for the property, they can collect an additional pet deposit to safeguard against the risk of the property becoming damaged. However, if a landlord asks a tenant to pay for the cleaning of a property outright without taking it from their deposit this may be against the law.

What do landlords need to know when it comes to pets and rent?

Under new legislation in England, while landlords can still provide a tenant with a good reason to not rent their property to them if they have a pet and get away with it, the introduction of the model tenancy agreement is an agreement that makes it a bit harder for landlords to completely abuse their power.

The agreement means that all tenancies must have a default option to allow pets and when a tenant asks to move in to the property, the landlord has 28 days to provide a written reason for the denial of their tenancy application regarding the pet.

Examples may include there is expensive furniture in the property that is able to be chewed by dogs or there is carpeting in the property that cannot be cleaned easily for animals that shed hair. 

However, because of the range of reasons a landlord can give, it is still hard for tenants to find suitable properties simply because the landlord is able to dismiss applications quite easily. As of 2020, just 7% of landlords advertise their property as pet friendly which is where a tenant is able to move in to the property without any pet referencing. 

Because pet damage is hard to cover as an allowable landlord expense, landlords remain sceptical about including animals in their property.

On top of this, the model tenancy agreement is entirely invalid if there is a no pet clause in the property in the first place so the agreement can only be used on certain properties and even with those properties there isn’t even an option too.

It is important that a tenant doesn’t lie about having pets in a property as this can be a breach of a tenancy agreement and this could therefore result in a section 8 notice that can have the tenant evicted and the landlord regaining possession of a property.

Nonetheless, this will not be a mandatory ground for eviction so the matter will still have to be settled at a local court.

A landlord repairing damage to their property from a tenant’s pet

Is the number of pets in properties increasing?

Especially throughout the pandemic, there has been a large increase in the number of pet owners. Especially those who own dogs and cats. Unfortunately, these are also the pets that cause the most damage to property and end up making landlords sceptical about bringing in tenants with pets.

As a result, with so few landlords already being open to tenants in their property, it is becoming increasingly harder for pets and their owners to find a lettable home.

As a result, many are turning to other forms of tenancy agreements such as lodging agreements or they are even giving up their pets to pet homes in desperation to find a property. This is something the government is trying to combat with things like model tenancy agreements seen here but it is still hard to enforce these regulations as it is only fair a landlord is able to protect the welfare of their property.

Are rules changing in the future?

There are still talks in parliament for there to be fairer rules for pet owners. The government acknowledges that the UK is a nation of pet lovers and there needs to be more done to protect tenant’s rights.

This has resulted in the abolishment of the no pet clause which is set to be written into legislation in May 2023 under the Renters Reform Bill. However, there are also new rules for tenants too who have to make things easier for the landlord in the first place.

For example, a pet owner must have an animal guardianship certificate from a vet. This shows that the pet is under good care for the owner and they therefore won’t be neglected which increases the chance of a property having damage due to restless pets.

On the other hand, there will be the right to reserve the right to house a tenant with pets for landlords if the landlord can prove that they have medical or religious reasons to not let their property out to a tenant. Also, unsuitable properties such as those that are too small to house a larger pet will also be a legitimate reason for the refusal of pets in a property.

Because of these changes, it is likely the entire property industry will adapt and people like letting agents will be forced to be well versed on the topic and collaborate with landlords and perhaps landlord associations to know what properties are able to be let out with pets or not. Ultimately, the rule changes will mean landlords may also charge higher rents in general because of the additional risk they are taking on.

However, for the tenant who has a well-behaved pet who they know doesn’t harm a property and never has, it is a difficult situation to be in because there is little acknowledgement given for those who take good care of their pets and take the time to train it well to reduce the damage that can be done to a property.

A landlord training their pet to prevent damage to a property

What if the tenant needs a guide dog?

If it is fair to ban animals from a property because of the potential damage that can be done to a property, do the same rules apply to the service animals that keep tenants safe?

The answer is if you can prove you need a service animal, the landlord has to accommodate this otherwise it can be seen as discrimination against those who have disabilities. This is seen as a landlord making “reasonable adjustments” for tenants.

You would have to provide the correct legal documentation such as a doctor’s note or a BD8 certificate to show that you are registered as bling by a local authority. However, this is not that bad for landlords because the service animals that help people are generally very well trained.

Having said this, not all properties are suitable for animals like this so it may still be the case a tenant who has a service animal isn’t able to let the property and the landlord can refuse just because of the animals requirements.

What does a tenancy agreement need to say to refuse pets?

The process of refusing pets for landlords is quite simple. You would have to just include somewhere on the agreement that there is a no-pet clause.

It would be useful to state what would happen if there was a breach in this part of the tenancy agreement as well as any allowance the landlord is willing to make for certain types of pets such as smaller animals and for those who are needing service animals.

What should a landlord do if they decide to allow pets?

Taking on a pet into a property carries additional risk. The most important thing a landlord should do if they do decide to let out a property to tenants with pets is to do pet referencing. If a tenant can do landlord referencing to protect themself, then so should a landlord be able to protect your property.

Asking for the age, type, breed, training, and previous home of the pet in question and also potentially looking at the history of the tenant to see if they have had pet problems in the past will all help protect a landlord.

In addition to this, if a landlord is a freeholder who owns the land that the property is on and their tenant is the person who owns the property on the land, they may be able to issue a no pet clause with a dilapidations fee if the tenant leaves the property without taking good care of it.

For example, if the property or the land the property is on is damaged in any way, the landlord can then charge a fee to prevent this from happening again and cover for costs associated with getting the home back up to standard like changing damaged furniture or locks on the doors caused by pet damage.

What is the best landlord insurance for tenants with pets?

There are a range of companies that offer insurance for tenants with pets. The cover may include pet damage in a broader landlord cover or it may just include pet cover by itself. Typically though, you can expect to find things like loss of rent cover, contents insurance and landlord’s liability cover in landlords insurance which all help a landlord keep as much money in their pocket as they can.

This will usually be lumped in with pet insurance coverage but it is still important to do your own research as you may be able to find better or cheaper cover depending on your situation. Doing a quick google search may be the best way to find pet insurance but there are also some well-known companies such as Endsleigh, Alan Boswell Group or the British Pet insurance company found here.

A girl who is a tenant and her dog in a property

In summary

Looking at things in the bigger picture, it is without question that renting a property to tenants carries additional risk. And with changing laws around the topic it is clear that landlords have to stay informed about legislation and know what their responsibilities are.

On top of this, knowing when you can refuse a tenant with pets and when you cannot is vital because if you do this to the wrong tenant such as a disabled tenant who has a service animal you could face a fine or a court case for discrimination. It is always best to read legislation in detail.

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andreas gerazis

Andreas Gerazis

Experienced landlord

Andreas is a certified landlord with extensive knowledge about the UK property market as he has been actively investing for half a decade. Founder of the first three-in-one property management software, Lofti Proptech, Andreas has a brilliant understanding of the details surrounding what it takes to grow and run a thriving property portfolio.