Do landlords have to accept pets?

Finding somewhere decent to rent can be difficult enough – but what if you’ve got a four-legged friend to think about as well?

For years, people have been confused by the rules around landlords accepting pets – and now, there are new changes to take into account too.

What’s more, every tenancy agreement is different – with various rules for certain properties, landlords and animals – which makes it all the more puzzling.

Thankfully, experts have shared what new guidelines mean for tenants and what rights landlords have.

Do landlords have to accept pets?

‘The short answer is yes – unless they have a very good reason not to,’ says Vince Courtney, group lettings director at Andrews Property Group.

‘Renting with pets has often been an emotive topic and it can cause tensions between landlords and tenants. Renters with pets have often struggled to find properties that will accept them.’

Vince says the Government has now made changes to make it easier for tenants with pets to find a property, while at the same time offering protection to landlords.

He adds: ‘Under the Government’s new Model Tenancy Agreement, it will be easier for responsible tenants with well-behaved pets to secure rented accommodation. 

‘The new standard agreement has consent for pets as the default position. And landlords will no longer be able to blanket ban pets without good reason.

‘If a landlord has an objection, they will have to put it in writing why they are objecting, within 28 days of a tenant making a written pet request.

‘To ensure that landlords are also protected – after all not all pets are well-behaved – tenants will have a legal duty to repair or cover the cost of repairing any damage to a property that has been caused by their pet.’

However, while this all sounds positive, it’s not that simple.  

Ross Counsell, a chartered surveyor and director at Good Move, says: ‘Private landlords still have final say on who they rent their property out to, and can “discriminate” against people with pets if they wish. And although tenants can request to have pets in the property, as of yet there is no legal obligation for landlords to grant these requests. 

‘Hopefully, the future will allow Brits to find suitable rented accommodation for them and their pets.’

What counts as a ‘well-behaved pet’ and a ‘responsible owner’?

Chris Salmon, an operations director of property law specialists Quittance Legal Services, says: ‘These are by no means completely defined terms, but some of the factors that will be considered in a dispute are: has the pet been microchipped? Does the owner have a history of any offences related to their pet, such as fouling? Does the pet have insurance? Is there a contingency plan for the pet if the owner is unable to access the property for an extended period of time (such as a holiday)?’

For pets, this accounts for whether they are aggressive or destructive, or if they have a history of antisocial behaviour – such as excessive barking.

Ultimately, it’s down for the landlord to decide what a ‘well-behaved pet’ and a ‘responsible owner’ looks like.

Chris adds: ‘These terms are yet to be fully defined so disputes will result in an appeal to what seems reasonable rather than any knock down arguments to show beyond doubt whether an owner/pet is or is not responsible/safe.’

What landlord insurance is there for tenants with pets?

Tenants with pets are required to pay for any damage caused by the pet.

But landlords that rent their property to pet owners may wish to consider taking out an insurance policy that will cover accidental damage, too.

Landlord contents insurance often covers unintentional damage by a tenant’s animal.

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