Housing minister Chris Pincher has caused a stir by announcing a change to the government’s model assured shorthold tenancy agreement that stop landlords banning pets from private rented homes.
Landlords can still object to pets – but they must have a good reason for doing so.
This article looks at the new rules and explains what they mean for landlords – and the result is not as clear cut as the minister would have everyone believe.
- 1 What is the model tenancy agreement?
- 2 What the minister said about allowing pets
- 3 What the model agreement says about pets
- 4 New law to make landlords allow pets?
- 5 Landlords banning pets FAQ
- 5.1 How many tenants want to keep pets?
- 5.2 Will the government change the law to allow pets in rented homes?
- 5.3 Does this announcement mean I have to let tenants keep pets?
- 5.4 Does the model agreement cover Wales?
- 5.5 Can landlords object to exotic pets?
- 5.6 Where can Guild Subscribers get a tenancy agreement?
- 6 More information
What is the model tenancy agreement?
The Model Tenancy Agreement is the government’s recommended assured shorthold tenancy agreement.
Free-to-use and drafted by government lawyers, the document is meant to provide an off-the-shelf solution for landlords renting out private homes.
The agreement covers landlord and tenant obligations to each other; grounds for a landlord taking back a property and reasons a tenant can end the agreement early.
However, the crucial point explained within the agreement is landlords have no obligation to use the document. That means the terms are not legally binding on landlords using alternative tenancy agreements.
What the minister said about allowing pets
The housing minister announced that landlords can no longer ban tenants from keeping pets out of hand.
The Model Tenancy Agreement wording says pets are allowed by default if a tenant makes a written request to keep one.
Landlords can still stop tenants from keeping pets but must offer a reasonable excuse for refusal in writing within 28 days of the tenant’s request.
Reasonable excuses would include a ban in smaller homes or flats where owning a pet might be impractical, said the minister.
He also confirmed tenants would still have the responsibility of paying for repairs to any damage they may cause.
“But it can’t be right that only a tiny fraction of landlords advertise pet friendly properties and, in some cases, people have had to give up their beloved pets in order to find somewhere to live,” he said.
“Through the changes to the tenancy agreement we are making today, we are bringing an end to the unfair blanket ban on pets introduced by some landlords. This strikes the right balance between helping more people find a home that’s right for them and their pet while ensuring landlords’ properties are safeguarded against inappropriate or badly behaved pets.”
What the model agreement says about pets
What the Model Tenancy Agreement says about keeping pets in a rented home is open to interpretation.
- A pet is not defined – the document refers to ‘pets and other animals’ and specifies the home is a suitable place for the pet to be kept.
- The wording calls for a landlord to be satisfied the tenant is a ‘responsible pet owner’ without explain what responsible means.
- Landlords cannot charge a fee to the tenant for keeping a pet and can increase the security deposit to tenants with pets, but still cannot breach deposit cap rules.
The agreement does have space for adding terms and conditions for the keeping of pets but warns they must not be unfair as they would not be enforceable.
Landlords should note the agreement links to Competition and Markets Authority guidance on unfair terms in tenancy agreements which was withdrawn in June 2017.
New law to make landlords allow pets?
The Model Tenancy Agreement is only guidance and has no force in law, but a private member’s bill currently before Parliament may change that.
The Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill is due for a second reading, although no date has been announced.
The bill proposes tenants must pass a responsible owner test before moving in to a rented home.
The test would be adapted for different animals and cover health, training and well-being certified by a vet. The bill also calls for all cats and dogs in rented homes to be microchipped so a vet can scan them before they move into a rented home to ensure they are vaccinated against standard conditions.
Landlords banning pets FAQ
Housing minister Christopher Pincher has only caused confusion by announcing a ban on landlords stopping tenants from keeping pets.
It turns out the new rules only apply to the government’s Model Tenancy Agreement and are guidance not the law.
How many tenants want to keep pets?
About 7% of landlords advertise pet-friendly properties, according to research by animal care charity the PDSA.
Separate research by the RSPCA found 44% of homes have pets – which adds up to 12 million homes with around 51 million pets owned.
Dogs are the most popular pet, with around 11.7 million owned, followed by around 8.1 million cats.
Will the government change the law to allow pets in rented homes?
It seems likely that the Model Tenancy Agreement has been updated in line with a change in the law that could come with the Renters’ Reform Bill.
The bill promises several changes, like scrapping Section 21 evictions and offering tenants a lifetime deposit in place of finding a deposit every time they move home. Allowing pets in rented homes obviously has the support of the minister responsible for seeing the bill through Parliament.
The bill has been delayed indefinitely due to COVID-19.
Does this announcement mean I have to let tenants keep pets?
No. The Model Tenancy Agreement is an option for landlords in England but has no force of law, so you have no obligation to let tenants keep pets.
Does the model agreement cover Wales?
No. Property law in Wales is drafted by the Welsh Assembly and there is no current national tenancy agreement. Some councils, like Ceredigion do publish their own documents.
Can landlords object to exotic pets?
Exotic pets can cover a wide range of animals, from snakes and lizards to lions and other big cats. Many exotic pets will need a licence from the local council as well as permission from a landlord if they are kept at a rented home.
Where can Guild Subscribers get a tenancy agreement?
Guild subscribers can download unlimited assured shorthold tenancy agreements (and other tenancy types) from our Tenancy Builder.