Can landlords stop tenants having pets?

Figures from animal charity, PDSA reveal 90% of pet owners say that owning a pet improves their life; 94% also say their pets make them happy. But while pets can help ease loneliness and improve our overall wellbeing, as a landlord, a tenant's request to keep a pet can set alarm bells ringing.

To help you stay on the right side of the law, we look at what the current rules are for allowing tenants to keep pets in a rented property, and how that might change with the Renters (Reform) Bill 2022-2023.

What are the rules for tenants having pets in the UK?

Currently, tenancy agreements may state that no pets are allowed.

However, under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, contracts cannot include 'unfair terms'. With this in mind, tenancy contracts that include a blanket ban on pets could be deemed unfair and be challenged. In some cases, a tenancy agreement may say that tenants can have pets but only with your (the landlord's) permission.

Depending on the tenancy agreement you have in place, there may not be any mention of pets at all, which can make it harder to stop tenants from keeping pets.

What is the government’s model tenancy agreement and what does this say about pets?

The model tenancy agreement (MTA) has been put together by the government—but landlords are not obliged to use it.

If you do decide to use it, it states that tenants must ask landlords for permission in order to keep a pet. However, you cannot 'unreasonably withhold or delay a written request'. The request must also be considered 'on its own merits'.

It’s important to know that under the conditions set out in the MTA, the default stance is that tenants can keep a pet unless the landlord replies to their request within 28 days with a valid reason for saying no.

Is the law changing to let tenants keep pets in a rental property?

The Renters (Reform) Bill 2022-2023 aims to make it easier for tenants to keep pets. If the bill is successfully passed, it will mean new tenancy agreements will need to take a similar stance to the government's MTA.

Under the reform bill's proposals, tenants can keep a pet with approval from their landlord; the request should be made in writing. Landlords will need to accept or deny the request within 42 days of receiving the request.

The bill also allows landlords to ask tenants to have suitable insurance to cover any damaged caused by their pets. Alternatively, landlords can take out appropriate pet insurance instead and ask tenants to cover the cost.

When will the Renters (Reform) Bill 2022-2023 be passed?

The bill is currently making its way through the House of Commons, it will then need to be discussed in the House of Lords.

Depending on how many amendments are needed, the reform bill should become law around autumn 2024.

Can landlords stop tenants from keeping a pet?

Currently, landlords can stop tenants from keeping a pet, and tenancy agreements may even include this as a condition.

However, this could be challenged by tenants because under consumer law, contracts cannot include 'unfair' terms—which banning all pets without regard to the tenant, or their circumstances could be classed as.

Why might landlords refuse pets?

If you're a landlord already, previous bad experiences may cloud your opinion on tenants with pets, but typical reasons for declining a request, include:

  • Unsuitable property – the property might simply not be suitable for certain types of pets. For example, it could be considered unfair for a large dog to live in a small flat with no outdoor space.
  • Wear and tear – some pets cause more damage than others (such as teething puppies).
  • Increased costs – replacing chewed or damaged furniture and carpets can be expensive. Landlord insurance costs may also increase.
  • Irresponsible owners – not all pet owners clean up after their pets either inside or outside the property.
  • Risk of infestation – for example, from ticks or fleas.
  • Nuisance pets – this can be tricky as it’s not always immediately obvious if a pet is likely to become a nuisance, but a dog barking all day is probably going to pose an issue for neighbours.
  • Too many pets already – if tenants already own more than one pet, landlords might decline their request for more, especially if the property isn’t suitable.

What is considered a 'good reason' for declining a request for a pet?

This is very much open to interpretation, and you'll need to consider the request based on the tenants and their circumstances.

For instance, a good reason could be one that puts the welfare of the pet first. For example, if a tenant that works full-time wanted to keep a large breed dog in a small flat, you could say no on the grounds that this would be unfair on the dog. However, if the tenant arranged for a dog walker every day, that might be considered a reasonable solution.

Can tenants keep guide or assistance dogs?

Fundamentally, yes, tenants can keep assistance dogs but only if keeping it is considered a 'reasonable adjustment' to ensure the tenant's needs are being fairly met. This is because under the Equality Act 2010, landlords and other service providers must not discriminate against people with a disability.

Reasonable adjustments could mean changing a tenancy agreement so that a tenant could have a guide or assistance dog living with them.

Do tenants have to pay a pet deposit?

The Tenant Fees Act 2019, caps rental deposits based on the amount of rent charged each year:

  • If the total yearly rent comes to less than £50,000, landlords can only charge a maximum of five weeks' worth of rent. For example, if rent was £375 per week, the maximum deposit you can charge is £1,875.
  • If the total yearly rent is more than £50,000, tenants can be charged up to six weeks’ worth of rent.

If a deposit is already at the limit, then landlords cannot charge more if tenants want to keep a pet.

Does home insurance cover pet damage?

Home insurance (either for landlords or tenants) does not normally cover pet damage. In fact, most standard policies exclude it, but you can usually have it added for an increase in your premium.

Policies that include pet damage vary so don't forget to check what's covered, for example chewing and scratching. Some policies also cover damage caused by pets running into furniture (for instance, if a dog ran into a table and knocked off a vase).

You can find out more about your landlord obligations from our landlord insurance hub, where you'll also find a host of practical guidance to help keep your rentals running as smoothly as possible.