Landlords are faced with many big decisions when renting out their properties – and deciding whether or not to allow tenants with pets has always been something of a catch-22 situation.
More and more UK households now have a pet, with an estimated 3.2 million pets purchased since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic alone.
And with younger people – those most likely to rent – driving that increase in pets, landlords across the UK look certain to face the ‘pet or no pet’ decision more often in the future.
Here, we’ll look at the pros and cons behind allowing pets in a rental property and explain the law in the UK.
What is the UK law on pets in rental properties?
There is no law around pets in rental properties and whether or not tenants are able to keep a pet is ultimately a decision for their landlord.
However, the government has taken steps to make it easier for tenants to rent with their pet by amending their recommended ‘model tenancy agreement’ contract.
Under the new model tenancy agreement, consent for pets is granted as standard – meaning landlords who use the standard agreement can’t ban pets outright.
Instead, landlords will need to object to the tenant’s request to keep a pet within 28 days and provide an acceptable reason for rejecting the request.
Reasons for not allowing you to keep a pet could include:
• The size of the pet against the size of the property being let
• The terms of the lease if the property is a flat
So, can I have a pet in a rental property?
Landlords using the new model tenancy agreement aren’t able to reject pets out of hand without a good reason for doing so.
But landlords who draw up their own tenancy agreements or use a different template, are still able to offer their properties on either a ‘pets allowed’ or ‘no pets allowed’ basis.
Why do some landlords not allow pets?
Although it’s estimated that only 7% of rental properties in the UK are advertised as ‘pet-friendly’, it’s certainly not the case that all rental properties reject pets.
And with the government’s updated model tenancy agreement now potentially making it easier for tenants to have pets, this could be a figure that’s set to rise.
However, landlords’ biggest reasons for refusing pets in their rental properties include fears of damage, noise, fouling and odours.
Tenants should consider these issues before asking their landlord for permission to keep a pet.
What happens if you’re keeping a pet without a landlord’s consent?
If there is a clause in the tenancy agreement stating pets are not allowed, keeping one could mean a landlord has grounds to evict a tenant.
However, under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, a blanket ban on pets isn’t enforceable without a valid reason for doing so.
All tenants have the right to ask permission to keep a pet, which a landlord can either accept or decline with an acceptable reason, such as the property not being suitable for the tenant’s pet, or the terms of a lease restricting pets.
Can landlords charge extra for pets?
Under the Tenant Fees Act, landlords are only able to charge a maximum tenancy deposit of five weeks’ rent for properties with an annual rent of less than £50,000 and six weeks’ rent if the annual rent exceeds £50,000.
Additional deposits for pets cannot be charged in excess of these figures.
However, landlords are well within their rights to charge extra rent to tenants who have pets, with a view to this covering the cost of any damage caused by them.
Are pets allowed in rented flats?
Whether or not a landlord is able to allow pets in a flat they’re renting out can depend on the terms of the lease agreement.
Unless a landlord owns the freehold of the building, they would have to abide by the leasehold agreement, which could state that pets are not allowed anywhere inside the building.
The terms of the lease, however, could state that consent is needed from the freeholder and sometimes the other leaseholders if a tenant wishes to keep a pet.
Who is responsible for pet damage in a rental property?
Landlords who allow pets in their rental properties should include clear clauses in their tenancy agreements stating that the tenant is responsible for any pet-related property damage.
Other clauses could also include:
• Guidance on acceptable levels of noise from pets
• The need for professional cleaning at the end of the tenancy agreement
• The need to keep gardens and outside spaces clean if pets are using them
• The need for animals to have regular flea or infestation treatments
The pros of renting to tenants with pets
Although many landlords are reluctant to allow pets due to fears over property damage, there are a host of benefits that come with letting to tenants with animals:
1. Tenants with pets are often happy to pay more in rent in order to keep their animals
2. Marketing your property as ‘pet-friendly’ can open it up to a larger pool of potential tenants
3. Dogs can provide good security
4. Your tenant is likely to stay longer if their pet is allowed to stay with them and this can also provide mental health benefits
The cons of allowing pets in a rental property
Landlords thinking of allowing pets in their rental property should consider the following:
1. Pets can cause damage, and this may not be covered by your landlord insurance policy
2. Smells and odours from pets can be difficult to remove and this could affect future tenancies
3. Hair from animals is also difficult to remove from carpets and any furnishings you supply and can be costly to eradicate
4. Pets can cause allergies
What pets should I allow in my rental property?
While the most common pets in the UK are cats and dogs, there are also other animals kept by tenants that landlords may need to consider.
According to the PDSA, 26% of all UK adults have a dog – the equivalent of 10.1 million pet dogs.
Dogs are the most common pet in the country, but also the most likely to cause problems for landlords through property damage or noise nuisance.
However, a well-behaved dog will more often than not have a responsible owner at the other end of its lead, and this can actually mean a rental property is looked after better over the course of a long-term tenancy.
When considering whether to let your property to a dog owner, landlords should:
• Find out how often the dog will be left alone in the property
• Meet the dog and assess its size against the size of the property
• Insist or ask for proof that the dog is vaccinated against major infections like parainfluenza, infectious hepatitis and kennel cough
Although cats are less likely to be problematic due to their size, there are things landlords need to consider.
They can spend a lot of time outside and this can cause problems with neighbours if the cat ventures on to their property.
Their claws can also damage furniture and carpets so, for both of these issues, a litter tray and scratching post should be provided by the tenant.
And if landlords do decide to allow a cat in their rental property, they should ensure the tenant has someone who will feed their pet when they are away.
While reasonably clean and little trouble, some birds require stimulation and are happier when in the company of their owners. Parrots, for example, are extremely intelligent and like lots of attention.
If a tenant is away from the property a lot, this could be a justifiable reason for refusing their request to keep a bird.
Birds also need exercise and should be allowed to fly around for a short time each day.
This could cause damage and, again, needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
While generally kept outdoors, many people now own 'house rabbits'.
As long as the tenant has a suitable hutch, there is no reason why a rabbit could not live happily in a rental property.
However, rabbits do like to breed, so if there is more than one in the property, it’s advised that the tenant has them neutered.
Rabbits also like to chew, so if the tenant's pet is let out, it should be done in a run to avoid damage to wiring.
Tortoises, lizards, geckos, spiders and snakes are increasingly popular as pets.
However, landlords should think very carefully before allowing a tenant to keep them in their properties.
Many of these animals require extremely special care and some, like certain breeds of snake, grow to become extremely large.
Question the tenant carefully if they request to keep these kinds of pets and seek specialist advice before making a final decision.
Letting to tenants with pets: A landlord checklist
• Check there are no pet restrictions if the rental property is leasehold
• Obtain a reference from the tenant’s previous landlord
• Meet the pet and observe its behaviour or responses to commands from the tenant in the case of dogs
• Request proof of vaccinations and termite treatment
• Suggest the tenant takes out pet insurance to cover any damage, thus protecting their deposit
• Carry out regular property inspections once the tenant and their pet have moved in
Staying compliant is key if you’re a landlord – our guide to new legislation on electrical safety explains everything you need to do to keep your tenants safe.
Our landlord tax guide, meanwhile, is full of useful information on the various taxes you may have to pay.