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Accepting Pets in Rental Properties: Insights from the Renters Reform Bill

Published: 19/06/2023


The rental market in the UK has long presented challenges for pet owners seeking suitable accommodation. However, with the introduction of the Renters Reform Bill, significant changes are on the horizon. This blog explores the proposed changes regarding accepting pets in rental properties and sheds light on the consideration period, insurance requirements, and exclusions to a ban on pets.

1. Consideration Period – 42 days

Under the Renters Reform Bill, landlords will be required to consider allowing tenants to have pets in their rental properties, and they will have a maximum of 42 days to do so. This means that landlords cannot automatically impose a blanket ban on pets without proper consideration. The proposed legislation emphasizes the need for an open and fair assessment of each individual pet request.

During the consideration period, landlords will have the opportunity to assess factors such as the type, size, and breed of the pet, as well as the tenant's responsibility and ability to care for the pet. This period allows for a balanced evaluation to determine whether permitting pets is feasible for both the tenant and the property.

2. Insurance Requirements

As part of the proposed changes, the Renters Reform Bill suggests that landlords should be able to request tenants to provide suitable pet liability insurance. This requirement serves as an additional safeguard to protect against potential damage caused by pets and covers any liability arising from pet-related incidents.
By requiring tenants to obtain pet liability insurance, landlords can have peace of mind knowing that any damage or harm caused by the pet is adequately covered. This provision helps mitigate the financial risks associated with accepting pets in rental properties.
What is not clear is how this would play out in instances where a tenant took pet liability insurance ahead of move in, and later cancelled the policy during the tenancy. It seems a more robust approach would be for the landlord to take out a pet liability insurance and charge the cost to the tenant.
We believe this will form part of the new statement of terms document that the bill proposes – we envisage this statement will be best placed inside the tenancy agreement for practical purposes.

3. Exclusions to a Ban on Pets

While the Renters Reform Bill promotes a more pet-friendly approach to renting, there are certain exclusions to a ban on pets that landlords can consider. These exclusions aim to strike a balance between tenant rights and protecting the property and other tenants:
a. Assistance Animals: Landlords will be obligated to make reasonable accommodations for registered assistance animals, even if they have a no-pet policy. Assistance animals, such as guide dogs or therapy animals, play a crucial role in supporting individuals with disabilities, and their presence should be permitted in rental properties.
b. Health and Safety Concerns: Landlords can exclude pets if there are genuine health and safety concerns associated with a specific pet or breed. For example, if a tenant wishes to keep an exotic or dangerous animal that poses a significant risk to the property or other occupants, landlords may have grounds to refuse permission.
c. Smaller Properties or Shared Accommodations: In cases where the property size or shared living arrangements may not be suitable for pets, landlords can consider excluding pets. For instance, a small studio apartment with limited space or a shared house with multiple tenants may present challenges in accommodating pets comfortably.
d. Superior Leases: where there is a superior or head lease that prevents the leaseholder (or their tenants) having pets, then this will supercede any exclusion on refusing pets.

Other considerations for Landlords

The changes regarding pets in the Renters Reform Bill may have some implications for landlords to consider:
a. Broader Tenant Pool
Allowing tenants to have pets may broaden the potential tenant pool. Many pet owners struggle to find suitable rental accommodations, so by being open to pets, landlords may attract responsible pet owners who are otherwise reliable and desirable tenants.
b. Increased Property Maintenance
With pets allowed in rental properties, landlords may anticipate a slightly higher level of wear and tear. Regular inspections and prompt communication with tenants can help address any maintenance concerns and mitigate potential damage.
c. Potential Benefits
Permitting pets may increase tenant satisfaction, leading to longer tenancies and reduced vacancy rates. Additionally, landlords may have the opportunity to charge a higher rent. The Tenant Fee Ban 2019  specifies that whilst a higher deposit cannot be taken for pets – 5 weeks rent is the maximum deposit that can be charged for any residential deposit in England – the Landlord may charge up to 3% extra rent per pet, providing a potential source of additional income.

Conclusion

The proposed changes to accepting pets in rental properties, as outlined in the Renters Reform Bill, aim to create a fairer environment for pet owners and address the difficulties they face in securing suitable rental accommodations. By implementing a consideration period, insurance requirements, and appropriate exclusions to a pet ban, landlords can make informed decisions that balance the rights of tenants with the protection of their properties. It is important for landlords to familiarize themselves with the evolving legislation, adapt their policies accordingly, and communicate transparently with tenants regarding the acceptance of pets in rental properties. It is hoped that embracing these changes can lead to a more inclusive and harmonious rental market for both tenants and landlords.