Renters (Reform) Bill: Will landlords have to accept pets soon? - Total Landlord Insurance

October 31, 2023
Renters (Reform) Bill: Will landlords have to accept pets soon? - Total Landlord Insurance

Note: Articles on the Renters (Reform) Bill will be continuously updated as details emerge

Last updated 31 October 2023

Read an interactive and user-friendly version of this guide below.

Renters (Reform) Bill update: Second reading

Although the Renters (Reform) Bill was introduced to Parliament on 17 May 2023, there was a lengthy delay before the second reading of the Bill, which finally took place on Monday 23 October 2023. It’s predicted that significant changes to the Bill are likely during its next stage as it progresses through Parliament. For a detailed update on the likely changes, head over to our Renters (Reform) Bill hub.

Renting to tenants with pets: What has changed?

The Tenant Fees Act 2019 brought in a cap on tenancy deposits of five weeks’ rent and a ban on charging tenant fees. This had the unintended consequence of putting many landlords in England off accepting tenants with pets, as they were worried about covering costs of any damage caused. The existing proposal in the Bill that tenants would have the right to request a pet and should be able to challenge a landlord’s decision to withhold consent for having a pet, had therefore concerned some landlords. But following the second reading of the Bill, the Government has now confirmed that the Act will be amended to allow landlords to charge tenants for the cost of obtaining pet insurance. In addition, tenants will not have an automatic right to keep a pet in the property if the landlord initially refuses, as some had feared, unless the Ombudsman or court rules that the landlord acted unreasonably. A clear definition of “unreasonably withholding consent” is yet to be provided.

We will update this article again as more details emerge. Read on for more background to the current proposals on renting to tenants with pets.

Background to renting to tenants with pets

A quick search on Rightmove in any area of the UK for a rental property will reveal that many landlords don’t want pets in their property – 45% if official figures are accurate.

This has been a bone of contention for many years between landlords and tenants, with campaigners arguing that having a pet is a human right and that many people gain huge benefits from improved mental health from having a cat or dog in their home.

The Government has moved cautiously on this, though. In 2021 the ‘model contract’ that landlords are encouraged to use when creating tenancies was re-issued with a clause requiring consent for pets to be the default position and for landlords to object in writing within 28 days of a written pet request from a tenant giving ‘a good reason’.

The contract now says:

“A tenant must seek the prior written consent of the landlord should they wish to keep pets or other animals at the property. A landlord must not unreasonably withhold or delay a written request from a Tenant without considering the request on its own merits. The landlord should accept such a request where they are satisfied the tenant is a responsible pet owner and the pet is of a kind that is suitable in relation to the nature of the premises at which it will be kept.”

But the Model Tenancy Agreement is not compulsory, so the Renters (Reform) Bill is to go further, turning this ‘model’ into law.

Last year the Government said:

“We will legislate to ensure landlords do not unreasonably withhold consent when a tenant requests to have a pet in their home, with the tenant able to challenge a decision.”

It’s important to note that this law doesn’t mean all landlords will be forced to accept pets. Tenants must make their request in writing and the landlord can refuse if they have a reasonable objection – for instance, if the property’s lease prohibits pets or if they don’t feel the property is suitable for the proposed type of pet, e.g. if a tenant wants to have a large dog in a small, one-bedroom flat and they are out at work during the day.

Alongside this, the Government will make it easier for landlords to accept pets by amending the Tenant Fees Act 2019 to include pet insurance as a permitted payment. As noted above, the Government confirmed this at the second reading of the Bill in October 2023.

“This means landlords will be able to require pet insurance, so that any damage to their property is covered. We will continue to work with landlords and other groups to encourage a common-sense approach.”

Eddie Hooker, founder and CEO of Total Landlord, said:

“There is a need for clear debate on this difficult subject and we are looking to take a lead in developing such options for pet-friendly tenants and landlords. A choice between a pet deposit or insurance, or even a combination of the two, would aim to strike a fair balance between supporting tenants with pets and providing adequate security for the landlord.”

For more advice on renting to tenants with pets, read mydeposits guide, Pet rent and pet deposits: A landlord’s guide to lets for pets.

For more insights on the Renters (Reform) Bill, listen to a special episode of The Property Cast with Sean Hooker, Head of Redress at the Property Redress Scheme, and leading property expert Kate Faulkner OBE, who share their initial reactions to the Renters (Reform) Bill – will it deliver what tenants need and will it have unintended consequences? Tune in to find out what the experts think.

Keep up to date on the Renters (Reform) Bill

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You can also visit Total Landlord's Renters (Reform) Bill hub which will be regularly updated as more details emerge.

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