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Model Tenancy Agreement for renters with pets and landlords

View profile for Claire-Racheal Matthews
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Up until January of this year (2021), the usual position for a landlord and a tenant was that no pets are allowed in rental properties unless the landlord has provided consent, usually in writing and in advance.  Whilst this has undoubtedly been frustrating for tenants who may have found it difficult to find housing due to their furry family members, this default position offered the landlord some form of protection against property damage caused by badly behaved pets.
 
Whilst most pets are well behaved and trained, the concerns for most landlords of course are for those pets who are not so well behaved and the dread of the tenant returning the property at the end of the Tenancy Agreement with either severe damage to the property, which may include bitten skirting boards, ripped up carpets etc. but also as to the cleanliness of the property upon return.  Whilst it was previously possible to take a larger deposit in relation to a pet, since the introduction of the Tenants Fees Act 2019 which capped deposits at 5 weeks’ rent, this is no longer an option for landlords. 
 
For tenants who have extremely well-behaved pets, this general stance could feel difficult with some tenants undoubtedly having to give up their pets to find accommodation for themselves.  Whilst consent could be obtained from the landlord if that consent were withheld, this leaves the tenant in a very difficult position, potentially having to choose between a roof over their heads and a pet.
 
The Government have recently updated their Model Tenancy Agreement so that the starting position is that well behaved pets are allowed and the landlord would have to object in writing within 28 days of a written pet request from a tenant and provide a good reason.  Such good reasons may be things like large pets in smaller properties or properties where having a pet would be impractical.  This model Tenancy Agreement is designed for landlords to be more accepting of tenants with well-behaved pets.  It must be noted that these changes are not mandatory at the moment, this is only a recommended document, but it shows that it is expected that landlords are to be more accepting of well-behaved pets.
 
There is an emphasis that such position is only in relation to a reasonable ownership therefore landlords will be able to check for factors such as the pet being able to listen to basic commands, being up to date with vaccinations, microchipping etc. Landlords are not expected to allow badly behaved pets in their property.
 
As above, the model Tenancy Agreement is not legally binding, landlords may choose to issue their own precedent Tenancy Agreement, but landlords are being asked to adopt this new position.  But will it end there?  There appears to be an appetite for the campaign on the blanket ban of pets being unlawful rather than recommended. 
 
If you are a landlord concerned about what this may mean for you or a tenant requiring advice on this position, then please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Dispute Resolution team for expert advice in relation to this matter or any other landlord and tenant issue