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Landlords, Tenants and Pets in Rented Property

The Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) bill will seek to eradicate “no pet” clauses in tenancy agreements

As a person who grew up with all manner of domestic animals in the family, I am in no doubt about the benefit a pet brings to my own mental and physical wellbeing.

As a landlord, I can also see how a responsible pet owner translates into a responsible tenant. In fact, my firsthand experience as a landlord with a tenant who kept a pet, indicated that the pet in question played a significant part in extending the length of the tenancy. My tenant renewed her tenancy for several years purely because I was agreeable to her continuing to keep a pet in the property and it saved her the anguish of being rejected as a tenant at a new property. As a result, I enjoyed the benefit of a long term, good quality tenant and I avoided the costly vacant periods that often occur between changing tenancies.

Having said that however, I am yet to be convinced that a piece of legislation that ‘bans’ landlords from rejecting occupiers who wish to introduce a pet into the tenancy, is workable.

The Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) bill, which was introduced in October 2020 aims to do just that. The bill, known as Jasmine’s Law, will seek to eradicate “no pet” clauses in tenancy agreements, by making them ‘unfair’. The thinking being that this will ensure that existing pet owners are in a better position to find a home.

Tory MP, Andrew Rosindell, who has proposed the new bill is keen to point out that it is not without its caveats. Rosindell told the National Residential Landlords Association: “The bill will include measures to ensure that pets are suitable for the type of accommodation”.

What those measures might be, remains to be seen.

Will the bill propose parameters for gauging the size of the pet in relation to the size of the property? Will the bill put an onus on the occupier to ‘prove’ they are ‘responsible and caring’ before the landlord’s obligation to accept the pet is invoked? And how does a landlord or the landlord’s agent properly determine that the tenant is ‘responsible and caring’ or whether the pet is ‘appropriate for the property’, if the pet is a desire that is yet to materialise?

How will the bill address situations where a landlord grants consent to one specific animal only to find that the tenant later replaced that pet with an entirely different pet or even multiple pets?

Then there is the question of how the threat of possible noise or actionable nuisance claims against the landlord, particularly in a multi-tenanted block, should be addressed. The restrictive covenants in most Leasehold Agreements put the onus on landlords to ensure everyone in a multi-let abides by the same rules. If a neighbour raises a complaint or suggests that the lease is being breached by the landlord’s tenant’s pet, will the landlord have the right to insist that the pet be removed from the property in order to protect his position as a Leaseholder? Arguments on how much nuisance may be acceptable before a breach arises do seem inevitable and if the answer to this particular question is ‘yes’, then is it not likely that the tenant will have to consider giving up the beloved pet or leave the property with their pet is such cases and will this not simply perpetuate the situation that the bill seeks to eliminate?

*The screening questions listed below may help alleviate some of the problems and therefore they really should be answered before a landlord is asked to consider a pet in the property:

  • What type and breed of pet do you have?
  • How long have you owned your pet?
  • How old is the pet?
  • If applicable, has the pet been spayed or neutered?
  • If applicable, is the pet microchipped? If not, does it wear an identification tag?
  • Is the pet insured?
  • Is the pet legally allowed to be kept as a pet in the United Kingdom?
  • Is the pet registered with a local veterinarian?
  • If applicable, is the pet registered with the local authority?
  • Has there been any damage caused or complaints made about your pet at your current address? If so, please provide details.
  • Does your pet have any medical or behavioural problems? If so, what treatment or training are you using?
  • Who will care for your pet when you are on holiday or during a medical emergency?
  • Can you provide a written reference for your pet from your current landlord?

The questions about previous damage caused or complaints made about the pet or whether the pet has any medical or behavioural problems are not likely to be met with a frank and honest response on every occasion so you’d be forgiven for asking what does the bill proposes when these questions are not answered honestly?

It seems that there are far more questions to consider before this change can become a reality but hopefully, the scheduled second reading of the bill will allow MPs the opportunity to debate all these questions. Nevertheless, it does seem likely to go ahead as the new version of the Government’s recommended tenancy contract, the Model Tenancy Agreement, already sets out consent for pets as the default position.

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