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Hiding Pets From Your Landlord

It’s been said time and time again that England is a nation of animal lovers and with recent research conducted through lockdown showing that the amount of homes within the UK that house a fury friend has surged, rental accommodation could soon have to change its stripes on this historically contentious issue.  

Unfair Pet Clauses

Much to the reverence of pet owning tenants, landlords are prevented from enforcing a blanket ban on allowing pets into their rental properties thanks to the introductions on the Consumer rights Act 2015. This is not to say that any aspiring renter is automatically granted the right to enter any tenancy they wish alongside their fury friend, but as with most aspects of a tenancy, permission from the property owner is key. However, hanks to recent initiatives by the UKL government the rental landscape across the UK could see huge reforms in the way of becoming more accepting to our animal companions.

What Happens If You Don’t Tell Your Landlord About a Pet?

It goes without saying that if the occupants of a rental property proceed to bring a pet or furry friend into the residence after having permission to do so withheld by the landlord, or after simply neglecting to inform them, this will do little do bolster good relations between each party of the tenancy agreement. Of course, misleading the owner of the rental property in of itself may not be a breach of the tenancy agreement but if the landlord discovers this new fury edition to your home it is safe to say that they may decide not to renew the tenancy agreement at the close of the fixed term, perhaps serving the occupants with a section 21 notice of eviction.

With this being said, the landlord is likely to try and negotiate some middle ground with the tenants, perhaps requesting that they sign a new tenancy agreement that asks them to pay an increased amount of rent each month to account for the additional wear and tear to the property that can come with pet ownership. Similarly if the owner of the rental property is found to be enforcing their stance on pets within their let through an unfair, or illegal clause within the tenancy agreement, whilst they may try and issue the occupants with a section 8 notice concerning a violation of the agreement’s terms, this will not be upheld, but shouldn’t be dismissed by the tenants altogether and used as justification to bring a pet into their home.

Can a Landlord Legally Say No to Pets?

Despite the position of landlords and rental property owners across the UK being widely accepted, albeit criticised, on welcoming tenant’s animal companions through the doors of their property, they are unable to enforce a blanket ban on pets. But this is not to say that landlords have been widely accepting of these changes, with many resorting to charging their tenants a “pet rent”, or giving property owners another reason to take the maximum amount they can for the tenancy deposit.

Although landlords are certainly within their rights to do such things, these actions will directly conflict with the intention recently proposed reforms would make in an effort to make the UK’s rental industry more pet friendly. Thankfully, to the delight of aspiring renters across the nation, the Tenant Fees Act prevents landlords from charging their tenants excessive amounts when renting, also placing a cap on the amount they are able to request from their tenants for the tenancy deposit. Simply put, in most cases the rental property owner will be unable to ask for more than the equivalent cost of five weeks rent from the occupants of their property for the security deposit; however, if the annual rental charge is higher than £50,000 then are able to ask for up to the equivalent cost of six weeks rent from each tenant, creating another high financial barrier for renters to overcome.  

Additionally, in an effort to grant themselves further financial protection from the potential shortfalls of allowing an animal companion into their rental property, landlords have also adopted a widely scrutinised practice termed, “pet rent”. This is simply when a landlord decides to charge a slightly increased amount of rent to account for the limit that is placed on the amount they are able to take for the tenancy deposit to offset the costs of any repairs at the end of the tenancy. Whilst on paper this may sound like a practical solution, this comes at the immense detriment of the tenant as unlike if these additional finds were included in the tenancy deposit and entered into a government approved deposit protection scheme, as can be expected with rental payments, the landlord will not return these to the tenants, instead pocketing this additional income. Further to this, account for the fact that a tenant wishing to rent the same property would not be charged this extra fee and this precautionary measure seems to take the form of a tax on pet owning tenants. Not only that but this additional pet rent could be seen as a way in which that a landlord could avoid the process of withholding their consent to allow a pet into the property entirely, instead simply increasing the rent to such a degree that pet owning tenants are deterred from the opportunity and seek  accommodation elsewhere.

With this being said it is essential for landlords that let out a house in multiple occupation or HMO to consider that some of the existing residents may be affected by the introduction of a pet to the rental if they have allergies. Similarly, if a landlord has a pet in the rental from the outset of the tenancy, whilst the affect would be minimal, this would still bear an impact on those that would be able to rent the premises alongside those tenants in the future as again, they may be allergic, or rather understandably, simply prefer not to rent a space in close proximity to a pet. In these instances the owner of the rental property must make it indisputably clear to aspiring tenants that the rental also houses a pet, as they may otherwise claim they were uninformed.

This is not to say that there are no measures a landlord can enact before a pet owning tenant moves into their rental property. Similarly to the referencing process, rental property owners will want to assess the behaviour of the fury fried first hand before any tenancy agreement is signed. Naturally this will afford aspiring renters the opportunity to show they are responsible in their pet ownership to the landlord and dismiss any worries about excessive damage being caused, or a barrage or noise complaints being forthcoming from surround properties.

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The New Standard Tenancy Agreement

Introduced earlier this year as part of a government initiative to make private renting more accessible, the new standards tenancy agreement is tailored to empower pet owning renters to find a new home far easier than historically possible. Announced by the Housing Minister Christopher Pincher on the 28th of January 2021, this new set of regulations looks to revolutionise the private rental space, preventing owners of rental properties and landlords from adopting a blanket ban on tenants that wish to rent alongside their fury friends.

In defiance to the position many landlords have been seen to take over recent years, the proposed changes would see the default stance taken by rental property owners be that their consent will be given to aspiring tenants to move into the let alongside their pets. With this in mind if a prospective renter makes an offer on a rental property, the landlord will have a time frame of 28 days in which to voice their concerns and give proper justification as to why the tenant will not be able to bring their pet with them. These concerns will be considered legitimate providing that the landlord is able to show that the rental property will not be able to properly accommodate the tenant’s fury friend. To this end, if the rental property in quest is not of an adequate size or layout, the owner may have sufficient grounds to withhold their permission to allow pets into the rental.

With this being said, the changes to the existing regulations of pet friendly rentals does not blindly favour aspiring renters and does recognise the hardship that some  property owners can face when allowing a pet to reside in their rental. To this end any aspiring renters that wish to bring their pets along with them for their journey as a tenant must first amply demonstrate that they are a responsible pet owner. Whilst this may seem like a rather vague statement, this will act as a precautionary measure for landlords that do not wish to have their rental property defaced by unruly pets or neglectful ownership. The requirement a pet owning tenant must meet in order to be deemed a responsible owner state that the animal in question must be able to follow basic commands, alongside being vaccinated, spayed or neutered and free from any parasites.

Naturally the later of these requirements will be fulfilled by any pet owner that has taken ample care of their companion; however, the need for the pets within the rental accommodation to adhere to “basic commands” seems to fall short of the mark in regards to a few key considerations. Rather un-intuitively, what comprises these basic commands is left undefined, leaving both landlords, letting agents and tenets a large amount of interpreting to do, not to mention how responsive each pet is to these requests. Further to this, there is also little in the way of explaining the specific animals that would fall under these requirements, somewhat suggesting that any animal, be it a rabbit, dog, gold fish or feline friend would have to be adept in responding to their owners wishes.

Whilst this movement is yet to be fully taken through parliamentary procedure to be comprehensively enacted into law, these concerns have somewhat been addressed with proposals being made that smaller animals will not be subject to the same rigorous requirements and owners may only need to obtain sufficient documentation from their vets detailing the overall health of the animal and making a statement as to the quality of care it is receiving.

With this being said both landlords, tenants and letting agents must keep in mind that despite the widespread praise these reforms have been met with they are not yet fully enacted into UK legislation and therefore currently hold little weight. However, as it stands rental property owners are able to opt into this scheme and adopt the new model tenancy agreement  “early”; but this is largely redundant as the landlords that would readily do this would more than likely already be seen as pet friendly, leaving little change for aspiring tenants that wish to rent with their pets.

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