The Well-behaved Pets Tenancy Agreement Guide The Well-behaved Pets Tenancy Agreement Guide

The landlord's guide to the 'lets with pets' tenancy agreement update

The Government says renters in England should now be allowed to keep pets. But what does this mean for landlords? Read on to find out how this affects letting properties

At the start of 2021, the UK Government announced it was making an update to its Model Tenancy Agreement covering what landlords need to do when it comes to renting to a pet owner.

In this blog, we look at the update and examine how it could impact landlords:

What is the Model Tenancy Agreement

The Model Tenancy Agreement is the UK Government's recommended contract for landlords and tenants. As a landlord, you're not legally obliged to use it, but it's a free, off-the-shelf option that you can download from GOV.UK.

Why did the government introduce the 'well-behaved pets' update?

The Government updated its Model Tenancy Agreement on 28 January 2021. For the first time, it makes it easier for people renting with pets.

Housing Minister Christopher Pincher explained the move by saying: "it can't be right that only a tiny fraction of landlords advertise pet-friendly properties, and in some cases, people have had to give up their beloved pets in order to find somewhere to live."

The housing minister also said the new tenancy agreement is designed to improve animal welfare and reduce the number of pets being given up for adoption by tenants that can't find anywhere that will accept them.

What does the 'well-behaved pets' update mean for landlords?

Under the Model Tenancy Agreement update, you're no longer allowed to make a blanket decision not to accept pets in your property. Instead, you have to review each tenant's pet situation on a case-by-case basis.

If you decide your new tenant's pet isn't suitable, you have to respond within 28 days explaining the reason(s) why.

What reasons can you give for refusing a pet in your property?

In the Government's announcement, there was no list as to what qualifies as a valid reason for not allowing a pet into your rented property.

However, it did say: "rejections should only be made where there is good reason, such as in smaller properties or flats where owning a pet could be impractical".

So, if a tenant asked if their giant St. Bernard dog was allowed in your 26th floor, gardenless studio apartment, you could reasonably argue this wouldn't be practical.

Is the 'well-behaved pets' update legally binding?

The update is only to the Model Tenancy Agreement. So, if you use that then you will need to comply with it.

But if you have your own tenancy agreement, then legally you shouldn't be affected by this update. Although, it could result in a change of attitudes in the private rental industry - and how you react to this update could impact you and your rental property.

The perks of being a private landlord that accepts pets

Over half of adults in the UK own a pet. Dogs and cats top the chart as the most popular pets, with fish chasing them down in third.

There's no sign of pet popularity fading either - in fact, the pandemic has seen a surge in people buying pets. The Kennel Club had a 180% increase in enquiries and the RSPCA a 600% increase in visits to its puppy fostering pages.

Yet, despite so many UK households having pets - only 7% of landlords advertise 'pet-friendly' properties, according to the RSPCA. This could be a huge opportunity for you.

By offering lets with pets, your pool of potential tenants grows considerably. This makes it easier and quicker to find new tenants and could reduce the time your property is vacant without rental income in between tenants.

The RSPCA's research also says that tenants with pets tend to stay twice as long as those without. This could offer you greater stability, while reducing the amount you spend on advertising and legal costs re-letting a property.

Some landlords also increase their rent for tenants with pets. In 2019, research by campaign group Generation Rent found tenants with pets were charged up to £600 per year more than those without.

Will pet-friendly rental properties cost landlords more money?

In theory, welcoming pets into your property shouldn't cost you a penny more. That's because the tenant - pet owner or not - has a legal duty to repair or cover the cost of any damage to the property.

This detail was reinforced in the Government's announcement: "To ensure landlords are protected, tenants will continue to have a legal duty to repair or cover the cost of any damage to the property.

To give you some added confidence you won't be out of pocket by allowing friends with fur or fins in, you could add a special pet clause into your own tenancy agreement. This will also give you and your pet-owning tenants total clarity about what happens if a pet causes damage to your property.

Though, if you use the Model Tenancy Agreement, you can't make any changes to the new pet clause as the Government says: 'It is intended to be used in its entirety without any deletions or other amendments.'

Keep on top of legal changes

Whether you use the Model Tenancy Agreement or not, as a landlord it's important to be aware of legal changes in the industry in order to make sure that you, and your tenants, are getting the most secure agreement.

To find out how our Landlord insurance can help you safeguard your property and tenants, click here.

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Added: 21 Apr 2021