Government removes blanket ban on pets in tenancy agreements: What does this mean for landlords?

Previously, landlords typically reserved the right to ban all pets in their rental properties.

A recent update to the Model Tenancy Agreement from the Government removes this blanket ban. This will be welcome news to many pet owners, as currently only 7% of rental properties allow pets. This article will explain the changes made by the Government and how this might affect new and existing tenancies.

On 28 January 2021, the Government introduced a new Model Tenancy Agreement. One of the most significant amendments made can be found at Clause C3.5, which prohibits a landlord from exercising a blanket ban on pets.

When does this clause take effect?

Plans to remove the blanket pan on pets in lease agreements through the Model Agreement were first announced in January 2020. The Model Tenancy Agreement including Clause C3.5 was introduced on 28 January 2021 and is available for landlords to use now.

What does clause C3.5 allow?

Under this new clause, tenants with “well-behaved” pets will be able to rent properties more easily. They will be made aware of their responsibility to ensure that their pet is not a nuisance to neighbours and will not cause undue damage to the property.

Does this apply to existing or new tenancies?

The removal of the blanket ban applies to new tenancies which adopt the Model Tenancy Agreement clause.

If an existing tenancy contains a clause prohibiting pets and the tenant does not seek their landlord’s permission before keeping a pet in the property, then the landlord may take action for breach of the tenancy agreement.

If a tenant under an existing tenancy agreement wishes to keep a pet in the property, they may consider seeking a renewed tenancy agreement with this clause inserted into the agreement.

How does a tenant rely on this new clause?

A tenant should make a written request to their landlord. The landlord must respond within 28 days if they wish to refuse the request and the landlord must give a good reason for their refusal (for example, the property not being practical for pets, or the property is too small for large pets).

A landlord’s consent is the default position unless otherwise stated in writing.

Landlord consent can be given on the basis that the tenant pays an additional amount as part of the deposit – however it should be noted that the limit does not exceed the maximum amount introduced in the Tenancy Fees Act 2019.

What protection is available for landlords who adopt this clause?

A landlord is prohibited from charging a fee to tenants who wish to keep pets at a property.

However, tenants will remain under a legal duty to bear the burden of damage caused to the property and will be liable to cover the costs of repair.

What happens if the property is a leasehold property and the lease prohibits pets?

A freeholder is permitted to include a restrictive covenant regarding pets in a lease agreement.

It may be possible for a leaseholder to argue that a blanket ban on pets is an unfair term of the lease where the freeholder does not stipulate that this is subject to their consent. However, if the freeholder has given a valid reason for refusal then this will be accepted.

Where there is no provision which allows a leaseholder to own a pet with the permission of the freeholder, then this is automatically unfair, and the clause can be overridden.

What about guide dogs?

The law regarding guide dogs is different. If a landlord fails to provide a strong reason for refusing to allow a blind tenant a guide dog, then the tenant could bring a claim against the landlord under the Equality Act 2010 for failing to make reasonable adjustments for their tenant.  

What are the consequences for a landlord if they do not adopt this clause in their tenancies?

This Model Tenancy Agreement is not legally binding – it is the Government’s guidance. Therefore, a landlord is under no legal obligation to adopt this clause within their tenancy agreements, meaning a tenant cannot take legal action against their landlord for not excluding the blanket ban. 

Written By : Celine Jagmohan, Housing Management Paralegal.

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