This information should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice. Read the disclaimer.
What does the tenancy agreement say?
The tenancy agreement (contract) might say pets aren’t allowed. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 prohibits “unfair terms” in a contract. This means a blanket ban on keeping pets in a tenancy agreement might be struck out if challenged in court.
Alternatively, the tenancy agreement might say the landlord’s permission should be sought if the tenant intends to keep a pet. In this case, the landlord’s permission should not be unreasonably refused. What amounts to a reasonable refusal will vary with the circumstances. For example, it might be reasonable to refuse permission to keep a large dog in a small flat.
The tenancy agreement might not mention pets, in which case it will likely be harder for landlords to argue that pets are not allowed.
Landlords cannot charge a fee for agreeing to a request to keep a pet and cannot ask for a higher deposit if this would breach the deposit cap requirements in the Tenant Fees Act 2019 (see page 41 of Tenant Fees Act – Tenant Guidance.pdf).
The Government’s model assured shorthold tenancy agreement
Private landlords have discretion to use a model tenancy agreement drafted by the Government. The latest version was published on 28 January 2021. Where this agreement is used the default position is for landlords not to unreasonably withhold consent where a tenant asks for permission to keep a pet:
A Tenant must seek the prior written consent of the Landlord should they wish to keep pets or other animals at the Property. A Landlord must not unreasonably withhold or delay a written request from a Tenant without considering the request on its own merits. The Landlord should accept such a request where they are satisfied the Tenant is a responsible pet owner and the pet is of a kind that is suitable in relation to the nature of the premises at which it will be kept. Consent is deemed to be granted unless the written request is turned down by a Landlord with good reason in writing within 28 days of receiving the request.
The guidance on this clause says:
Clause C3.5 prohibits a landlord from exercising a blanket ban on pets. A responsible pet owner will be aware of their responsibilities in making best efforts to ensure their pet does not cause a nuisance to neighbouring households or undue damage to the Property. A landlord should take steps to accommodate written requests from responsible tenants with pets. They should only turn down a request in writing within a 28 day period if there is good reason to do so, such as large pets in smaller properties or flats, or otherwise properties where having a pet could be impractical. Landlord consent is therefore the default position unless otherwise specified in writing by a landlord. If consent is given on the condition that additional deposit is paid by the tenant, the total deposit must not breach the deposit cap introduced under the Tenant Fees Act 2019 and must be protected in an authorised tenancy deposit scheme.
Is the Government changing the law to allow tenants to keep pets?
On 16 June 2022, the Government published A fairer private rented sector. There is a plan to introduce a Renters’ Reform Bill in the 2022-23 parliamentary session to “ensure landlords do not unreasonably withhold consent when a tenant requests to have a pet in their home.”
Landlords will be able to refuse a request to keep a pet, but tenants will be able to challenge a refusal and landlords will have to show good reason for refusing permission (ie refusal must not be unreasonable). A fairer private rented sector says:
Alongside this, we will make it easier for landlords to accept pets by amending the Tenant Fees Act 2019 to include pet insurance as a permitted payment. This means landlords will be able to require pet insurance, so that any damage to their property is covered. We will continue to work with landlords and other groups to encourage a common-sense approach.
What if I need a guide or assistance dog?
Under the Equality Act 2010, service providers (including landlords) must not directly or indirectly discriminate against people with a disability. Section 20(3) says they must make reasonable adjustments where a provision, criterion or practice puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to a non-disabled person.
What amounts to a reasonable adjustment will depend on individual circumstances. The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Guidance for social housing providers (PDF), says a landlord would have to change a tenancy agreement prohibiting pets to allow a tenant to keep a guide or assistance dog as a reasonable adjustment because: “Failure to do so may risk breaching Article 14 of the Human Rights Act (Prohibition of Discrimination).”
Tenancy Deposit Scheme: A_Guide_to_Pets_in_Rented_Properties.pdf
The Dogs Trust: Lets with Pets