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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.

The Government is changing the law to make it easier for private tenants to keep pets

The Renters (Reform) Bill 2022-23, introduced to parliament on 17 May 2023, contains measures to amend the Housing Act 1988 to make it an implied term of an assured tenancy (with some exceptions) that a tenant may keep a pet with the landlord’s consent unless the landlord reasonably refuses. The landlord will be required to give or refuse consent in writing within 42 days of receiving a written request.

As a condition of giving consent, landlords will be able to require tenants to have insurance covering the risk of pet damage or require the tenant to pay the landlord’s reasonable costs of maintaining pet damage insurance.

The Bill will have to complete its parliamentary stages and gain Royal Assent before the Secretary of State can appoint a date on which the changes will come into force.

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).”

Further information

Tenancy Deposit Scheme: A_Guide_to_Pets_in_Rented_Properties.pdf

The Dogs Trust: Lets with Pets


About the author:Wendy Wilson is Head of the Social policy section in the House of Commons Library.

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The Commons Library does not intend the information in this article to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. We have published it to support the work of MPs. You should not rely upon it as legal or professional advice, or as a substitute for it. We do not accept any liability whatsoever for any errors, omissions or misstatements contained herein. You should consult a suitably qualified professional if you require specific advice or information. Read our briefing for information about sources of legal advice and help.