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How to be a pet friendly landlord

woman smiling at a cat

Britain has long prided itself as a nation of animal lovers and estimated 34% of UK households now have dogs and a further 28% have cats. Yet, according to government data, very few landlords are pet friendly, with only 7% advertising their properties as allowing renters to have pets.

Before it was dropped in the run up to the General Election in 2024, the Renters Reform Bill contained provisions which imply a term into all assured tenancies that the tenant may keep a pet if they seek permission in writing from the landlord. The landlord would not have been able to turn down a request without good reason. However, as the Renters Reform Bill will never become an Act of parliament, it would be for a new government to start afresh if they want to give tenants an implied right to keep pets.

In this blog post, I explain what the law says about pets before exploring how landlords who want to be pet friendly can minimise the risk.

I speak from the position of being a pet-friendly landlord, who has experience of allowing renters to have pets, and share practical tips on how landlords can become pet-friendly. All while managing the undeniable the risk of pet damage.

What are the current rules for tenants who want to keep a pet?

cute ginger tabby kitten on a woman's lap

Let’s look at what the situation currently is for renting with pets.

Can landlords refuse to allow tenants to keep pets now?

Yes, a landlord is under no obligation to allow tenants to keep pets as the law currently stands and are allowed to say no to pets. This means it’s currently legal for landlords to turn down prospective tenants who have pets, and to refuse to allow existing tenants to get pets.

Many landlords include “no pets” clauses in their tenancy agreements and would, in any event, be able to use Section 21 to evict a tenant who keeps a pet, despite the agreement saying they can’t. (Assuming the landlord is able to serve a valid Section 21 notice).

>> Related Post: How to evict a tenant with a valid Section 21 notice

Can a landlord evict a tenant if they get a pet?

As the law stands, so long as a landlord has complied with their tenancy obligations (gas safety certificate, registering deposits, giving How to Rent guide etc.), when a tenant is not in a fixed term period.

A landlord could also use discretionary Ground 12 of Section 8 to evict a tenant during a fixed term, but as it’s a discretionary ground, the landlord would need to convince the court that eviction is reasonable in the circumstances.

>> Related Post: How to evict tenants using Section 8

Can a landlord ask for a higher deposit if a tenant wants a pet?

No. Part of the reason why many landlords don’t like tenants keeping pets is that the Tenant Fees Act 2019 states that landlords can’t ask for more than 5 weeks’ rent as a deposit for the tenancy.

As pets can do considerably more damage to a property than 5 weeks’ rent, landlords either refuse to accept pets or increase the rent to take account of the additional wear and tear.

Why don’t landlords like letting to renters with pets?

yellow labrador and hair on rug in renter property
Anyone who’s had a yellow labrador will recognise these tufts of fur everywhere

Few landlords would disagree with the following from the White Paper, A Fairer Private Rented Sector: “pets can bring joy, happiness, and comfort to their owners, as well as supporting their mental and physical wellbeing including through challenging times”. Yet this is something that is subject to cognitive dissonance on the part of landlords.

I was the same. When I first started out as a landlord, I had a blanket no pets policy. I love dogs, and we had two labradors when our children were growing up. I saw myself the special bond between children and dogs, and think it’s wonderful for children to have pets.

However, perhaps it’s my own experience of having dogs that made me reluctant to allow pets in my buy to lets. For instance, the huge amounts of hair that yellow labradors shed all year round. That lingering smell, and the damage they caused when they were puppies. And don’t get me started on the damage cats can do.

Pets can be very destructive. With the current limit on deposits at 5 weeks’ rent, and the fact that pets can easily do more damage than this, it’s clearly a risk for landlords to take on renters with pets. It has simply been easier to choose renters who don’t have pets, and then “just” have the normal wear and tear risks.

Some pets are badly behaved. We all know of yappy dogs that don’t stop barking. Some dogs even howl when they’re left alone. This can make relations with neighbours fraught. If they are not treated regularly, dogs and cats can carry fleas and mites, which can be challenging to eradicate from carpets. Accepting pets may also make it difficult to rent the property to anyone with allergies at a later date.

Another reason for landlords not allowing pets includes the property being too small, especially flats without an outdoor space. It can also be problematic for renters in HMOs to have pets, or to accept them in short term holiday lets, because of the risk of fleas or guests with allergies.

Finally, for rental properties that are flats, sometimes the head lease with the freeholder actually prohibits pets, or requires consent.

Why should landlords be pet-friendly?

toddlers cuddling dog
Children often have a special bond with dogs

There was a lot of concern among landlords about the new rules about pets in the Renters Reform Bill, but there are definite benefits to landlords in allowing them. I personally do allow renters to have pets in my properties.

First of all, landlords are giving their renters the opportunity to live in their property with a pet, which will be good for the mental health of the renters’ and their children. It’s part of being a good, socially responsible landlord. If your property is suitable, it’s the right thing to do. Read more about being a good landlord in my blog post.

Next, because so few rental properties are officially pet-friendly at the moment, it increases demand from renters with pets for the property.

Likewise, renters with pets tend to stay longer, which is great from a management time perspective. It avoids all the work that goes into preparing a property for new renters, each time a tenancy comes to an end. Also, reducing voids increases total returns.

Lastly, because of the increased demand, and to recognise the greater wear and tear, it’s usually possible to charge a little more for rental properties where pets are welcomed.

Pet-friendly model tenancy clause and guidance

In 2021, the Government published a new Model Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement, which is useful for landlords to read. It contains the following clause on renters keeping pets:

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.

A Landlord is prohibited from charging a fee to a Tenant who wishes to keep pets or other animals at the Property. Permission may be given on the condition that the Tenant pays an additional reasonable amount towards the deposit, but the deposit must not breach the deposit cap requirements under the Tenant Fees Act 2019.
Model pet clause for tenancy agreement (Jan 2020, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

Here are key points to flag about the model pet clause for tenancy agreements:

  • Renters must seek their landlord’s prior written consent if they wish to keep pets or other animals at the property. There is no automatic right for renters to have pets.
  • Landlords must respond within a reasonable time to their renter’s request.
  • Landlords need to consider the request “on its own merits”.
  • So long as the landlord is satisfied the tenant is “a responsible pet owner” and the “pet is of a kind that is suitable” for the property, they must give consent.

The guidance makes a few additional useful comments. Firstly, responsible pet owners should use best efforts to ensure their pet isn’t a nuisance to neighbours. Secondly, they need to ensure their pet doesn’t cause “undue damage” to the property. Thirdly, landlords should only turn down a request if there is a “good reason”. The guidance gives two examples: “large pets in smaller properties or flats” or where it could be “impractical” to have a pet.

Practical tips for landlords to reduce risk from tenants’ pets

pet cat on scratch pole which reduces risk of damage to rental property

Once you’ve decided to become pet-friendly in principle (or you have to once the Bil comes into effect), how can you reduce the risk of damage to your property?

The most important thing is not to say you welcome all pets but, like the model clause above, that you’ll consider pets. This is what the new law’s likely to say, and means you can decide on a case-by-case basis.

How can landlords assess the suitability of a pet for a rental property?

One of the first considerations is size; the size of the pet and the size of the property. Is there enough room for the renters and their pet? A large dog in a small flat might not be practical.

It’s a good idea to ask to meet the dog (it’s trickier for a cat). Ask them to invite you to their current home so you can see for yourself. These are the sorts of things I’d look for:

  • How does the dog respond in the garden?
  • Is the dog aggressive?
  • What’s the state of the garden?
  • Is there a scratch pole for the cat?
  • Does the dog have a crate?
  • Take a deep breath – does the property smell?
  • What’s the condition of the woodwork and carpet?
  • How clean is the property?
  • Is the dog friendly? Does it bark a lot?

If they have a cat, do they need a cat flap? Who will pay for it? Is it even practical in your property? Are they trained to use a cat litter tray? Do they have scratch posts?

If a visit isn’t practical you could ask to see photos of the pet. (I did this when my renters were moving to the UK from abroad).

Also, do ask to have an informal chat to their current landlord, as well as a formal reference that asks specifically about the pet. You’re likely to pick up more from a conversation. Even a pause or the tone of voice might alert you to problems. That said, bear in mind that if they are problem tenants, the landlord might be pleased to see them go!

How can landlords reduce the risk of tenants keeping pets?

professional carpet clean after renters with pets
Insist the renters arrange for carpet cleaning to a professional standardat the end of the tenancy

There are a number of ways to reduce the financial risk from allowing pets, and it’s a good idea to include this in a Pet Policy that is annexed to your tenancy agreement. Here is a simple pet policy that is based on the policy I use for my own properties: The Independent Landlord Model Pet Policy.

Landlords can’t insist on pet insurance, or ask for a higher deposit, and the Renters Reform Bill would have enabled landlords to make sure pet insurance is in place. However, as the Renters Reform Bill is not going ahead, landlords can’t require tenants to pay for insurance.

The tenancy agreement needs to say that the tenant accepts responsibility for the control, care and cleaning of the pet. Also, that they will repair any damage their pet causes. Some landlords also increase the rent for pets, to take account of the extra wear and tear.

It’s sensible to require the tenants to carry out a deep clean at the end of their tenancy to a professional standard.This should include carpet cleaning. Note that the Tenant Fees Act prevents landlords from requiring tenants to pay for professional carpet cleaning. But it’s legal to require carpet cleaning to a professional standard. If the tenants clean the carpets, more of the deposit will be left for repairs to any damage, say to woodwork.

It’s vital to have a detailed inventory with clear photos of every part of the property, including the garden. Without this, it may be difficult to prove the condition of the property before the renters moved in.

Lastly, it’s crucial to carry out regular property inspections (at least every six months) when there are pets, to spot early signs of damage. I print out a copy of the inventory and take it with me, just in case I need to point out damage in an area. If you spot problems, you should increase the frequency of inspections.

>> Related Post: Positive End of Tenancy Checkouts: How to Achieve Them

Free template model of a Pet Policy for landlords

Pet policy mock up

As well as having specific clauses about pets in your tenancy agreement, it’s important to have a pet policy which makes your approach to pets and any damage they cause clear. I think it’s entirely reasonable to ask tenants with pets to do a deep clean of the property to a professional standard, including the carpets, at the end of the tenancy. If the tenants do this themselves, or pay a cleaning company to do so, it frees up the rest of the deposit in the event of damage.

Do note that landlords can’t that tenants use a professional cleaning service, as that would infringe the Tenant Fees Act 2019. The Act prevents landlords from requiring tenants to meet any conditions that could only be met by paying a fee for a third-party service. Instead, landlords can require cleaning a “professional standard”, which is permitted. (See page 21 of the Guidance for Landlords on the Tenant Fees Act 2019 which states: ‘You may request that a property is cleaned to a professional standard”.)

As I’m a lawyer, I decided to draft my own Pet Policy, which builds on the model pet policy from Lets with Pets. I have turned my own pet policy into a model Pet Policy for other landlords to use, which you can access below:

>> Free Template: The Independent Landlord Model Pet Policy

Final thoughts

Accepting pets is not without risk, and many landlords currently prefer not to take on board that risk. Consequently, there’s a lot of resistance to accepting pets.

However, tenants with pets tend to stay longer, which reduces voids. There are lots of steps that landlords can take to minimise the risk of pets, and I am pleased I changed my policy and now accept pets.

How to be a pet friendly landlord with family of three renters unpacking a box with a small dog

7 thoughts on “How to be a pet friendly landlord”

  1. I have tried several landlord’s and agents not one will allow a cat .that means I can’t move from my relationship and I will not give my cat up so I don’t understand what are we supposed to do plenty of people out take their animals and dump them it’s heartbreaking that a human would do that to a animal .its hard enough trying to live in a house when there is verbal abuse. But can’t leave because landlords need to step up ..

    1. I’m so sorry to hear this. I agree landlords need to step up and be reasonable about accepting pets. I accept pets (within reason) and encourage landlords to do it in this blog post.

  2. Most of my tenants have pets – generally without asking, and I have had mixed issues. I have to say that my concern is always for the welfare and happiness of the animals – not for the wellbeing of the tenant. Tenants get 20 questions about diet, exercise, flea treatment etc. And I do not like dogs in cages.

    One tenant had some tropical fish. Also a snake in a glass tank. Tenant was remanded in custody for seven days, during which time his electricity ran out, so the heating went off and the fish and the snake died.

    In due course, his two young daughters came to live with him. He bought them a hamster. One day one of the girls left a fluffy hat next to the cage – the hamster chewed it, choked and died.

    An elderly tenant (in her 70’s) had two staffies – her grandson had left them when he moved out. They were lovely, friendly dogs and she cared for them well – didn’t take them for walks but she did have a reasonable garden. However, she was quite deaf, so when they wanted to go out for a toilet, she didn’t hear them scratching at the door (they never barked – is that a thing with staffies?) result was that they pee’d on the floor – eventually it literally rotted the floorboards and the supporting timbers underneath. She always wore slippers in the house and didn’t notice the damp. (Or the smell!)

    Another tenant had a cat. The double glazed windows are tip’n’tilt. As the cat jumped in and out of the window, it’s claws gradually shredded the seal. I didn’t notice until after they left and I don’t suppose they noticed either.

    Another tenant had a dog about the size of Scooby-Doo. As it ran up and down the stairs, it gradually pulled the carpet off the grippers. Had the carpet refitted a couple of times but eventually we had to remove the carpet.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your insightful blog post on the new laws for renting with pets. As a fellow advocate for pet-friendly living, I appreciate the detailed breakdown of the Renters Reform Bill and its potential impact on landlords and tenants.

  4. I am also pet friendly LL and tend to include pictures previous tenants pets in my adverts – with a strap line at the bottom of the pictures “Previous feline/canine tenants!” (with permission to use the pictures from previous pet owners- of course). This helps really position me as a stand out from other adverts.

    I let flats that sometimes have a communal entrance/hallway. I obviously have to gain permission from the other owners/residents/fellow freeholder about allowing pets within the building.

    So as additional request/condition to the pet owner tenants, I ask them the ensure the communal hallway is swept and mopped regularly (as those muddy paw prints will make an impact). I also ask them to have some fragrance oil diffuser sticks in the communal hallway. This helps ensure there are not any pet like smells that might permeate outside the property.

    This may seem a bit OTT initially but pet owning tenants seem very agreeable to these suggestions as they know it enhances the communal area and generates harmony/goodwill with other residents in the building.

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