Renters Reform Bill: What Are My Rights For Renting With Pets? · The Wildest

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Renters Reform Bill: Can My Landlord Ban Me From Having Pets?

Know your rights as new legislation comes into place

by Orla Pentelow
Updated 18 July 2024
Jimena Roquero / Stocksy

Update – 18 July, 2024: 

Following its general election victory and the appointment of Sir Keir Starmer as Prime Minister, the Labour government have been busy setting out their political agenda by presenting its inaugural King’s Speech today on Wednesday. 

Delivered by King Charles III in the House of Lords on 17 July, the King’s Speech set out the newly appointed government’s legislative agenda for this parliamentary year, which includes the updated Renters’ Rights Bill. The Labour Party’s Renters’ Rights Bill replaces the former Conservative government’s Renters’ Reform Bill, which was shelved ahead of the election. 

Under the new bill, landlords must “consider and cannot unreasonably refuse” renters’ requests to keep pets, but they may request insurance to cover potential damage if needed. This legislation will hopefully put an end to “blanket bans that exist at present on the keeping of beloved companion animals in rental homes,” says RSPCA head of public affairs David Bowles following the King’s Speech. 

“The RSPCA has long campaigned for this change – as we believe this will stop many pet owners having to face the heartbreaking choice of choosing between finding accommodation and keeping their pet; and also offer countless new owners the chance to adopt rescue pets.” 

Addressing the nation on 17 July, King Charles said that legislation will be introduced to “give greater rights and protections to people renting their homes, including ending no-fault evictions and reforming grounds for possession”. Previously, no-fault evictions were removed from the bill, but Labour has now firmly reinstated them. “We will take action where the previous government has failed”, Labour said. 

Original story – 15 December, 2023:

Even the government can agree: “Pets can bring a huge amount of joy to their owners”. So making sure they’re an ongoing part of our lives, without worrying about where to live only makes sense. In response to the growing number of pet parents facing challenges in securing rental accommodations, the UK government is set to introduce significant changes to landlord and tenant rights with the Renters Reform Bill

Among other things, the new legislation aims to shift the default position on pets from refusal to consent when it comes into place, empowering tenants to enjoy the companionship of their furry friends without unnecessary (and unfair) obstacles. As it stands, the bill will “give tenants the legal right to request a pet, subject to insurance to cover any damage to the property, while being clear on the cases in which a landlord could reasonably refuse”. 

But what are the key provisions of the Renters Reform Bill, and what are the implications for both landlords and tenants with pets?

What is the Renters Reform Bill, and how will it affect pet parents?

The Renters Reform Bill, promised in the Conservatives 2019 election manifesto, aims to dispel the current issue of ‘no fault’ (sometimes referred to as ‘back door’) evictions from rental properties in the UK. As well as changes being introduced for those with pets, the bill will also include:

  • Allowing landlords to evict tenants with two months’ notice for a selection of reasons, such as if the landlords are selling up or moving in a close relative (currently, this is only allowed if the tenant does not pay rent or engages in anti-social behaviour).

  • Allowing landlords to raise rents annually to market prices with two months’ notice (currently, a landlord can only increase the rent if the tenant agrees for a fixed-term tenancy). Tenants will be able to fight excessive increases in the courts to prevent ‘back door’ evictions.

  • Establishing a national ombudsman with whom tenants can raise complaints. 

  • Establishing a new database of private landlords and properties.

What is the current law for tenants with pets?

According to government data, only a meagre seven percent of private landlords currently advertise pet-friendly properties, leaving a significant portion of the population struggling to find suitable homes for themselves and their pets. A report by the SpareRoom Pet Think Tank in 2018 highlighted that around 80 percent of pet-owning renters faced difficulties securing rental properties, and with 53 percent of the UK population owning pets (PDSA, 2023), that number only seems to be growing.

Under the existing framework, it’s down to the landlord’s discretion to refuse potential tenants with pets. However, very few landlords in the UK allow pets to stay in their properties and the law is currently on their side; a landlord is under no obligation to allow tenants to keep pets and can refuse potential tenants as well as evict current tenants under a Section 21 notice.

Part of the reason for so few landlords accepting pets in their properties is down to a limit to the amount a landlord can ask for as a deposit. According to the Tenant Fees Act 2019, landlords can’t ask for more than five weeks’ rent as a deposit for a tenancy, which often puts them off accepting pets, due to the potential damages animals may cause to a property. Smell, pet hair and noise are also common reasons for landlords refusing to accommodate animals.

What changes are being made to the law?

When the Renters Reform Bill comes into force (likely not until October 2024), consent for pets will become the default position under new legislation and landlords will no longer be able to serve a ‘blanket ban’ on pets. The new legislation contains provisions that will give renters the right to ask the landlord to keep a pet in a property, and the landlord cannot unreasonably refuse to give consent to the tenant’s request. Landlords will need to explicitly object in writing within six weeks (42 days) of receiving a pet request from a tenant and provide a valid reason for refusal. Discretion will be in the hands of the landlord, but rejections for pet requests should only occur in cases where there is a valid reason.

The government stated that refusal could be reasonable if a pet was “clearly too large for a small property” or if another tenant in a shared house had a pet allergy, but it emphasised the importance of open discussion between tenants and landlords to come to an agreement on “what is reasonable”. 

Landlords will still be protected by tenants’ legal duties to repair or cover the cost of any property damage caused by their pets, and will be able to ask tenants to “maintain insurance that covers the risk” or “pay the landlord’s reasonable costs of maintaining insurance that covers the risk” of pet damage to the property, however they will have no right to ask for a larger deposit. At the moment, it’s unclear as to how implementing insurance will work in practice, but it could be a question of asking for further coverage from a pet insurance policy (to cover indemnity over property damages) or from a home or renters’ insurance policy (to extend cover to any damages made by pets).

Animal charities in the UK have welcomed the changes laid out in the bill, with several campaigning for many years for greater rights for responsible pet owners who rent. Around one in 10 people getting in touch with Dogs Trust to rehome their dog cite reasons as issues with accommodation, “such as being unable to find suitable rental accommodation, forcing them to make the difficult decision to rehome their dog”.

“Tenants being unable to find anywhere suitable to rent with their pet is sadly one of the most common reasons people bring their animals to Battersea for rehoming,” says Michael Webb, head of policy and public affairs at Battersea. “And as the rental market becomes more competitive, we can only expect it is going to get even more common.”

“Not only will the long-overdue introduction of this bill to parliament bring us one step closer to opening up the many joys of pet ownership to millions of renters,” adds Webb, “it could dramatically reduce the number of dogs and cats we see being needlessly separated from their owners due to widespread restrictive pet policies.”

How do you request a landlord for consent to keep a pet at a property?

As it stands, the Renters Reform Bill simply states that the tenant or potential tenant’s request must be in writing, and “include a description of the pet for which consent is sought”. The landlord has the right to ask for more information about the pet within six weeks (42 days). The tenant or potential tenant then has seven days (unless longer is agreed) to provide the additional information, but if they can’t, landlords can refuse consent. 

It’s worth noting that if you’re one of the lucky few that already rents a property with a pet who has been approved by the landlord, the Renters Reform Bill shouldn’t change this. However, the introduction of the bill will allow your landlord to ask for pet insurance to be supplied if it isn’t already. It’s unclear how the bill will be applied in practice, so it would be worth asking your landlord if they plan to make any changes, and become familiar with your rights. 

What if the landlord says no to pets after the Renters Reform Bill is in force?

If the landlord refuses to consent to a request for pets, and the tenant feels this was unreasonable, the tenant will be able to complain to the newly created Private Rented Sector Ombudsman, or take the landlord to court. The ombudsman is free for tenants to use, but taking the courts route will incur costs to the tenant, such as court fees and lawyers fees (these can sometimes be reimbursed if you win). The ombudsman or the court will decide whether it deems the landlord’s refusal as unreasonable, based on the evidence provided by both parties, and will be the final decision.

Membership of the ombudsman will be mandatory for private landlords, and local councils will be able to take enforcement action against those who fail to join. The government guidance says it will be “mandatory for landlords to comply with any decision of the ombudsman”.

When will the changes come into effect?

The Renters Reform Bill has not been passed into law yet. The legislation is currently at the Committee Stage of the House of Commons, but there’s still a long way to go. The earliest date the bill would likely be passed is spring 2024. Assuming Royal Assent (when the bill becomes an Act of Parliament) is granted then, the act would become law the following October (new legislation normally becomes law on either 1 April or 1 October). The actual legislation wouldn’t come into force until at least six months for new tenancies, and 18 months for existing tenancies, to allow for adjustments. 

The Renters Reform Bill represents a significant step towards creating a more inclusive housing market for pet owners. By shifting the default position to consent and providing clear guidelines for refusal, the government aims to strike a balance between safeguarding landlords’ interests and ensuring that responsible pet owners can find suitable homes. As these changes come into effect, both landlords and tenants should be aware of their rights and responsibilities under the new legislation.

Orla Pentelow

Orla Pentelow is a freelance journalist and copywriter based in London. When not at her desk she’s out and about with her rescue dog, Luna, who works primarily as chief distractor.

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