Pet Ownership in UK Rental Properties: Navigating the Upcoming Renters (Reform) Bill

Jonty Shepheard

By Jonty Shepheard

18 August 2023

As the UK anticipates the second reading of the Renters (Reform) Bill, one significant aspect that has garnered attention is the status of pets and pet owners' rights in rental properties. The government's apparent commitment to allowing tenants the opportunity to keep pets is a promising step, but they leave agents and landlords with the complicated balancing act of ensuring a harmonious coexistence between tenants, landlords, and their furry companions.

Promised pet-friendly policies

The Renters (Reform) Bill has been touted as a game-changer for pet owners, as it will put a stop to outright bans on pets in rental properties. Instead, all tenants will be able to ask their landlord for the right to keep a pet and will be granted that right unless the landlord denies the request on reasonable grounds within 42 days.

Landlords may still advertise their properties as not allowing pets, relying that tenants will not know their rights. But doing so could easily backfire on the landlord – tenants may lie about having a pet, thereby forcing the landlord to deal with the problem after the tenant has already signed a contract.


Landlords must not unreasonably withhold consent

The proposed reforms state that landlords cannot unreasonably withhold consent regarding pets in their rental properties; otherwise, tenants have the option to seek legal recourse. While this provision may sound straightforward, the definition of 'unreasonably withholding' remains nebulous, with no specific guidelines apart from case law examples pertaining to commercial use and change of use scenarios.

Experts have suggested that it’s likely once the bill has passed, pet and animal advocacy groups may fund the legal cases of a few aspiring pet owners who they feel are being unreasonably denied the right to a pet. By creating a few high-profile wins for pet owners, they could make it even harder for landlords to deny pet ownership than the law will already make it.


Navigating reasonability

There will, however, undoubtedly be cases in which denying a tenant’s request for a pet is clearly reasonable. These could include:

  • Unsuitable pets. A judge is unlikely to look kindly upon a tenant trying to keep a horse in their back garden. Likewise, illegal breeds under the Dangerous Dogs Act and unlicensed exotic pets will remain banned.
  • HMOs. If other tenants in the property oppose a co-sharer getting a pet, particularly if allergies are involved, this would be an easy avenue to deny the request.
  • Live-in landlord. Similar to the above point, a live-in landlord would have the same right to deny a pet on the grounds of not wanting to live with one.



Extra services for pets-owning tenants

As is the case currently with pet ownership in tenancies, it is likely that tenants will be asked to cover more expenses because of their pets.

For example, many tenants pay a higher rate of rent to account for the risk a pet living in a property brings; this likely be as common or even more so after the bill is passed. It may also be possible for landlords to negotiate for their tenants to pay for extra cleaning costs at the end of the tenancy. Agents may be able to benefit via commissions from acquiring pet insurance on behalf of their landlords.



Although currently just 7% of rental properties allow tenants to keep pets, this could be about to change. Agents should keep an eye on the Renters (Reform) Bill as it passes through parliament, as well as legal cases that unfold in the coming months. The precedents set throughout the next year will likely set the stage for pet ownership in rental properties for many years to come.


This article is intended for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions related to issues in this article, we strongly advise contacting a legal professional.
These blog posts are the work of Fixflo and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. In summary, you are welcome to re-publish any of these blog posts but are asked to attribute Fixflo with an appropriate link to Access to this blog is allowed only subject to the acceptance of these terms.

Jonty Shepheard

By Jonty Shepheard

18 August 2023

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