Currently, there is no specific legislation covering companion animals in rental homes for assured shorthold tenancies. There is no specific mention of companion animals in the Housing Act 1988. There are, however, still some legal nuances when it comes to keeping animals in your home under a tenancy agreement.
The tenancy agreement might say companion animals are not allowed. Under section 62 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 “unfair terms” in a contract are prohibited. It is unknown whether a blanket ban on keeping companion animals under a tenancy agreement would be deemed an unfair term.
Alternatively, the tenancy agreement might say the landlord’s permission should be sought if the tenant intends to keep a companion animal. 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. Where a tenant feels that a landlord has unreasonably refused their request, they will be able to escalate their complaint to the Private Rented Sector Ombudsman or they could take the case to court. The Ombudsman or court will make the final decision based on the evidence provided by both parties.
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 companion animal. Paragraph 3.5 states:
“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 tenancy agreement (contract) might not mention companion animals, in which case it will likely be harder for landlords to argue that they are not allowed.
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 future – renters Reform Bill
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 companion animal with the landlord’s consent unless the landlord reasonably refuses. There is useful information on the Bill here.
Please note that this post is not legal advice and should not be relied on as such. If you require legal advice on animal protection laws please contact firstname.lastname@example.org