Discussion: Should tenants have the default right to keep pets?

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Labour has today launched a new action plan on animal welfare, which includes a proposal to give tenants the default right to keep pets, unless there is evidence the animal is causing a nuisance.

You can read the NLA’s initial response here.

Under the 2015 Consumer Rights Act, a landlord should only be refusing permission if it is reasonable to do so, for instance on grounds of the animal’s size, the damage it could cause and its impact on future rental prospects.

Many tenancy agreements will be worded to reflect this position. For example, the NLA’s AST inlcudes the clause:

Not to keep any animals, reptiles, insects, rodents or birds at the Property without our written permission (which will not be unreasonably withheld). For the avoidance of doubt, this clause does not apply in connection with registered guide and assistance dogs.

There are no actual policy details yet as Labour have only said they will consult with landlords on the proposal. The NLA very much welcomes this because there are issues that will need to be addressed to make it in any way a workable policy.

Ultimately what must be avoided is a one-size-fits-all approach that treats the whole private rented sector as a giant uniform monolith. Unfortunately, politicians of all persuasions have been guilty of this, not least Labour.

Damaging Costs

The first port of call for Labour’s consultation with landlords should be to try and reach an understanding of why some landlords are reluctant to allow pets in their properties. The policy could then, hopefully, include plans to solve this reluctance.

Luckily, the NLA has previously done some research on this with our members and the results will not surprise you.

This research showed that over half (55%) were unwilling to allow tenants to keep pets in their properties:

pets allow question

Of those that were unwilling to allow pets, 41% of landlords cited the main reason as potential property damage:

why not pets

The obvious answer to the risk of pet-related property damage is increase the security deposit taken. Alternatively, clauses could be inserted into the tenancy agreement such as one requiring the tenant to professionally clean the property on move-out. The Dogs Trust’s Lets with Pets scheme advises landlords to take these approaches.

However, these approaches will soon be outlawed by the ban of letting fees likely to come into force sometime in 2019. While deposits will be capped at 6 weeks’ rent under the draft Tenant Fees Bill, Labour would like to see this reduced to 4 weeks’ rent which we have already warned about. On top of that, the Bill would ban landlords and letting agents from requiring tenants to pay for third-party services, such as a professional cleaner.

This leaves no room for landlords to seek some extra financial protection against pet damage, which could see some unintended consequences. Perhaps landlords who currently supply furniture would stop, or decrease the amount or quality of the furniture or fittings provided.

While more costs for landlords does not automatically increase rent, it adds to the cumulative upwards pressure and could exacerbate the effects of Section 24 tax changes that are starting to impact on landlord finances.

Consequential?

 There are likely other consequences of a “default right” that need to be addressed by any consultation the Labour undertakes with landlords. While not an exhaustive list, here are just some issues that we hope are taken into account before any policy details are decided:

  • Landlords will likely face other increased costs as a result of the tenant’s “default right” to a pet. For example, landlord insurance premiums are already likely to rise if tenants have pets (if the policy even covers pet damage). What will the effect be in premiums if all tenants have the default right? What impact will this have of rents?
  • Some properties may not even be suitable for pets (depending on the animal and the property) such as high-rise flats, so would not automatically improve animal welfare,
  • In the case of many leasehold flats, permission for pets may not be within the gift of the landlords as the lease itself bans them. They would then need an exemption from the “default right”,
  • Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) also need to be look at, so that sharers are not forced to live with pets they do not want to live with, or possibly to which they are allergic,
  • How could landlords evidence that a pet is, or would cause a nuisance, and what legal routes would be open to landlords to rectify the problem or seek redress?

We welcome Labour’s promise to consult with landlords on the development on this policy, and while we may not agree on its necessity, we will endeavour to work constructively to ensure any outcome is workable and more than just another financial burden on landlords.

Have any thoughts on how this could affect how you operate?

49 thoughts on “Discussion: Should tenants have the default right to keep pets?

  1. It has to remain at the discretion of the landlord. So many variables. e.g. one of my properties, a small house, has only a front door. I allow a well behaved dog, but have declined tenants with cats in the past. I obviously don’t want a cat flap in the front door and wouldn’t want the cat to be shut in the house.

    1. I feel its my right as a landlord to accept or decline people with pets.. the tenants have a choice – so does the landlord – some accept and some don’t. I don’t personally. Don’t want that case scenario of I only have one old little dog and its a puppy rotty. Samall when yo get it can weight 10 k plus

      my property I decide. and its on the tenancy. don’t get one or yes acceptable.

    2. Labour need to focus on repairing the welfare state and regulating private sector malpractice rather than indulging themselves in this populist nonsense. It all boils down to the right to impose a negative externality on the landlord (with apparently no obligation to bear end of tenancy clean up costs) and neighbours and other sharers and, in the case of unsuitable accommodation, the animal itself.
      This is not a matter for the state, it’s a matter for landlords and tenant to negotiate.
      In the last eleven years I’ve only had two requests: agreed to one (for a dog in a family house) but not another (for a rabbit in a house share). I suspect clauses in most leasehold apartments prevent the matter from arising in the first place.
      Anybody remember a tenant putting a pony in a lift in a block of flats in the film ‘The Commitments?’

    3. Hi, we have just had the experience where we agreed with a tenant to allow a dog in a small victorian terraced house. The tenant then added another dog and 3 cats without mentioning them to us. When she left, she left 3 fish tanks, all with exotic fish in behind. She demanded another week/10 days to remove them and there was little I could do. All the carpet edges, lower door frames and doors have scratches on them – courtesy of the cats – and the garden-facing door and window-sills are scratched to bits where the dogs were left in the garden and tried to get in.
      I agree that tenants should be allowed reasonable pets but there needs to be safeguards for landlords too, certainly a new deposit and insurance terms and conditions in the contract to make it clear and fairer to all.

  2. I think the landlord should require the tenant to pay for the additional insurance premium, having taken out a policy which includes the cost of professional cleaning at the end of the tenancy and rectification of all pet damage.

  3. There are so many pets that don’t have their care needs adequately met (commonly, for example, dogs in blocks of flats), that I think encouraging more pet ownership is an irresponsible step in itself.

    In my view the government should be focussing on discouraging wider ownership of certain pets in particular (lizards, snakes, exotic birds come to mind that have very specific care needs – never mind ‘micro’ pigs, monkeys, sloths!) rather than making it easier for people.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love animals and that’s exactly why I have these views. There’s far too many irresponsible pet owners out there in my opinion, it’s not something that should be encouraged.

  4. There should not be an automatic right to have a pet. As a landlord I have experience of other tenants complaining about barking dogs and after tenants leave flats being infested with fleas, and smelling of cat wee. The properties are owned and paid for by us hard working landlords, the decision as to whether we allow pets is ours.

  5. I’m AC/DC when it comes to voting in elections these days, I used to be staunchly conservative but now vote for whoever appears to have the most sensible policies. None of the parties fit the bill at the moment so forgive my scepticism if I contemplate and ruminate over the reasons for Labour’s let’s be kind to tenants with animals posture, that could bring in a lot of votes.

    I’m a landlord with a dog, I love our dog to bits, but I’d want some pretty robust clauses in the tenancy agreement to cover me for tenants who couldn’t give tinker’s cuss about how they look after their pets, not to mention the inevitable damage, as with most pets, particularly dogs, it’s pretty well unavoidable.

  6. The local council is already on our backs with the licensing scheme, with one focus being on antisocial behaviour. Imagine if you then add a barking dog and fouling the area into the mix. It is all a bit contradictory as far as I can see. But then that’s typical of the government.

  7. If tenants get the default right to keep a pet then I assume landlords will also get the default right to refuse.

    1. Excellent reply!

      Government and local councils have become far too involved in private rental market, they have failed to stop bad landlords who continue renting their properties, yet have created masses of unnecessary administration burden and additional costs to remaining landlords who try hardest to maintain their properties.

      We have rights too! or should have.

      How do we stop this?

      B

  8. We have just allowed long term tenants, 4 sharers who work shifts, to have a dog, but only after discussion about the dog’s welfare, reassurance that the people they were adopting the dog from would do a home visit and a full suitability check, and confirmation that they would pay for damage to the carpet beyond normal wear and tear. The dog is lovely; the laziest, most docile greyhound ever. However if it were a less carefully selected animal, what would I do about workmen. Would I be responsible should a plumber attend in an emergency and a tenant’s pet was agressive. What would happen if I was unable to repond appropriately, because say, neither I nor the workman, felt safe entering a property where there was an uncontrolled animal.

  9. My one property (previously my own home) is subject to the local Council’s ‘Licensing Scheme’, as is my other half’s. As such, as pointed out above, we can be held responsible for antisocial behaviour etc. – in other words it only takes one tenacious neighbour to complain about your tenant’s pet(s) to open a whole can of worms for us as landlords. I’ve already stopped allowing DSS tenants due to the monies left owing (in the thousands!) and much as I adore my own pets, I don’t want to foot the bill for someone elses’s pets’ damage or answer nuisance allegations/ pay the applicable fines on their behalf!

  10. I have a dozen properties and allow pets in some with gardens if the tenants seem reasonable and pay extra deposits. In the past, mainly HB tenants, have promised to look after my property and have carpets professionally cleaned and what happened? No proper cleaning, flea infestations so carpets had to be replaced and in one case, the local dog warden coming to my house twice to report faeces stinking out the neighbourhood and, after the tenant and her two small dogs left, removal of curtains and carpets before fumigation by the Council.
    Several of the freeholders of my flats ban animals and flats without gardens shouldn’t house dogs and cats.
    Corbyn is of course mad and some of those behind him bordering on evil.

  11. Nice one M Harley. if we HAVE to agree with tenants keeping pets then the tenant should HAVE to take out an insurance to cover any damages etc. Why once again should the landlord end up paying if things go wrong eg: pet becomes a nuisance, fleas, soiling in the house, we not only HAVE to pay to get our house back but HAVE to pay to get our house back in order to re-let, costly for landlords to allow someone a default right.
    Also may filter non-genuine animal carers.
    ps. I am an absolute animal lover.

  12. I can hardly wait for the next hare brained scheme from political parties competing to come up with schemes to punish those rich nasty landlords. It shouldn’t be long in coming as there is clearly no need to waste time in thinking it through before beforehand

  13. I have a number of flats and some are suitable for dogs and cats others are not. I have one couple in a very nice ground floor garden flat who have a very sociable Labrador which is fine and in the past there have been cats. All okay but l interview the tenants myself to make sure they are responsible pet owners. I use letting agents elsewhere and l would not be comfortable with them judging responsible pet owners. I am not keen on caged animals but again it comes down to the pet care provided by the tenant. In summary l don’t think a tenant should have the default right to bring a pet into rented accommodation.

  14. I presume this “barking” mad proposal would apply to freehold properties only? As a leaseholder on a flat, which I sub-let, there are so many restrictions on the lease already about pet ownership, how could I allow a tenant to keep a pet when as the flat owner I cannot!

  15. I have had tenants with dogs and tenants with young children. Out of those the ones the dog owners have left the property in good order with the carpets professionally cleaned; the ones with young children left a number of issues. Personally I don’t mind and the deposit should be set accordingly. I would rather give the dog owner the benefit of the doubt than them have to send the dog to the pound.

    1. I have had similar experiences. All four of our properties are now occupied by responsible pet-owning tenants, and that works well for us for as long as they stay.

      The problem tenants that have left us with the most damage are tenants with babies and small children. In the case of two properties, they were left uninhabitable, and it took months and thousands of pounds to get them ready for occupation again.

      I have limited ability to refuse a tenancy to those with small children already, and can’t do anything to stop tenants having babies while they’re residing in my property. Now I’m to be denied the right to limit the number and size of my tenants’ pets too? No way!

  16. Most tenants live in flats, not houses in which owners and tenants alike have to comply with the terms of the lease, which invariably, in the interest of all, forbids keeping pets on the premises. For am owner or a tenant to contest this will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, as the legal system supports the freeholder. A freehold may be another issue, but not a flat. This restriction is there for good reason, as flat living does involve compromise. A tenant keeping pets could cause a landlord who is a lessee to lose their property and is not to be taken lightly.

  17. If my tenant were to keep a pet then the property could well become a “no go” zone for me as I am allergic to many common pets. While I (obviously) leave my tenant to themselves at the rented address I expect to be able to attend the premisses in the event of problems and facing a potential allergic reaction is not acceptable.

  18. I am sick to death with do good government ministers meddling in landlords affairs. These people think that all Tennants are fine upstanding pillars of the community when some of them are little better then the animals they keep. Perhaps if they had to house some of them they would have a different opinion. It’s no fun evicting a bad Tennant in my case it has cost me more than a years profit on top of which there is the reduction of tax relief. Honistly I do not know how much longer I can continue. I love animals but this is the last straw.

    1. Animals are only able to be as good or bad as the people they are fortunate or unfortunate enough to live with! People to blame EVERY time…

  19. At last, someone who can speak sense, M Harley. Landlords should have rights. Remember they are risking far more money than tenant pays in deposit when they entrust their property to a new resident.

    I am an animal lover and a pet owner. Currently, as a lettings agent, we encourage our landlords to allow pets with a higher deposit in order to protect the landlord from the cost of potential damage and/or cleaning at the end of the tenancy. As a landlord, I allow pets in my own properties with a higher deposit. Most tenants understand these rules. Those that disagree, or have complained about our policies, almost always, are the ones that have had to lose part of the deposit for damage.

    As for rights, what about my landlord that has a serious allergy to cats- how can he be protected when he needs to visit the property if we could potentially have someone with any number of cats?

    1. I agree totally. I am highly allergic to cats. One of my tenants has a very elderly cat, was inherited when her mother died. It is mainly outdoors. But on inspection days, I have to doze myself up with anti histamines and take my epi pen with me. Who has the heart ache when a pet is left behind when a tenant moves and abandons the so called pet? This is so stupid for words.

  20. I am a letting agent and landlord, we have seen wooden doors with scratch and bite damage , glass doors scratched to the point it is hard to see out. Gardens turned into muddy mess and dog poo left where it is.

    It is not reasonable for landlords to pay for how some people want to live, I can see more landlords leaving the market as it will not be worth the trouble. Perhaps we should just give the property away

  21. Totally wrong-headed idea. Animals are territorial by their nature, so unless the unit is a self-contained ground floor flat with easy access to a private garden, not communal garden, then this is a cruelty to inflict on the animal. They will bark or miaou at noises them deem a threat because they are letting their human family know.

    In a house of multiple occupation this is a totally impossible prospect. i once allowed a tenant to adopt my next door neighbour’s cat when they moved and ‘forgot’ him. I even installed a cat flap in the kitchen door to the back garden. Well, needless to say, the tenant moved and did not take the cat as he had promised. So the cat became another semi-autonomous resident, sometimes fed by other tenants and sometimes forgotten. He became quite hostile to some of the tenants and eventually, seeing how he was neglected, i had to take him to a cat’s home.

    so i have learnt the hard way that pets in houses of multiple occupation never work!

    You make me laugh about being prepared to accept a higher deposit to cover the possible costs of a pet neglect. Many landlords are having to reduce the deposits they request to just token amounts just to let their properties! One month’s default on the rent and even the usual deposit is effectively gone.

    So definitely no increase of tenants rights at the property.

  22. Under no circumstances will I ever let to a tenant with pets. I have had plenty of bad experiences to confirm that it is yet another added problem with being a landlord. Apart from the unknown quantity of the animal, there are neighbourly issues to consider. So, if you have a tenant with an unruly/noisy dog, for example. The neighbours may complain and you are in the invidious position of being unable to move the tenant on for the reason of having a pet.
    We had one tenant do a moonlight flit and left several cages of rabbits in the house. When discovered the aftermath was unpleasant to say the least.

  23. I’ve had a recent example of a tenant with children only staying at my property for 18 months, but leaving it in an unfit state to re-market. It cost me £4k to get the place up to scratch, but I was only allowed to claim around £200 of that from the deposit scheme citing the fact that I’d allowed children into the property and ‘normal wear and tear’, although the property was in a pretty good state before they arrived. With this in mind I can imagine any pet damage, chewing or scratching of wood or paint work, pet hairs which will be ingrained into carpets would be difficult to claim for and to be honest I really don’t want to have to renovate a property every time a tenant leaves. This could be on a frequent basis due to the potential transient nature of tenants. It would also make being a landlord financially unviable. Landlords have often invested their own hard earned cash into the property and should have a say on how it is used.

  24. Having just had the whole of a flat recarpeted because the cat had been allowed to pee on it and had to replace two carpets literally torn up by dogs in another at a total cost of £1500 (not covered by bond I am not willing to allow pets again.

  25. Definitely not, our tenants aquired a husky bitch without our consent, whilst they were living in our end of terrace house. Long story short, carpets all urinated on, kitchen vynal ripped up, walls scratched, doors chewed, garden destroyed, all in less than 6 months and between inspections. Has cost us over £6,000 in repairs when the deposit was only £850.00.

  26. Like most people I purchased my property believing it was my right to decide on most matters especially concerning pets! I certainly did not envisage a future where a tenant that will move in one day and very soon move out and by the way doesn’t share the same interest as me in my property, would have more say over my property then me! As for professional cleaning being taken away, I believe this is a scandalous idea. Past ( professional) tenants of mine have decided to not bother with cleaning everything which has left me to clean up after them and some areas required professional cleaners I.e. oven, hob, Extractor Fan, carpets, curtains and windows. These jobs would be lengthy to undertake yourselves especially if you are not a professional. Also there’s the safety aspect i.e heights, chemicals and allegeies. There is also the matter of purchasing expensive tools to get a proper clean after the last tenancy. Anyway back to some of my past tenants; one of the couples had a small dog but the other couple didn’t however both left it in a uncleaned state. My tenancy let is always professional cleaned and if not arranged and done properly by the previous tenant, then arranged by me. I am only able to safeguard my costs and time for this because of the deposit scheme dispute service. If rights to get the job done properly are taken away , i.e. professional cleaning and there are default right for tenants to have pets, then where does these type of tenant matters /rights end? What other new rights will these type of decisions open the path for further down the line, that is if any Landlord survives by that stage? What is the point of providing a rentals service if there is no future in renting? Maybe this is the idea! Landlords are human also and not a charity and we are also entitled to rights and be protected! Our rights seem to be fading very quickly nothing much left to protect the landlords rights from rogue tenants. It is concerning because as a Landlord that follows the correct regulations and is a members of one of the government deposit schemes and also the NLA I feel let down badly by the government. I am now left demoralise about the future of renting and so paranoid of rogue tenants, that by the way do not come with a sign saying they are rogue , I have copies of actual copies of paperwork. In my opinion there are a lot of opportunist out there finding sneaky ways to take advantage of the new laws and regulations that only exist to protect the tenants.

  27. The block lease conditions on my rental flat prohibits keeping pets. This is reasonable to avoid ni
    Uisance to other occupiers. My flat is also I
    On the second floor.

    If this proposal becomes law can I refuse pets because it would breach the block lease terms?

  28. I have seen laminate flooring wrecked by a dog ( cost to resolve exceeds deposit); cats that have shredded curtains (cost to replace exceeds deposit); Budgies that have been a health issue necessitating Environmental Health to get involved ( cleaning cost exceeded deposit); dare I go on? As others have said, this is another nonsensical idea dreamed up by someone who has never talked to landlords. If it does become law in 2022, then both deposits and rental charges will rise.

  29. I have twice had problems with pets in my properties, both times against the tenancy agreement. The first time I was not aware of it until the next tenant complained of multiple flea bites in her first weeks. I arranged for fumigation the next day and it worked. The second time it was apparent when cleaning the house after the tenant left. The smell in the carpets was so bad that they had to be replaced. Fortunately the house had been let through the local council’s housing team (who held a guarantee rather than a deposit) and they arranged to repay me a large percentage of the cost of replacing the carpets.

  30. the right to have animals in the property of not, should be down to the landlord.

    I’ve had tenants leave a property and left their two cats behind because they did not want them anymore! I’ve had to replace a front door, due to a dog chewing through various bits of it and leaving huge gashes and indentations from jumping up at it.
    One of my colleagues even had to remove the floorboards in a property and replace them, they were so damp with animal urine. An animal deposit will not cover this level of expense. This damage should not be down to the landlord to pay for.

  31. A small dog was allowed in a garden flat that had had new carpets throughout. After a two year tenancy the carpets were found to have been ruined by the dog scratching by closed doors. The DPS did not allow the holding of any deposit as they stated that a fitted carpet only has a two year life span!

  32. We allow pets in our properties. We consider that the deposit should cover property damage. Also, pets are known to have therapeutic effects on people and it seems unreasonable that someone should be unable to have pets just because they rent.

  33. 10 year contracts, no rent increases,tenants with pets , no fees, reduced deposit. Next no rent!
    As PRS already accommodates a large proportion of the housing sector due to the lack of council houses and shortage of Housing Association accommodation it would seem foolhardy to put more obstacles in the way of the private landlord. We already have far to many homeless on the streets.. This will inevitably lead to a reduction in the PRS.

  34. It would be interesting to see if we could have 2 different rents. One with and one without pets. This could certainly cover costs and would also allow a bigger deposit under the new regulations.

  35. I’m an animal lover and have often allowed pets in my properties but it depends on the tenants, their work/life balance and whether it can accommodate the care of animals. Landlords should always consider tenants wishes but it should be by negotiation of both parties, not a right. I’ve had to eradicate cat flees that departing tenants have left behind and deep clean a house to deal with the dog smell despite a clean, reliable tenant and a small dog. All in all, I have found that good tenants are even better when allowed a pet but I do so with caution and how they are able to care for any animal and its surroundings.

  36. The first property I bought to rent was a beautiful house. But unbeknown to me (till bought ) was that they had been cat lovers. No cat flap. Don’t know how they disguised the smell when i viewed, but we had to take up all the carpets & most of the floors (chipboard). All of this before the vibrations of the repairs we were undertaking hatched the dormant flea eggs. An absolute nightmare. This is how some pet lovers live in their own house. I certainly do not want them making that decision in a house or flat I have invested my hard earned money into.
    At present, I do not accept pets. I prefer not to be a judge for the purpose of individual tenants. It is surprising how many people will say that they will get rid off their pet. I love animals, but do not necessarily trust other owners, & could never imagine ‘getting rid’ of a pet. I would rather move on to the next property that does allow. I think that says more about the owners, & is a cast iron reason why the tenants’ choice should not be more important than the property owners. This is just another ruse by politicians to alienate Landlords so that less people support us when the next round of ‘Stealth Taxes’ come round!
    Politicians are paid for & supposed to work for all of us. They certainly do not do this. How dare they then tell us how to operate by including these restrictive ideas. And then tax our industry so heinously!

  37. I have only one property, my former home, which I rent to a tenant with two dogs. This was my choice because I already knew her and knew she was clean and looked after her pets. However, I am strongly against tenants having a default right to keep pets as I know I am lucky with my tenant and many landlords have bad, expensive experiences with their tenants with pets. The decision to allow a tenant to keep a pet should always be with the landlord, on negotiation. I have always had pet dogs but the periods in my life when I rented a home myself, I knew and accepted I could not keep one; I believe when you rent a house you should respect the landlord’s property but many tenants do not share my view. Landlords are not a charity, it is a business, and sometimes it is the landlord’s sole income, which many bad tenants do not care about.

  38. I might be more inclined to agree with this hair brained idea if at the same time pets were allowed into the house of commons!

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