The subject of pets in rental properties has been a much-talked-about one in recent times, thanks in large part not just to increasing pet ownership in the UK, but also several eye-catching government initiatives.

One of those initiatives was, in January 2021, the introduction of a new standard tenancy agreement that the government said would enable “responsible tenants in England with well-behaved pets… to secure leases more easily”. Another such measure in the direction of helping tenants to own pets was the Renters Reform Bill whitepaper, which has set out that tenants will be given the right to request a pet.

But as matters presently stand, it’s unclear whether there is a specific number of pets that tenants can have in a rental property, and that landlords are required to accept.

So, how many pets can you have in a rental property?

Can a landlord legally say no pets?

First of all, it is important to emphasise what the aforementioned recent developments are, and what they are not. As of the present moment, no new legal requirement has been imposed on landlords to allow pets in their properties – let alone any specific number.

The standard tenancy agreement is more properly known as the Model Tenancy Agreement (MTA). It certainly introduces interesting changes that could have implications for tenants wishing to have pets in their homes, and the landlords who might or might not wish to accept such pets in properties that they own.

The MTA was given a new clause that sought to prohibit a blanket ban on pets in rental properties. Among the clause’s provisions was that renters were required to seek written consent from their landlord if they wished to keep animals in the property. There was also a presumption of the landlord’s consent to the tenant keeping a pet, where the landlord failed to give a written response within 28 days of receiving the request (unless there was a good reason for the landlord to refuse).

However, it’s worth noting that the MTA is an entirely optional document for landlords to use. In other words, it is merely guidance, representing a ‘model’ agreement to follow, instead of creating any new law or legal obligations.

This means that as of now, if the landlord has a ‘no pets’ clause in their tenancy agreement, and the tenant violates this clause by keeping a pet in their rental property, the landlord would be entitled to use a section 8 notice to attempt to evict them. To learn more about your rights when renting your property, read our guide on how much notice a landlord needs to give.

So, what significance does the Model Tenancy Agreement have on the subject of pets?

In theory, then, landlords continue to have considerable power to reject a tenant’s request to keep one pet in their property, never mind several.

The MTA, though, is an important indicator of the government’s future direction of travel on the subject. Indeed, it is also not currently absolutely clear whether landlords can advertise a ‘no pets’ rule to would-be tenants.

It could be reasoned that advertising a ‘no pets’ clause in their listings as the default position would not be the best practice for landlords, as there can’t necessarily be a good reason for refusing pets in every single instance. But with the MTA nonetheless still being mere guidance rather than law, there is ambiguity on the matter.

Could a ‘pet clause’ in the tenancy agreement be the answer?

You may still be wondering how many pets can you have in a rental property? Well, it’s difficult to give an exact answer, as it will depend on the size of your property and the type of pet your tenant wishes to keep. Let’s face it, most landlords are unlikely to object to their tenants keeping a tank full of fish. Having said that, many landlords would be hesitant to take on tenants with two or three large dogs given the increased risk of potential pet damage.

Plus, there are lots of other pros and cons to being a pet-friendly landlord. If you’re on the fence about opening your door to several pets, don’t worry! One solution to help cut through the impasse could be for the landlord and tenant to agree to a ‘pet clause’ in the tenancy agreement. This offers scope for a highly specific agreement on such matters as what the tenant’s responsibilities are when keeping the pet in the property, with the clause potentially also stipulating the exact number of pets to be allowed in the rental property. Such a clause could be invaluable for helping to avoid misunderstandings at a later date. Read our guide on using the Landlord Law Pets Agreement and Information Form to learn more about pet-related clauses.

As matters stand right now, landlords have no mandatory requirement to accept pets in a tenancy. Nonetheless, landlords who refuse to accept pets in their property are advised to provide a good reason for this stance in writing, without being unreasonable, within 28 days of the request. A landlord might choose not to allow a certain number of pets, for example, due to a lack of space in the property, and this could be considered legitimate.

Are you ready to learn about the wealth of options potentially available to you for landlord insurance? If so, as an independent intermediary, CIA Landlords can provide tailored help, so that you are in a stronger position to secure a policy that best matches your needs. Get in touch today and see why we are experts when it comes to landlord insurance.

We hope we’ve provided some clarity on how many pets can you have in a rental property? For more expert advice to landlords, visit our advice centre where you can find useful information on topics such as property maintenanceutilities and much more.

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