Dogs – a man’s best friend or landlord’s worst nightmare?

Insights / / Bristol

The pandemic led to an increase in demand for many everyday items, from flour to toilet roll. It also saw a rise in demand for dogs and other domestic animals; as families decided to embrace their new working from home lifestyle by introducing a new, furry addition to their family. But where does this leave landlords; whose tenants have decided to take this decision without their consent; or tenants struggling to find a new home with their beloved pet?

Currently, landlords are entitled to withhold consent under the lease. However, this may change with the introduction of the Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill; which had its first reading in the House of Commons last month (October 2020). 

What is the aim of the Bill?

The Bill, proposed by Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell aims to banish the no-pet clause for rented homes and to give tenants the right to live with their pet. According to Rosindell, the Bill also aims to provide landlords with some comfort, by making pet owners pass a test of ‘responsible ownership’. The test will include obtaining a certificate from a vet before moving in, confirming that the pet is a healthy and well-behaved animal and that the owners are considered to be responsible owners. 

Where does this leave tenants and landlords?

Currently, there is no prohibition on landlords preventing pets from living at a property. Tenants should: 

  • Always read their lease/tenancy agreement before welcoming a pet into their home. If a tenant was to bring a pet into the home in circumstances where it is prohibited by the lease, they could run the risk of a claim by the landlord for breaching the agreement for damage to the property. Furthermore, the tenant could also face a further risk of the landlord seeking possession of the property for a breach of covenant under the agreement. 
  • Seek the consent of the landlord prior to deciding to get a pet. Some agreements will allow animals with consent of the landlord or a revision of the lease which provides further conditions such as additional cleaning requirements upon leaving the property. 

For landlords, whilst the Bill is not yet in force, the aims of the bill should be considered: 

  • Check your lease agreements - see where you stand in terms of allowing animals at the property and whether there are conditions you would like to include within the lease.
  • Ensure your preferred conditions are documented - conditions should provide you with comfort if you are uncertain as to whether you want a tenant with furry baggage. Rules you put in place could include a six-month break clause acting as a “test run” (which would allow you to provide notice to the tenant if it appears that the animal is causing damage), an increase in the deposit amount and/or cleaning requirements upon the tenant leaving the property (i.e. paying for all carpets to be professionally cleaned). 

It is important that both landlords and tenants consider their positions carefully at the outset to avoid potential conflict at the end of the tenancy or indeed throughout the term of the lease.

The Bill has its second reading on 29th January 2021, and we endeavour to keep you updated with any further developments once the reading has taken place.

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