We are a nation of animal lovers, but apparently, our love of furry friends doesn’t extend to landlords.
More than half of all adults in the UK own a pet. That amounts to around 20 million cats and dogs, many of them living in rental accommodation with their owners.
In 2008, the Dog’s Trust did some research as part of their Lets with Pets campaign. They found that 78% of tenants had difficulties finding a landlord who would accept pets. By 2011, not much had changed. One-third of pet owners still could not find a suitable property and even if they did find one, it took them seven times longer than tenants without pets.
Since the Tenant Fees Act 2019 came into force in June 2019, deposits have been capped at one month’s rent. This means landlords can no longer charge an extra security deposit to cover potential pet-related damage. They can’t charge a fee for extra cleaning either.
The law was implemented to save tenants from being charged a host of questionable fees, but it’s caused many landlords to reconsider whether they accept pets.
A recent story in the Guardian newspaper reported that many landlords had begun charging “pet rent” to cover their extra costs. Some tenants said they were being charged as much as £50 extra each month, just for the privilege of having a rental home that accepted pets.
Letting agents say additional pet rent is the only way landlords can charge a pet deposit without breaking the law. Some landlords are even asking for pet references! Presumably, a landlord does this by checking with a tenant’s former landlord, to make sure the tenant’s pets didn’t chew up the carpets and destroy the garden.
Why don’t landlords like pets?
Pets are a contentious subject. On the one hand, they are (mostly) cute and cuddly, but on the other, pets can cause a lot of damage.
Cats scratch carpets, doors, and furniture. Dogs do all of that and more. They are also prone to digging holes in the garden and barking incessantly when left alone for long stretches. Both species may also soil floors and gardens, become infested with fleas, and attack people, i.e. landlords.
Even if you are a pet lover and you have lots of furry friends at home, you may not want pets in your rental for all of the above reasons. After all, just because you are a responsible pet owner, it doesn’t mean your tenants are.
Even well-behaved pets can cause some damage. Their fur migrates everywhere, and it takes longer to clean a property when pets have lived there. This increases your bills at the end of a tenancy and if the neighbours adjacent to the property are not keen on animals, it could also negatively affect community relations.
Why should landlords allow pets?
Whether you like animals or not, there are a few sound reasons why allowing pets makes good business sense. Firstly, an overwhelming number of tenants will already have pets or be considering buying one. By excluding pets from a tenancy, it will be harder to find a suitable tenant – and as any landlord knows, an empty property is bad for cash flow. If you advertise your property as “pet-friendly”, you can expect a dramatic increase in enquiries. Not all of them will be worth considering, but still, a larger pool of potential tenants isn’t a bad thing!
Tenants are more likely to stay in your property long-term if they can bring their pets. A long-term, reliable tenant is worth far more than a succession of short-term tenants.
Finally, there are a lot of vulnerable people living in the private sector. Having a pet is good for our mental health. Pets are company, which is important for the elderly and anyone living alone. By allowing your tenants to have pets, you’re making their lives a bit more bearable.
Go on, you know you want to!
Is your property suitable for pets?
Before you decide whether to accept pets, it is worth thinking about whether your property is suitable for pets. A family home with a garden is ideal for cats, dogs, and most small pets. However, a flat on the 15th floor of a large block or an HMO is not suitable. Therefore, don’t advertise a property as pet-friendly if it blatantly isn’t.
Are your tenants suitable pet parents?
Some pets require a lot of care. Whilst cats are mostly independent creatures happy to do their own thing as long as food is regularly forthcoming, dogs are different. They need supervision and should not be left alone all day while the owner is at work. Dogs that are left alone for hours at a time, either indoors or out in the garden, will soon get stressed and exhibit stress-related behaviour, such as excessive barking, chewing, and worse.
If your tenants have dogs and they work full-time, ask them how they intend to manage their pets when they are at work. Some people use a doggy day-care facility or pet walker, which is a suitable compromise. Or they might have a friend or relative that walks the dog during the day. Be wary if the tenant can’t give you a straight answer. It suggests they haven’t got a plan for managing their dog while they work, which is bad for the dog and even worse for your property and the neighbours.
Different types of pets
Whilst dogs and cats are the most common types of pets, don’t assume that’s the only creature your tenants may wish to bring with them.
Fish won’t cause you any problems. Small pets, such as hamsters, gerbils, mice, and rats are not much of a problem either unless they are allowed out of their cage to roam free. In which case, they will likely chew and gnaw on everything, as well as urinate and defecate everywhere.
Rabbits are another popular pet. Rabbits most often live outside in a hutch, so your tenants will need a garden. Check whether they have a run, and if not, is the garden secure? Rabbits can dig under fences and won’t hesitate to make their escape if the neighbours have a tasty patch of flowers or vegetables to chomp on.
Reptiles and other exotic pets are increasingly prized these days. From bearded dragons to snakes and giant spiders, this type of pet usually lives in a terrarium and won’t cause any damage – unless it escapes from its tank and the floorboards have to come up in a bid to track down an errant tarantula or boa constrictor.
Caged birds are less common, but some people enjoy keeping parakeets, canaries, budgies, etc. These shouldn’t cause you any problems.
Treat each potential pet as an individual case. For example, not all staffies are vicious and not all chihuahuas are sweet. Research the pet’s breed and temperament before you make a final decision. And if you are concerned, ask the tenant’s previous landlord for a pet reference.
It is good to have a general understanding of the law and how it relates to pets in rental properties.
The good news for landlords is that a pet’s owner can be held liable for any damage their pet causes. The Animals Act 1971 requires that a pet owner or anyone responsible for a pet (i.e. a pet sitter) must ensure the pet does not cause damage or injury.
The Animal Welfare Act 2006 covers all issues relating to animal welfare. This means that your tenants can be prosecuted for not taking proper care of their pets.
We hope you don’t have any reason to consult the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, but if you discover your tenant is hiding a crocodile in the bathroom or a venomous snake in their bedroom, report them to the council, as they need a licence to keep any creature classed as “dangerous”.
In addition, there are various laws pertaining to certain breeds of dogs.
Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 prohibits ownership of specific breeds, including Pit Bull Terriers. Such dogs can be kept as pets, but they must not be a danger to the public, they must wear a muzzle in public, and be covered by third-party insurance.
Section 79 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 relates to noise nuisance. If your tenants own a dog that barks at all hours of the day and night, they can be prosecuted and handed an unlimited fine.
If you need any more information, the Dogs Trust has lots of useful resources.
Managing tenants with pets
Tenants with pets can be managed, but you must be proactive. It’s important to monitor the situation, to make sure things don’t get out of hand. The nice tenant who asks if they can move in with their elderly feline might just end up with six large staffies and a tank of tarantulas if you fail to keep track of what they are up to.
Once you have made the decision to accept pets, make sure your property listing states “pet-friendly”. And if you use a letting agent, let them know you are willing to accept pets – and how many. Some landlords will only accept one cat or one small dog. If you do have restrictions on the number/type of pets, be clear about this upfront, to avoid any confusion.
Do a thorough property check and inventory before a tenant with pets moves in. Take photos to prove the property was in good condition, so if there is a dispute when the tenancy ends, you have evidence to back up your claims.
Pets and tenancy agreements
It is sensible to put some clauses relating to pets in your tenant agreement. Be specific about what you expect and what you don’t want the tenant to do. For example, if you allow dogs, you could include a clause that states dogs must not be allowed to bark for extended periods. It’s also wise to have a clause related to pet damage, one that states the tenant is clearly liable for costs if damage occurs.
If you want to weed out any unsuitable pet owners, include a clause that states all pets must be vaccinated and microchipped. This should discourage any people who treat pets as a status symbol rather than man’s best friend from applying.
It is a good idea to add a clause stating the tenant must pay for the property to be professionally cleaned at the end of the tenancy. This should eliminate any nasty stains and pet smells.
Go over the tenancy agreement with the tenant, so they are clear about what you expect from them in terms of cleaning and damage.
Check your landlord insurance to see whether it covers pet-related damage. Many standard insurance policies don’t cover pet damage, so you may need to switch to an insurer that does offer pet cover. Otherwise, you’ll be out of pocket when your tenant’s cocker-poo eats all the doors and skirting boards.
Regular property inspections
There are many people who will risk eviction just so they can keep their pets. They pretend they don’t have pets so a landlord will let them move in, and then hide the pets when the landlord visits. By allowing pets in your properties, you don’t need to worry about any cloak and dagger shenanigans. But you do need to keep your eyes peeled for pet-related damage.
Carry out regular property inspections if your tenants have pets. You should do this anyway, but it’s a good idea to do them more often when pets are involved. Let the tenant know you’ll be carrying out regular inspections to make sure their pets aren’t causing any damage.
Gardens and pets
Pets can do a lot of damage in a garden. Dogs dig holes, leave brown patches on the lawn where they pee, and cats like to use flower beds as toilets.
Let your tenants know that the garden should not be used as a pet toilet and all pet poo must be cleared up.
Pet-friendly properties need secure gardens for dogs. It’s pointless advertising a rental property as “pet-friendly” if there isn’t a secure fence or wall around the garden. There also needs to be a secure gate, to prevent pets from escaping.
One of the most heinous problems you may have to deal with once a tenant with pets moves out is a flea infestation. Fleas are difficult to eradicate once a serious infestation takes hold and prevention is always better than the cure.
Dogs and cats typically pick up fleas from their environment. Flea eggs can survive dormant for several years, usually buried deep in carpets and upholstery. Deep cleaning helps but fleas can pass from animal to animal very easily, and they will linger once their source of food has left.
Make sure you stress the importance of regular flea treatments if your tenants have pets. Flea populations often explode over long periods of warm weather and it’s essential that pets are treated as a preventative measure. If your property becomes infested with fleas, you’ll have a difficult task eradicating them before the next tenant moves in. For really bad infestations, call in the professionals to eradicate the fleas, their larvae, and eggs.
Evicting problem tenants
Not all pet owners (and indeed tenants!) are nice, responsible people. Some let their pets defecate everywhere, cause untold damage, and bark all day and night. People like this probably won’t be too interested in paying the rent either. If this happens, you’ll need to start eviction proceedings.
If the tenancy is near the end of a fixed-term, issue a Section 21 notice. Otherwise, a Section 8 notice is your best course of action, assuming the tenant is in breach of their tenancy agreement (which they will be if you had the foresight to include pet clauses).
A change in circumstances
There will be times when a tenant comes to you with a sob story about a cat or dog they have inherited/rescued/been gifted. Whether their story is fictional is for you to decide, but you’ll need to decide whether you are willing to accept the pet or issue a Section 8 notice (if you have a “no pets” clause in the tenancy agreement).
Losing a long-term and reliable tenant will probably outweigh the potential aggravation of allowing them to have a pet in your pet-free rental property, so be flexible here and look at the bigger picture. However, if you are vehemently anti-pets, don’t feel that you have to cave in and say “yes”. It’s your property, your rules.
Cleaning at the end of a tenancy
When pets have been in residence, the property will need a more in-depth clean at the end of a tenancy. Be thorough when you do a check-out and let the tenant know if there are any issues related to their pets. It’s often a good idea to pay for professional cleaners to come in and do a really thorough job.
If there are any major issues, use the tenant’s deposit to cover the cost of cleaning or damage repair. Keep all receipts for costs related to damage repair or cleaning A tenant has the right to challenge deductions from their deposit if they feel you are unfairly penalising them.
Always check a property as soon as possible once a tenant has vacated, to make sure they haven’t abandoned their pets, among other things. Hopefully, this won’t happen to you, but some disreputable tenants won’t think twice about leaving a dog, cat, or even a snake behind. Pets can’t survive long without food and water, so time is of the essence if you do discover an abandoned pet.
Abandoned pets are your responsibility. If you find a dog, cat or other creature, contact a local animal charity to see if they can help. In cases of serious neglect or cruelty, call a vet and/or RSPCA.
Finally, remember that most problem pets can be linked to bad owners. Bear this in mind before you implement a blanket ban on all pets. If the tenant is a nice, respectable person with good morals, their pets will likely be well-behaved and well taken care of. Conversely, if your tenant is a shady individual with a questionable lifestyle, it’s fairly obvious that any pets they own will be large, vicious, and badly behaved.
Do you accept pets in your rentals? Tell us how you manage pets and whether you’ve had any bad experiences. We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or get in touch via social media.
Read More Like This: