Allowing pets in rental properties
Should I allow pets in rental properties?
Deciding whether to let your property to a tenant with pets is personal. There are pros and cons to accommodating pets in rental properties, and unless your freehold or leasehold ownership prohibits any animals being kept, it could boil down to your own attitude towards animals in general. It’s often recommended that if you do decide to accept pets, you do so on a case-by-case basis, and you take steps to protect yourself from any damage.
The benefits/ drawbacks to allowing pets in rental properties
The main advantage of allowing pets in your rental property is that you can tap into a wider pool of potential tenants and maximise your rental potential. According to Dogs Trust, some 45% of households in the UK own a pet, yet “few landlords will rent their property to tenants with pets”. The Trust’s own survey found that pet owners can take seven times as long to find a rental property that will accept their pet; and that one in three are unable to do so. Estate agent Chestertons says that, as a consequence, if you do allow pets “your property will be sought after and shouldn't be vacant for long, and tenants will be less likely to do anything to jeopardise the tenancy.” Tenants are also likely to stay for longer, says Chestertons, because of the difficulty of finding rented accommodation that allows pets.
But there are plenty of potential downsides. Damage is the obvious one – whether that be scratches on wooden floors and paintwork, chewed up carpets, or stains. A goldfish may be hard to refuse, but even the best house-trained cats and dogs have the occasional accident. Anti-social behaviour that upsets neighbours is another common drawback. “Dogs, for instance, will bark and may even howl especially when left alone,” points out Essex lettings agent Daniel Brewer. Pets can bring fleas and mites into the property, and it’s also worth considering that anyone who has an allergy to pets may not want to rent your property in future.
Do your homework
Dogs Trust has created a website letswithpets.org.uk to provide relevant information for landlords and tenants. Its guide for landlords and letting agencies suggests you should first check the terms of your freehold and lease, then approach any prospective tenant on a step-by-step basis. Before you agree, try to meet the tenant and pet in their current home and see how the pet behaves; ask for references from previous landlords; find out if they are registered with a vet and regularly treated for fleas, ticks and worms. You should include a ‘pet clause’ in the tenancy agreement which specifically grants permission for the named pet, but beware that under the Tenant Fees Act 2019 you cannot request a higher deposit or levy addition fees on this basis. However, if you are unsatisfied about the condition of the property at the end of the tenancy, you could still pursue a tenant for contractual damages if the costs cannot be covered by the deposit.
What if my tenant has pets despite being told they can’t?
Many landlords put a blanket pet prohibition clause in their tenancy contract in spite of the fact that it may not be legally valid under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Better to insert a clause which says that tenants cannot keep a pet without permission, and that the landlord can refuse permission on reasonable grounds. You could then take the tenant to court over breach of contract, seeking an order for them to give up possession of their pet – or you could take the simpler course and seek eviction under no-fault Section 21 (which is currently under review). Alternatively, if there aren’t good reasons to say no to this particular pet, you may decide to reconsider and amend the rental contract.