Should I let my tenant keep pets?

If you’re a new landlord, (or an experienced landlord looking to brush up your knowledge of the market), then I always recommend having a quick look now and then on the major property portals at what is available to rent in your area. Keeping an eye on the market allows you to see what might be a ‘reasonable price for your own property, but more importantly it can provide clues as to how to make your property stand out.

What does this have to do with pets?

There are two things you will find on the vast majority of all rental listings:

  • No DSS.
  • No pets.

The former is a can of worms and the subject of a future blog post, so I’ll leave it there. The latter is an opportunity!

The Pet Food Manufacturers Association commissions an annual report looking at trends in UK pet ownership. In 2016 they estimated that there were 57 million pets in the UK, across 11 million households. That means that about 40% of households keep pets – and yet the vast majority of landlords try to cut this section of the market out. That is your opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

So why do landlords try to ban pets?

Ask around your landlord friends, and chances are they will tell you that they are worried about the potential for damage. But consider this – do you really think that tenants who own pets are diligently avoiding the listings that say “no pets”? According to a recent survey by the Dogs Trust, 78% of pet owners struggle to find rental accommodation. In their shoes, do you think that you’d get fed up looking for a pet-friendly landlord and tell a little white lie to get the house you want? So, now consider whether you’d rather be the landlord who knows their tenants have pets and have made allowances for that, or whether you’d like it to be a surprise in the event of trouble later on?

Sensible Precautions

Clearly it is possible that Rover or Mr Tiddles are going to cause some damage. Dogs and cats in particular can scratch walls, doors and furniture. Not all owners keep their animals clean, so there are dirt and hygiene considerations – not to mention the wet dog smell that may linger long after your tenants have gone. But instead of a blanket ban on all types of pet, I’d suggest some simple rules:

  • Hamsters and goldfish are unlikely to be a nuisance. If you’re really bothered, why not say “No cats or dogs” instead?
  • Personally, I would say, “Pets allowed by arrangement”, which gives you an opportunity to make a case-by-case decision.
  • Always take an additional “pet deposit” to allow for deep cleaning after the tenancy ends, but give tenants the option to pay for a carpet clean etc. themselves and thus recover their full deposit.
  • You might also be able to add a small premium to the rent for pet owners, depending on the market in your area.
  • If you are taking pets, make sure that you or the agent makes this prominent in the text of the advert. This will grab the attention of any pet owning tenants right away because it is so unusual.

You’ll often find that someone who loves their pet is so grateful to have found a nice property where they are allowed to keep the animal that they will make every effort to be an exemplary tenant. This is great news for you in the long run, as they are not only taking good care of the place, they are also more likely to renew the tenancy and stay for the long term.

Before accepting a tenant with pets:

  • You might want to consider meeting the pet in question before deciding whether to accept the animal.
    • This could give you an idea of any behavioural problems.
    • If the dog barks constantly, then it is likely to upset your neighbours!
  • You could also ask to see records from the owner about vet treatments, which will show that the animal is properly taken care of.
    • This can reduce the likelihood problems like fleas.
  • Consider getting references from previous landlords specifically mentioning the pet(s).
  • Make sure your tenancy agreement has specific clauses showing what the pet-owner’s responsibilities are in terms of on-going cleanliness and move-out standards expected.
  • As always, make sure you have an excellent Inventory so that any damage can be identified and made good from the deposit with the minimum of fuss.

Points to remember:

  • If you evict a tenant and they leave the pet behind, it is the landlord’s responsibility to deal with it!
  • Ensure that you or your agents conduct regular inspections –I’d suggest quarterly.
    • This will encourage good behaviour and identify any issues quickly.
  • Not all landlord insurance policies cover potential pet damage, so you should check and if necessary take additional cover.

Animals are usually as good as their owner. If you have referenced thoroughly, and a tenant is honest about the animals they own, then you should be fine. There is no inherent reason that accepting pets should be an issue, but like all things in this business it pays to plan ahead and take the proper precautions. Even if pets cause damage, the additional deposit should cover it (that’s what it is there for after all), and meanwhile you could have had a fully let property for years at slightly above market rate. With a larger target audience, your property could be off the market faster than a greyhound after a rabbit!

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