Do you allow your tenants to keep pets?
There’s often pressure on landlords to accept tenants with pets. However, under the 2015 Consumer Rights Act, a landlord can refuse permission for a tenant to keep a pet, if it’s reasonable to do so, for instance on grounds of the animal’s size, the damage it could cause and its impact on future rental prospects. As a result, many rental agreements drawn up by landlords insist on no animals.
Back in February this year, the BBC reported that Labour wants to strengthen the rights of tenants to keep a pet in their properties, by creating a default right for them to do so unless there is evidence their pet will be a nuisance.
There was no clarification of what evidence would be needed to establish the animal was a nuisance.
What’s more, with increasingly larger numbers of people renting as a long solution to their housing needs, there is also an inevitably increasingly large demand for those long-term tenants (who are making a rented property their permanent home) to be allowed to keep pets.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that as much as half of the UK population owns a pet and, according to a recent survey by the Dogs Trust, 78% of pet owners have experienced difficulty in finding accommodation which accepts pets and 54% were never able to find a suitable property. Which means there’s an extensive market of potential tenants for landlords to tap into if they’re willing to accept tenants with pets.
Pets are all very well, but we all know the problems that can result: damage to a property, not to mention additional odours and mess.
Of course, in meeting both pressure and demand, landlords are able to take appropriate precautions to mitigate any risk of damage. These measures should include taking out a more comprehensive landlord insurance policy, increasing the property’s damage deposit and ensuring that an independent and professionally compiled inventory is carried out.
But there’s a catch
Actually, there’s more than one catch. Firstly, as of next year, it is likely that damage deposits will be capped at a maximum of six weeks’ rent according to details in the Tenant Fees Bill introduced into Parliament last month. The cap on security deposits was initially announced in November last year during the chancellor’s Autumn Statement.
Secondly, some landlord organisations are concerned about how easy it will be for landlords to enforce breached tenancy conditions relating to pets. This will remain to be seen.
On the upside
Just because a tenant has a pet, doesn’t mean they’re going to damage your property. Tenants who want to make a property a long-term home for themselves, their children and their pets are often the best tenants – who pay on time and treat your property with respect.
So what’s our recommendation?
Don’t rule out tenants with pets. Instead, carry out some of the basic checks we’ve listed below:
- Check references in respect of previous properties the tenant has rented with their pets very carefully. How long did they live there, what sort of pets did they have, how did the pet behave, what condition was the property left in?
- Discuss the pets concerned with the tenant. What animals would they be, what is their temperament and behaviour like, would they be left alone, do they treat them for fleas etc.? Remember pets don’t just include dogs and cats and could be anything from rats to snakes!
- Consider asking to speak to their vet about the appropriateness of housing their pet in your property.
- Ask to meet the pet and check how many pets there will be (and their size).
- Ask who will look after the pet in an emergency. You want a name, address and phone number.
- Review your tenancy agreement and insurance policy to ensure they provide adequately for pets, including provision for potential pet damage (as this is not normally covered by normal insurance policies). Review the level of deposit required and consider the cost of professional cleaning after the tenant has left. Make provision for what happens if the tenant goes away on holiday and provide for regular landlord checks.
- Once the tenancy has started, make sure you do check the property regularly.
Of course, there will be occasions when despite your best endeavours, your tenant acquires a pet without you knowing. So in my next blog, I’ll be talking about what to do then and how often you should carry out inspections.
In the meantime, it remains to be seen whether the rules will eventually be changed about allowing pets.
Graham Faulkner is Branch Director of EweMove Dorking
He’s bought and sold a lot of properties over the years and is also a portfolio landlord, as well as specialising in helping other landlords. Apart from his own experience and expertise, he can also recommend the right professionals, as tried and tested by him, to advise you.
Multi-award winning EweMove in Dorking is a residential property sales and lettings agency who pride themselves on being refreshingly different and standing out from the crowd. EweMove Dorking covers from Ockley to Oxshott.