Rental adverts that specify ‘no pets’ are a common sight on any lettings website in the UK. But as the makeup of the rented sector broadens, it’s increasingly important for landlords to consider all tenants for their rented property.
This article gives some compelling reasons to consider allowing tenants to keep a pet. It also gives practical advice on how to accommodate pets while setting up your tenancy, so that you cover yourself against any risks.
How Many Renters Have Pets?
In the UK, 50% of adults own a pet (YouGov, 2019). There is no reliable information on how many renters have pets, but given the growing size of the private rented sector, it is likely that a significant number of renters do own pets, and a much larger number would like to keep a pet if possible.
Some studies have found as few as 4% of UK rental adverts are welcoming of pets. Landlords fear that pets will damage their property and furnishings, annoy or even harm other tenants, and cause complaints from neighbours due to issues like fouling or barking.
Three Reasons Landlords Should Consider Tenants with Pets
For some properties, pets will never be appropriate; perhaps the property is too small for dogs, or has no garden. If it is a room in a shared house or HMO, then the existing tenants might not want a pet-owner to move in. But in general, there are some good reasons to consider allowing pet-owners to apply to your property.
Marketing to a larger pool of tenants
As we’ve seen, a large number of renters either have pets or would like to be able to have them. In some areas, excluding pet owners will dramatically decrease the number of tenants who could rent your property. This will give you fewer tenants to choose from.
It also makes it more likely that you will have a void period, i.e. a period of time with an empty property. The rent you lose during this period can quickly add up to being a serious cost. The problem is exacerbated if you are relying on the rental income to pay a buy-to-let mortgage or your day to day living expenses.
On the other hand, advertising ‘pets allowed’ means your property could receive more enquiries, get more viewings and let faster.
Pet-owners will want to stay with you for longer
Because it’s so hard for renters to find pet-friendly properties, allowing them to keep pets will mean your tenants are more likely to stay with you for longer. There are two sides to this. Firstly, they will be happier with their living arrangement than if they had to forgo their animal, and so will be less likely to want to move home.
Secondly, moving home will be a much more difficult task for tenants with pets, due to the lack of available housing. If you have good tenants with pets, this makes them more likely to stay with you, meaning you’ll have good tenants paying your rent for a longer time. This helps you avoid void periods, keep tenant-finding costs low, and generally reduce the amount of admin time spent managing your property.
If they get one when they move in, there’s not much you can easily do about it
Finally, if your tenants do move a pet into the property, then there’s not a huge amount that can easily be done to remove the pet without evicting the tenants. And if they are paying the rent on time, not causing any complaints, and you have not found any issues when inspecting the property, then evicting them may not be your best option.
How to Reduce Risk When Renting to Tenants with Pets
Many landlords worry that tenants with pets are more likely to leave an expensive cleaning or repairs bill at the end of the tenancy. This won’t always be the case, and it goes without saying that a large majority tenants with pets make great tenants.
If you are concerned about the risk of damage from pets, however, then there are several things that you can do to protect yourself and your property when setting up your tenancy.
Meet the pet before deciding
It would be perfectly normal to ask the tenant if you can meet their pet before deciding to let to them. The best place to do this would be at their current home, so you can see how their pet behaves in their home environment. Try and keep a business head on, no matter how adorable it is, and check for signs of pet-damage to furniture, floors and gardens.
Get a reference from a previous landlord
You can also ask the tenant to provide a reference from their current landlord (if they currently rent). This will let you know what their landlord thinks about the pet’s behaviour. Referencing checks should contain a landlord reference, along with a wealth of other information on the tenant, such as income, credit history and CCJs. All of this can be used to inform your decision on who to let to.
Take the maximum deposit possible
The tenancy deposit can be used at the end of the tenancy to pay for any damages caused by the pet. Taking the maximum deposit value possible, currently five weeks’ rent, ensures you will have as much cover as possible against any arrears or damages that accrue.
Increase the rent
If you’re still not comfortable with the added risk of damage, then you could try and charge a slightly higher rent to cover any damages. Be careful, however, as too large an increase might put off the tenant from renting the property.
Include a pets clause
Your tenancy agreement should make it clear that any pets are there with your written permission, and that any new pets would require new permission to be given. The clause should also specify that your permission will not be unreasonably withheld. Failure to include this could mean that the clause if deemed an unfair clause by the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
In any case, tenants are ultimately responsible for returning the property to you in the same state as the beginning of the tenancy; the contract should clearly state this, and you should make sure the tenants understand. Since tenants are on the hook for their pet’s behaviour, they will be incentivised to make sure they treat the property well and clean thoroughly before the end of the tenancy.
Make sure you do a thorough inventory
This is always a good idea, because it’s extremely unlikely that you will be able to make deductions from your tenant’s deposit for damage to the property if you can’t prove that the damage was done during the tenancy. If you want peace of mind about the state of your property with a pet in residence, it makes even more sense to get a detailed inventory done at the start, so you can prove the condition that tenants need to leave the property in when they leave.