In the end whether or not you allow pets in your rentals comes down to you. There are a lot of landlords that don’t allow people to have pets which we quite understand.
Deciding on a strict pet policy is the first step. Your pet policy doesn’t have to be a simple yes or no. Some pets are better behaved than others, some are better trained. Some need more attention or have bad habits. In the same way that not all tenants are created equal neither are all pets...
When it comes to determining your pet policy it’s well worth considering what animals are suitable for the property and then making sure you thoroughly screen any pets you let near your investment.
For example, you may have a small single bed apartment - or you may have a large detached house with a big garden. The former probably wouldn’t be a good place for a pet, the latter would likely be fine for all but the biggest of animals.
Let us imagine your property is suitable for pets and you are thinking about allowing your tenants to bring their furry companions into your property. You need to really consider and be upfront with your policy. There’s a difference between letting Jane and her cat Dingleberry rent, compared to Jane and her six Rottweilers named after Santas reindeer.
There are a few advantages to allowing pets. The main one though is all about tapping into an otherwise underserved market.
Because so many landlords don’t allow pets there are a lot of prospective tenants out there with pets looking for their next home.
Allowing pets then widens your audience and significantly increases your chances of finding a tenant.
According to a recent survey by the “Dogs Trust”:
Because it can be so hard for tenants with pets to find suitable accommodation they often make every effort to be exemplary tenants so that their lease will be renewed at the end of the tenancy.
The obvious disadvantage of allowing pets is the extra damage that pets can cause a property. The risk of the pet causing damage can be mitigated by having a strict pet policy, however, many landlords, understandably, opt to avoid the hassle and risk altogether.
On top of the damage caused by pets, they can also leave lingering odours that are hard to get rid of. Whether it’s the insidious scent of wet dog or the cat got locked in one time and peed a little in the corner. Either way, animal smells are real and they can be incredibly hard to properly get rid of.
There are a few other disadvantages that are worth considering.
Some dogs bark. This can be upsetting to neighbours. As a landlord, you want to stay on good terms with your neighbours and loud pet could strain this relationship.
If not treated regularly cats and dogs are particularly susceptible to getting fleas. If they do get fleas there’s a chance that the property itself will become infested and this can be a difficult problem to get rid of.
Lingering animal hair could cause issues for the next tenants that want to move in if they have allergies. Allowing pets now could restrict your ability to rent the property out later.
If you decide that your property is appropriate for pets, and you think it will increase your chances to secure a great tenant then it’s well worth putting clause specific to your pet policy into your Tenancy Agreement contract.
These will be special clauses that state the tenant's responsibilities regarding their pets are.
For example, ensuring that litter trays are kept clean, that the pet gets routine veterinary check-ups, or specifying the scope and limitations of allowing an animal into the rental eg. only 1 dog allowed below 30kg.
Having these clauses in the agreement will mean that if your tenant's pet causes problems or breaches the contract you will be able to save a section 8 form to remove the tenant and their pet.
You can specify in the agreement that you will be taking a non-returnable pet payment which will go towards covering the costs of professionally cleaning the property after the tenant moves out.
If you do include these clauses in the agreement it is well worth going through them with your tenant to make sure they understand what you expect from them and what their responsibilities are in your eyes towards their pet. This will help you avoid issues in the future.
We will do a more specific article on pet clauses at a later date, exploring how and what to include in it. For now, have a look at the pet policy by letswithpets.org.uk
You wouldn’t rent to someone without running them through a screening service. Neither should you allow animals in without first making sure they are compatible with your property.
The first step is meeting the tenant with their animal. How well behaved are they? How healthy is the animal? You can ask to see copies of your tenant's pets treatment records from the vets to make sure that the animal is being properly cared for.
When you get a reference from the previous landlord for the tenant to make sure to ask about the animal and determine if there were any issues that the previous landlord had with the pet.
Finally, you need to consider the lifestyle of the tenants and how much time the animal will be spending time at home alone. For example, if the tenant is a nurse living alone regularly working 10 hours a day you might want to consider the distress this could cause the animal - which could lead it to misbehave and tear the property apart. If however, you have two tenants who work from home 90% of the time then the time the pet is left alone is massively reduced and the risk that it will act out minimised.
It used to be that landlords would take a little extra deposit for protection against the damages that pets are often associated with. However, since the introduction of the “Tenant Fees Act 2019” on the 1st June 2019, landlords in England (regardless of whether their tenants have pets or not) are capped at taking no more than five weeks’ rent for the tenancy deposit where the annual rent is less than £50,000. There is six weeks’ rent cap where the total annual rent is £50,000 or above.
If you do decide on a more friendly pet policy, then this is something you might want to shout about. As we established earlier in the article. Pet-friendly landlords are few and far between so letting the pet owners of Britain know how to find you are a sure way to secure a tenant fast.
That being said, if the tenant doesn’t feel like a good fit, or their animal doesn't appear to be well-behaved and trained then don’t feel obliged to rent to the first pet owner that comes knocking.
It is worth specifying upfront the kinds of animals you accept and any limitations. For example, you might accept cats, but not dogs and only one cat at that. Or you might accept dogs but only under ones under 30kg.
A final note on this front is that if you have any particular conditions for your pet owners eg. you require them to have regular vet check-ups it may be worth mentioning upfront to filter out some of the less wanted enquiries.
For example, a Cocker Spaniel is generally friendly but very energetic and needs plenty of exercises and outdoor space. A German Shepherd, on the other hand, is less friendly, harder to train and can be aggressive, which is widely different from a Havanese is typically very friendly, low energy lap dog.
The decision to allow pets is a difficult one. However, with such an overwhelming number of pet owners out there looking for a home that allows animals it can be a good move, one that will keep your vacancy periods blissfully short.
That being said, the situation should be treated with care and proper precautions are taken. In general, a good pet owner with a well-trained pet is likely going to be a good tenant. This is why it’s so important to meet the tenant with their animal before you allow them to settle in. But every scenario is different, and you will need to use your best judgment.
At some point in time, your tenants are going to request some maintenance and you are going to need someone you know and trust that you can send round. This is when you flick through your book of trusty contractors and send the best one around. Problems solved.