Over the past 4-5 years, I’ve only had one tenant with a pet (dog), and that was literally because it was forced upon me. Initially, my tenant didn’t move in with Snowball, it happened a year or so into the tenancy.
One day I received a frantic phone call from my tenant, screeching down the phone, feeding me the crumbs of her tragic life story about her ex-husband, who was on the verge of tossing out their family Staffordshire Bull Terrier, because he didn’t have time to look after her anymore.
I was basically left in a position where my tenant was willing to find another property to rent unless I betrayed my “no dog” policy. Gosh, the bond between human and dog is quite something, isn’t it?
In retrospect, my tenant was a bit of a knob for putting me in a position like that. However, it just goes to show how passionate some people are about their pets. And, when someone is THAT passionate about their pet, the pet is usually well-behaved and maintained. With that in mind, I took the gamble and allowed my tenant to move the beast into the property.
Fortunately, it worked out well. The dog was clean, well behaved, extremely friendly, and actually quite lovable.
When tenants/landlords discuss “pets”, they’re typically referring to dogs and cats. Dogs are the most common pets in the UK, and if there’s any type of household pet that is capable of effortlessly destroying a house, it’s a dog. Smaller pets like fish, hamsters and rabbits aren’t usually a problem. On that basis, I’m going to focus this article with the assumption we’re all here because we want to discuss tenants, landlords and dogs!
So, let’s look at the pro’s and con’s for allowing pets (typically, dogs), and you can make up your own mind…
Advantages of Landlords allowing pets
- Many landlords don’t allow pets, so finding one that does can often be a challenge, which means pet-friendly landlords can usually demand more rent.
- Allowing pets opens up a wider audience, so it becomes a lot easier to find tenants, which can help minimise vacant periods. According to a recent survey by the Dogs Trust, 78% of pet owners have experienced difficulty finding accommodation which accepts pets. And according to ‘Pet Friendly Rentals’ by not accepting pets, you will be decreasing your potential market by 50%.
- Tenants that are lucky enough to find a pet-friendly landlord often make every effort to be exemplary occupants so their tenancy agreement can be renewed. It’s a good hook to find a long-term tenant.
- Dogs are a good form of security as they tend to respond badly to strangers, so they will form an extra layer of protection.
- Pets can be destructive and messy, especially if they aren’t looked after properly.
- Pets can smell, especially if their hygiene is neglected by their owners. From my personal experience, most dogs and cats leave behind a scent that are usually immune to the pet-owner. Just saying.
- Pets can be disturbing to neighbours e.g. dogs barking at unsocial hours. It’s important for landlords to keep healthy relationships with neighbours.
- Many landlords are hesitant to allow pets as they may affect subsequent tenants who may have allergies.
- Pets that don’t receive regular treatment are at high risk of catching fleas, which can quickly infest the property.
- Untrained pets can be particularly destructive towards furniture.
- It might be worth meeting the pet and focus on how it acts around the tenant. It will also be a good opportunity to see how well behaved and healthy the animal is.
- You may want to ask to see copies of your tenants’ pets treatment records from their vet so you’re assured that the animal is properly taken care of. This will reduce problems like infestation.
- Try and get a reference from a previous landlord, where the tenant has lived with the pets.
- Consider the suitability of the pet for your particular property. For example, a small dog in a small house may be fine, but not a large one.
- Take into consideration the lifestyle of the tenants; if they’re going to be at work all day (or night), bear in mind the dog/pet will most likely be left alone at home during that time.
- Non pet-friendly landlords will demand anywhere between 4 – 6 weeks’ rent for a deposit.
- Pet-friendly landlords will demand anywhere between 6 – 8 weeks’ rent for a deposit.
- If you plan on allowing pets, it’s advised to get a Tenancy Agreement contract which specially has clauses for pets. There will be special clauses stating what the pet-owners responsibilities are e.g. ensuring the tenant is responsible for keeping litter trays clean. Here is a useful blog post on Tenancy Agreements and Pet Clauses
- Good tenancy agreements will have a section to record a name and address and contact details in case of emergency. Alternatively, if the tenant goes on holiday.
- If your tenant’s pet is causing a problems and breaching the terms in the tenancy agreement, then a Section 8 Form can be served to remove the tenant and their pet.
- It’s worth going over the conditions in the tenancy agreement regarding the conditions relating to pets, so the tenant is clear about what is expected.
- Do a thorough Property Inventory so there’s no confusion about what kind of state the property is in before the tenant/pet moved in. This is crucial.
- As already mentioned, it’s becoming extremely difficult for tenants to find landlords that allow pets. So it’s important that when you’re marketing your property for rent, you clarify that you do accept pets. This may drastically increase the level of inquiries you receive.
- Since cats and dogs are the most common household pets in the UK, make sure you specify that you accept cats and dogs, and any other type of animal which you think will improve your campaign.
- If you have any strict conditions (e.g. you require proof that the pet gets regular checkups at the vets), it might be worth mentioning it, so you filter unwanted applicants.
Disadvantages of Landlords allowing pets
Are landlords allowed to refuse tenants with pets?
In short, mostly no.
But in reality it’s a different story.
The law stipulates that landlords can’t use blanket pet ban clauses to prevent tenants from keeping pets because it’s subject to the unfair terms regulations (which is part of the Consumer Rights Act 2015) unless they have a legitimate reason for prohibiting pets.
Essentially, landlords should not have clauses in their tenancy agreements that prohibit pets, but more importantly, pet-unfriendly landlords shouldn’t rave about refusing applicants with pets, if that is indeed the case.
That said, landlords can include clauses that require tenants to request permission if they wish to keep a pet. But the problem is, landlords need reasonable grounds to refuse any requests. For example, it would be reasonable to refuse a tenant that wants to keep a Great Dane in a one bedroom studio apartment, because the horse is obviously too big for the property.
But the reality is, landlords can easily choose tenants without pets, or refuse to continue a tenancy if a tenant suddenly decides to get a pet mid-tenancy (presuming the landlord doesn’t have a reasonable reason to deny the request). So while we’re not allowed to rely on pet prohibition clauses, we really do have control over the situation.
Before accepting a tenant with pets
How much deposit should landlords take from tenants with pets?
Based on my experience, the typical rates are as follows:
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.
Tenancy Agreements & pet clauses
Marketing your property as pet-friendly
My tenant has a pet/dog without my permission, what can I do?
Common scenario, and it can be tricky to deal with.
Many tenants ignore the pet clause – both intentionally and unintentionally – which states that they must request permission before dragging in a new fluffy member into the household.
First, you need to decide if you’re going to accept the change in circumstances. While many tenants do sneak in pets through the backdoor, it isn’t always a disaster, and many landlords just accept the reality of the situation and manage to walk away relatively unscathed. But that’s usually the case when the tenant has a proven track record of paying rent on time, keeping the property clean and maintained etc.
It’s also worth considering whether the pet is actually suitable for the property – that’s something pet-owners are often oblivious to. If it’s apparent the premise is unsuitable for the pet(s) in question, you should request for the pet to be removed from the property.
In any case, decide whether you want in or out.
If you want out (i.e. you’re unhappy with the situation)
Before raging like a bull in a china shop, it’s advised to try the diplomatic approach. If you want the pet gone, it might be worth kindly requesting the tenant to remove the pet from the premises.
Your gentle prodding may be enough to get the result you want (but often not).
If not, you need to decide on whether you want to end the tenancy with your tenant. If you do, you can serve a section 21 notice so the tenancy is not renewed at the end of the fixed term. This is the cleanest and easiest solution, but it may mean waiting several months for the end date.
Points to consider
- If a tenant leaves behind their pet after they vacate, it is the landlord’s responsibility to deal with it.
- It’s important to make quarterly inspections of the property whether you allow pets or not, but especially if your tenant does have pets, so you can monitor how well behaved and clean the animal is.
- You can use the tenant’s deposit to cover cost of cleaning the property if it isn’t returned in the same state as it was when he/she moved in.
- Regular landlord building and content insurance policies don’t usually cover potential pet damage, so you may want to get additional insurance.
- Whatever the animal in question, do your own research on the breed, including their genetic personality and behavioural characteristics.
- If you have a leasehold property, check the T&C’s of the lease, because some state that animals are prohibited from residing in the property.
- I’m a big fan of 6 month tenancy agreements for new tenancies (and then permanently allowing it remain a periodic tenancy) – I think all landlords/tenants should initially strike up a 6 month deal to “see how it goes”, especially if pets are involved.
That way, if things take a turn for the worst, you can at least end the tenancy on mandatory grounds pretty quickly without too much fuss.
I firmly believe that a dog is only as good as its owner. If you have a misbehaved dog, then you probably have a poor tenant. That’s why it’s extremely important to meet the pet and it’s owner before signing into an agreement. Judge for yourself.
If you are careful with your selection, there is no reason why tenants with pets should be problematic. Even if the pet does cause irritation to the property, that’s what the security deposit is for.
I think the most appealing aspect about allowing pets is the larger audience you’re likely to attract, which can essentially lead to finding tenants quicker and saving money.
Do you allow pets?
Just out of curiosity, do you, don’t you, or would you accept pets as a landlord?
Are you a tenant with a pet? Please share your story i.e. how difficult/easy was it to find a landlord that accepts pets?
Disclaimer: I'm just a landlord blogger; I'm 100% not qualified to give legal or financial advice. I'm a doofus. Any information I share is my unqualified opinion, and should never be construed as professional legal or financial advice. You should definitely get advice from a qualified professional for any legal or financial matters. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.