Letting to Tenants with Pets
Should a landlord let to a tenant with a pet?
Britian is a nation of animal lovers, particulalry dogs and cats. The Dogs Trust recently estimated that 46% of the population own a pet. There is no reason to suspect that the tenant population has pet ownership rates significantly lower than that in the general population. This means there are a lot of tenants with pets looking for rental accommodation.
The law on letting to tenants with pets
Landlords that own the freehold to their rental property are free to let to a tenant with a pet subject to the guidance regarding the wording of the Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (AST) given below.
A landlord with a leasehold property will have to be guided by the terms of their lease. Most leases will refer to the keeping of pets, whether they attempt to preclude them entirely, or seek to protect the interests of the other leaseholders by caveating the keeping of pets by certain levels of control.
Letting a property with an Assured Shorthold Tenancy to a tenant with a pet
Landlords may not be aware that the Office of Fair Trading in the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 forbids a no pets clause. It expects landlords not to unreasonably hold consent for tenants to have a pet.
The recommended approach is to have a clause within your Assured Shorthold Tenancy requiring that the tenant obtain written consent for the keeping of a pet in the property. Legally a landlord cannot unreasonably withhold this consent.
It is illegal to refuse to house an assistance dog as this will discriminate against those disabled tenants with one.
Safeguarding a landlords interest
Landlords are advised to ensure that the costs of housing a tenant with a pet are fully safeguarded. This involves potentially using a number of specialist clauses.
My Deposits in their Best Practice Guide suggest the following:
- An additional clause covering the landlord for any extra costs at the end of the tenancy resulting from the pet’s occupation.
- Instigating a larger deposit, say 6 weeks rather than 4 weeks rent to cover the landlord for the extra costs that may result from the pet’s occupation.
- Request the tenant sign an agreement to pay for specialist cleaning at the end of the tenancy if required.
- Go for a special non-refundable payment for cleaning or fumigation or de-infestation to be carried out at the end of the tenancy.
Enforcing a no pets rule
What should a landlord do if they discover that the tenant is keeping a pet without gaining prior approval?
The best form of action a landlord can take in removing an unwanted tenant with a pet is to serve notice using a section 21 notice.
There is no point getting into protracted legal battles trying to prove whether the tenant is keeping a pet and then prove to a court that the tenancy or lease specifically excluded this. Just go for a straight non fault based possession using a section 21 notice and then a N5B form seeking accelerated possession.
Pros of letting to tenants with pets
Tenant with pets can be an opportunity, with many landlords reluctant to let to them, they might even be able to charge a small rental premium.
Figures from the Dogs Trust indicate 78% of pet owners experience difficulty in trying to find a property to let, 54% were unable to find a suitable rental property and 8% had to rehome their pet.
The difficulty of finding suitable rental accommodation for pet owners, means a tenant with a pet are often more reluctant to move out, and though they may not be a ‘tenant for life, they are certainly more likely to remain at a rental property longer than a tenant who is ‘footloose and fancy free’.
A long term tenant is a great benefit to a landlord, reducing the time and money involved with re-letting and the risk of a painful rental void period.
Cons of letting to tenants with pets
The dirty hairy things
The primary downside to letting to a tenant with pets is the possibility of additional cleaning and repair costs. A landlord should make adequate provisions to protect themselves against the risk of damage by increasing the size and scope of their rental deposit. Preparing a clear and thorough property inventory is essential so that any dispute over the tenancy deposit can be substantiated.
Some pets, particularly the hairy ones( cats and dogs ) is the damage they cause to a rental property.
A landlord should not be surprised if a place with a dog starts to smell like a … damp dog.
A rental property with a dog / cat in it is more likely to be left with
- Marks on walls.
- Chewing and gnawing on woodwork.
- Stains on carpet and floorings.
- Hairs and pet residue.
- A bad smell.
Not everyone loves animals
Another downside is the potential disturbance they might cause to other tenants sharing the property. Not all tenants like animals, some might be fearful of certain animals. It is worth checking. A landlord wouldn’t want to lose a tenant because of letting to a tenant with a pet.
Communal areas and gardens can be impacted on by dog and cat faeces and some dogs can be little yapping noise polluters. If a landlord manages a block housing a number of tenants it is always worth considering the existing tenants. A happy ship is a profitable ship.
The risk from escapologists
Some animals are little Houdinis. Hamsters, gerbals, rats, they are great at escaping. Once out they can disappear into a crack and then start munching away at the electrical cables. If that’s not enough of a shock, what happens when a tenant’s pet python or tarantula makes a bid for freedom?
A landlord might not want a large family of gerbils to be sub-letting their property long after the original tenant had moved out.
The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 makes it illegal for anyone to own a Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Pit Bull Terrier, Fila Brasilero or Dogo Argentino, unless registered on the Index of Exempted Dogs.
A landlord needs to check if they suspect a tenant’s dog might be one of these breeds.