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Letting to Tenants with Pets

According to figures from the Dogs Trust, 46% of the population currently own a pet. Now assuming that tenants are the same as the rest of us, then that’s approximately half of all tenants will have a pet at some time.

How do we respond to the paradox, of wanting to keep as broad a pool of potential tenants, to help keep our properties let, at the same time protecting our lovely shiny buy-to-let from smelling like Battersea Dogs Home.

Can I let to tenants with pets?

If a landlord owns the freehold, there is no problem letting to tenants with pets. It’s entirely up to the landlord. A commercial and management decision for them to decide.

However, if the landlord is a leaseholder, as many landlords are; then there is a big issue as to whether you will be allowed to let to them in the first place.

Landlords will need to check their title deeds and the terms of the lease to find out whether they are allowed to:

a) sublet in the first place.
b) sublet to tenants with a pet.

Often the lease will either prohibit the keeping of pets or require the landlord to obtain permission from the freeholder (landlord). For more advice on the specifics of your lease, please post a question to our landlord legal forum or look at the Leasehold Advisory Service website.

Pros & cons of letting to tenants with pets

Assuming that you are legally able to let to tenants with pets what are the pros & cons?

One of the pros is that those landlords who are prepared to take tenants with a ‘little animal’ friend are often rewarded with a grateful tenant, who might of faced rejection by a number of previous landlords along the course of their property search.

These grateful tenants are glad that they have found a landlord who is accommodating to their fury friend, and can often end up as a trusty companion to the landlord for many years. This can result in a long term tenant who sticks in the rental property and reduces the chances of all those frequent void periods between tenants. Happy pet, happy tenant, happy landlord.

Here’s a recent view from a letting agent on letting to pets.

In addition, a landlord might be able to negotiate a small rental premium with a tenant, on the basis that the extra rent will cover the potential damage and extra wear and tear on the rental property.

One of the cons of letting to a tenant with pets is that there was until recently no landlord insurance products on the market that covered the landlord for the costs of damage caused by a tenants pet.

Ways of a landlord protecting their interest

There are a number of things that a landlord can do if they decide to let to tenants with pets, alongside upping the rent:

A landlord can consider including a pet clause in the tenancy agreement. The clause should refer to a comprehensive pet policy which can be incorporated as a schedule to the tenancy agreement.
An example of a pet policy clause provided by the Dogs Trust website would be:

"The tenant agrees that they will abide by the pet policy as shown in Schedule 1 attached to this tenancy agreement.

On signing this tenancy agreement, the tenant will pay a deposit to cover any damage caused by their pet to the property or furnishings during the tenancy."

A pet policy template is available through the Letswithpets website.

Other ways of a landlord safeguarding their interest would be:

A landlord could choose to take a higher deposit. This would help protect the landlords financial risk as damage caused by pets are not covered by most landlord insurers. If this is acceptable to the tenant then this should be enough to cover the potential damage caused by the tenants pet during the tenancy.

Another suggestion by ‘Lets for pets’ is that a landlord takes an up front pet payment to cover the cost of a professional clean at the end of the tenancy. This payment is non-refundable, and not a deposit. The fee is taken as an upfront charge which the tenant accept that they will not get back, as payment for a throrough clean a the end of the tenancy. However, given the recent uncertainty over the Tenancy Deposit Scheme I’m not totally sure whether this type of payment could stand up in a dispute. It might be possible that a tenant could argue that if a payment sounds like a deposit, it should be considered as such, potentially opening up landlords to an expensive fine. What a landlord needs to do is to have a carefully worded agreement to ensure no confusion over the intentions behind the payment.

My experience of renting to tenants with pets

So far my experience of letting to tenants with pets and specifically dogs has been largely favourable. The tenants and their pets have been largely well behaved. They have indeed stayed longer than an average assured shorthold tenancy, which statistically, currently runs at approximately 9 months.

I would cautiously advise landlords not to dismiss letting to tenants out of hand, even if their initial gut instinct is to say NO. Think about it, and take sufficient precautions to protect your financial position. It could be a marriage made in heaven.

Happy landlord, happy tenant and Fido just loves his new home!

Leave your comments below, or ask any specific questions on our Landlord Legal Forum

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