Ensuring the Success of Pet Friendly Rentals – Advice for Landlords and Tenants

In 2012 it was estimated that almost half of all households in the UK have a pet, equivalent to around 13 million homes. However, for the 8.5 million people living here who currently rent their property, it is difficult to find accommodation to rent privately that will welcome both them and their pets. The consequence is that all too often they are faced with a difficult decision. Either private tenants have to make the choice between renting a property that does not meet their needs to ensure that their cat, dog or otherwise is also accommodated or keep the fact that they own a pet from their landlord. The alternative is to find someone else who can take on their pet or in extreme cases to face the prospect of being homeless themselves. If more landlords were open to the idea of accepting tenants with pets, life would be a lot easier for those on both sides.

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The concern of damage by pets

It’s understandable why you might be cautious as a landlord of allowing tenants to keep their pets in the properties they rent from you. Potential damage is usually the main fear, along with a lingering odour, which may over time mean your property requires more work – though you should bear in mind that responsible owners are unlikely to put their tenancy in jeopardy. A survey by the UK based charity the Dogs Trust showed that 88% of landlords would be prepared to allow those renting from them to keep pets if they were able to access insurance coverage against possible damage that domestic animals might cause to their property. Landlords can now have this peace of mind with the aid of a new product released by the insurers Endsleigh in conjunction with the Dogs Trust’s Lets with Pets Scheme. Since May 2013 this specialist insurance has been available to landlords and ensures that accidental damage by pets is covered along with contents insurance, owner liability insurance and to cover up to 120 days of resulting unoccupancy.

Steps towards welcoming pets

With so many single people, couples and families now needing to rent their homes, disallowing pets means that you are turning your back on a significant amount of business. Pet friendly rental properties will therefore maximise the chance of you keeping the homes you own occupied and may be more likely to encourage longer term occupancy with pet owners keen to remain in accommodation that welcomes animals owing to its limited availability. Having made the decision to accept pets into your rental properties, how as a landlord should you proceed and how can you make your properties more pet friendly?

It is important to check the title deeds to be sure that no restrictions are in place that prevents animals from being kept there. While this is becoming less common, it is still vital to confirm this before you offer this option to your tenants, though whether you own a freehold or leasehold property it may still be possible to take steps to change the conditions of this. The Dogs Trust produces a useful checklist to assist landlords in finding out more about the pets of their prospective tenants and whether they are responsible owners. Even if you are satisfied by the answers to these questions, it is advisable to obtain a pet reference from their current landlord, though if they have not previously rented with their pets, the vet surgery they are registered with would be a suitable alternative; for dogs and cats it’s also advisable to meet them. Once accepted, a clause needs to be incorporated into the tenancy agreement for tenants who wish to keep pets, where they will agree to follow the rules set out in a pet policy, which again the Dogs Trust can provide assistance with. If you do not decide to opt into a specialist insurance policy for letting to tenants with pets, you may wish to charge a higher refundable deposit to cover potential damages, as well as a non-refundable payment for cleaning carpets, furniture and curtains by professionals after the tenants have vacated the property. However, be aware that the latter is not permissible in Scotland.

To reduce the impact of pets living in rental properties, as a landlord you can take a number of steps, which may also make your property more attractive to pet owning tenants:

  • Carefully consider your decision to accept pets if your property has no outdoor space. There is a greater chance of damage to the interior of a home if dogs do not have access to a yard or garden. Whether your tenants have dogs, rabbits or another small animal, they won’t thank you if the perimeter of your property is not secure and they can easily escape. Ensure fences and walls are well maintained and gates can be securely closed.
  • Choose furnishings that are easy to clean and with dogs and cats around, leather is best avoided if you don’t want it scratched. You may additionally want to provide covers for sofas and chairs to protect them, as inevitably their pets will end up sitting on these items of furniture.
  • Consider purchasing a vacuum cleaner designed to cope with pet hair and the extra dust and dirt they bring with them on their coat, and encourage your tenants to use this regularly to keep the carpets in good condition.

Taking responsibility as a tenant with a pet

Besides seeking permission to keep their pets in rental properties and complying with the approval process for this, tenants can ensure that they take responsible actions when renting with their pet, which will help to keep any landlord onside. If you have not already done so, consider having your cat or dog neutered; after this procedure they tend to display better behaviour and there won’t be the problem of heat cycles or spray either. Having done so will also indicate that you are a responsible pet owner, as will having a record of pet vaccinations and health checks. Once in the rental property, it goes without saying to always clean up your pet’s waste whether inside the house or out, but additionally ensure that you keep on top of problems such as fleas and worms, ideally taking preventative measures with these. It is also vital to ensure that your cat or dog gets sufficient supervised exercise so that on the occasions they are left in the property alone they aren’t destructive.