Last year, the PFMA’s well respected Pet Population report revealed that 13 million British households (46%) had a pet, with the pet population standing at 65 million when we include fish. Of these, the top animals to own as pets were (based on running totals over two years):
1. Fish kept in tanks: 20 - 25 million
2. Fish kept in ponds: 20 million
3. Dogs: 9 million
4. Cats: 8 million
5. Rabbits: 1 million
6. Domestic fowl: 1 million
7. Caged birds: 1 million
8. Guinea Pigs: Half a million
9. Hamsters: 400,000
10. Lizards: 400,000
Due to the rise in Britain’s pet population and increasing tenancy length (more people calling PRS home), it makes sense that we would also be witnessing a rise in the number of prospective tenants looking for accommodation that allows pets. As part of this, online sites such as Lets With Pets have now started providing practical advice for tenants on how to find suitable properties, and how they can find pet friendly letting agents.
Despite this, many landlords still do not allow their tenants to keep pets in their property, primarily due to perceived noise and nuisance. However, these statistics show that many of these landlords could be missing out on a large pool of prospective tenants.
Here we look at what steps you could take before accepting a tenant with pets in the hope you can minimise these perceived risks.
Steps to take before you accept a tenant with pets
If you’ve decided to take the plunge and let your property to a tenant with a pet (which is most commonly a dog or a cat), then there are a number of steps that you should take before handing over the keys.
Firstly, consider meeting the pet and the tenant. Pets are often a reflection of their owners, and by meeting the two together, you’ll be able to see how they act around each other. In addition, you’ll be able to see how healthy and well behaved the animal is, and judge whether it will be a suitable fit for your property.
It is worth keeping in mind that most cats and dogs in particular are beloved family members, and a well looked after adult pet is unlikely to cause damage to your home. But, in spite of this, it is understandable that you’d be looking to protect your investment, and many tenants will understand this concern.
If you like, you can even arrange to meet them at your property (providing you don’t have tenants already inhabiting it), as then you’ll be able to see how the pet reacts to its prospective new environment. This way, you should be able to spot any immediate pitfalls, such as loud noises on wooden floors in apartment buildings.
In addition, and with the permission of the tenant, you could also ask to see a copy of the pet’s medical records. This will show you that the pet is well taken care of and in good physical condition, but it will also show you that they are properly vaccinated; this will lessen the likelihood of problems such as infestation. This is something that some pet owners who follow the Lets with Pets advice may do anyway, as it recommends creating a ‘Pet CV’.
As well as this, consider trying to get a reference from a previous landlord, if they also had that pet while they lived there. This landlord is likely to give you an accurate reflection of their tenancy, and it will help you judge both them as a tenant and the suitability of the pet, particularly if they used to live in a similar property such as a flat.
Ensuring your tenancy agreement is comprehensive
If you follow the above steps and decide that you’re happy with the new tenant and their pet, then it’s essential that your tenancy agreement reflects that there’s a pet in the property. Due to the rise in the number of tenants seeking landlords who will allow pets, a number of sites such as Lets With Pets and Mydeposits have become invaluable resources to help landlords and tenants agree on a tenancy agreement that is fair.
As part of this, you can insert special clauses within the tenancy agreement which state what the pet owner’s responsibilities are. Some landlords include a professional cleaning clause at the end of the tenancy, but this is at your own discretion. However, it is always advisable to go over these with the tenant before they sign to ensure that they are clear on their specific responsibilities.
Likewise, remember that you can ask for a higher level of deposit if the owner has a pet, such as a cat or a dog, which could potentially be destructive. This is especially true if you’re providing a furnished property. Once you’ve agreed that you’re happy to accept a pet, you’ve met it and you’ve agreed on the terms of a tenancy agreement with the new tenant, then you should place a special emphasis on conducting a property inventory.
A property inventory is highly useful any time that you have a new tenant, but this is especially true when that tenant has a pet and, as a result, it’s advisable for both the landlord and the tenant to be thorough. As part of this, pictures of any damage or the general state of the properties can be a good move too. This way, both the tenant and the landlord can be in complete agreement before the pet moves in.
If you’ve never had an inventory before, or are unsure what detail is required, then Shelter have produced a handy guide.
Check your insurance
As a final note, before the tenant and their pet moves in, check to make sure your landlord insurance is still valid. Some become invalid if a pet inhabits the property, so double checking could save you a headache if you need to make a claim.
To conclude, with Britain’s pet population rising, so is the number of tenants looking to rent with their pets. While most landlords have understandable reservations, by following the above steps, you minimise the risks you’re exposed to.
So, be thorough with your checks, make sure your tenancy agreement is clear on responsibilities and double check your insurance. But, ultimately also remember that most pets are beloved family members, and you could end up with fantastic tenants as a result.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.