Investing in a property to let has always been a lucrative move, particularly during a time when rental demand continues to climb.
With the highly competitive rental market, landlords need to consider what tenants require for their properties, allowing them to offer a suitable home that will attract responsible, long-term renters.
These days, having a pet-friendly home is one of the top priorities for tenants, with demand for such rentals up by 120% between 2020 and 2021, according to Rightmove.
Although renting with pets remains a delicate topic, the government has committed to making the situation easier for tenants to keep pets in the home by updating the model tenancy agreement. They've also attempted to make it easier to rent with pets by compelling landlords to provide a reasonable reason to refuse, as announced in the recent Rental Reform White Paper.
For most landlords, letting with pets could mean potential damage, noise, hygiene and insurance issues, with just 7% advertising their property as suitable for pets in 2020.
However, allowing pets in the home can enable landlords to charge a higher rent to cover the cost of any potential damage. It could also widen the pool of prospective tenants willing to stay long-term due to the lack of options.
If you want to improve your return on investment by allowing pets, we list five tips for organising a suitable property for tenants and their companions.
Pet-proof the property
All pets can cause some damage from time to time, so it's wise to try and minimise the risk of damage as much as possible.
For example, using paint instead of wallpaper on the walls will avoid scuffed or ripped wallpaper. Similarly, keeping wires hidden will prevent them from being chewed. Loop-pile carpets are hard-wearing and cheap, making them a sensible choice for rental properties. However, you may want to consider investing in a carpet that animals cannot easily get their claws into.
Other measures include removing any rugs, expensive furniture, and decorative objects before the start of the tenancy. You can also purchase low-cost plastic coverings and claw guards to fit along door frames, skirting boards, and furniture.
Get a pet reference
Animals in the home certainly pose risks, so you should feel free to ask for a character reference for the pet from the tenant's current landlord or, alternatively, a vet.
Start by asking if they would be willing to speak to you over the phone. Most landlords are usually happy to oblige for a good tenant, and their willingness to provide a reference will speak volumes.
Furthermore, it's worth asking prospective renters for confirmation that the pet is well-behaved and that no issues were experienced during their previous tenancy. There will be no space for deceit, as their landlord will be able to account for this.
You can also ask to see current medical records to demonstrate responsible pet ownership and confirm that the animal has all necessary vaccinations, has been spayed or neutered, and is in good health.
Meet the pet pre-tenancy
The most effective way to put your mind at ease is to meet your prospective tenants and their pet in person.
Arrange a meet and greet with your applicants and their pet at the property. This will allow you to assess the animal's temperament and behaviour.
Not only is this a good way to directly address any concerns you might have about letting to pet owners, but it can also be the first step in building an open and honest rapport with your tenants. They should feel comfortable reaching out to you in the unlikely event of any pet-related mishaps during the tenancy; establishing a middle ground beforehand can help to facilitate this.
Check leasehold terms and insurance policy
If you have a leasehold agreement, you must check for any stipulations in the lease that could prohibit or restrict pets in the building. If this is the case, you could ask the freeholder or managing agents if they would be willing to change the lease terms or give permission in writing to allow pets by "special variation".
Similarly, it is vitally important that you check if your landlord, building and contents insurance covers accidental pet damage. It's also worth seeing whether they offer additional cover for tenants with pets.
State the all-important conditions
Once you have agreed to let your property to a pet owner, you should include a pet clause in your tenancy agreement.
While the Tenant Fees Act limits the number of protective measures available to pet-inclusive landlords, the renter is still responsible for returning the property in the same condition it was presented in.
One such way is to state in your tenancy agreement that tenants must have the property professionally cleaned when they move out. This should include cleaning all carpets and soft furnishings and treating the property for fleas and mites.
It should give you peace of mind that all costs incurred for damage by pets fall on the tenant, meaning they will do their part to keep damage and mess to a minimum.
Most landlords have reasonable concerns about letting with pets, such as potential damage and insurance troubles. However, a generous pet policy could make a meaningful difference to the well-being of your tenants.
If you choose to accept pets, remember the options available and the extra steps you can take. These will not only give you peace of mind that your rental property is thoroughly protected but will also widen your scope of prospective tenants who desire a pet-friendly rental.