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Should landlords let tenants keep pets?

Posted on 2016-06-09

A recent study conducted by online letting agent found that landlords are increasingly allowing tenants to keep pets in their rental properties.

This pet-friendly approach is seen as a way for landlords to expand their pool of potential tenants, despite dogs, cats and other pets previously having a bad reputation among some landlords thanks to additional mess, unpleasant odours and other associated risks.

However, this attitude seems to be changing. Landlords are increasingly happy to accept tenants with furry friends in tow, with cats seen as the second most rent-friendly pet, closely followed by dogs.

Goldfish, as you might expect, faced hardly any resistance, with 84% of landlords happy to house this type of pet. The benefits of aquarium therapy – the calming effect of watching fish at home – are clearly not lost on the majority of property owners.

Surprisingly, landlords are much less welcoming to rabbits and hamsters, with just 34% gladly accepting tenants who own these pets.

Less surprisingly, snakes are frowned upon – a further 34% of landlords are unwilling to accept the slithery reptiles into their rental properties.

The research also showed that landlords are even more willing to facilitate pets if they meet them first hand or bear witness to a pet CV which details the history of the animal’s behaviour in previous properties.

Nevertheless, a more liberal attitude to pets from landlords comes at a cost to tenants. Some 80% of landlords said they would require an extra pet fee to cover the cost of possible damage to fixtures and fittings.

Letting agents have an important role to play in all this, giving guidance and advice to landlords and tenants about what they should do when it comes to pets.

Clearly, more landlords are going down this route – primarily because the demand is very much there.

A fair portion of tenants either have pets or might want pets in the future, so if a landlord makes their rental home a pet-free zone they could be significantly narrowing the number of people they can target their property towards.

But there are downsides to letting with pets, which is why many landlords opt to protect themselves – by asking for a pet payment – because of the extra hazards and risks they could cause.

As the research above suggests, pets can be messy and smelly, especially if they are not looked after correctly. They could cause problems for neighbours – for example if dogs are barking at unsociable hours – and the furniture in your rental property could suffer at the hands of cats, dogs and rabbits.

Electrical wiring being nibbled on can also be an issue, too, while a landlord could incur additional financial costs when it comes to cleaning the property once a tenant has moved out.

On the other hand, opening a rental home up to pets can increase a landlord’s chance of finding tenants, improve security and enhance the chances of a tenancy agreement being renewed (tenants with pets will often go out of their way to control their pets, look after the property they live and ensure any mess is cleaned up and odours masked).

For landlords who are considering allowing tenants with pets, there are a number of steps that can be taken to offer cover and insurance.

This includes drawing up a tenancy agreement with a special clause for pets, helping to inform tenants of their rights and responsibilities and ensuring they know from the start what rules and regulations they must adhere to.

Tenants should be clear what is expected when it comes to pets, so it may be a wise move for agents to suggest to landlords they go through the conditions of the tenancy agreement closely with their tenants.

Landlords can also require a higher deposit from tenants with pets, especially if the property is furnished and the pet in question is likely to cause damage to fixtures and fittings.

What’s more, it’s vital that landlords carry out a thorough property inventory before a tenancy begins so there is no confusion at a later date over what state the property was in before anyone moved in.

Ultimately, it's down to the landlord to decide whether or not they want to let to tenants with pets, but letting agents can help with this decision by putting forward the pros and cons and outlining how landlords can protect themselves if they do go down the pet-friendly route.

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