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Let's talk about pets

Posted on 2017-08-11

Let's talk about pets

All the latest research suggests one thing - tenants are increasingly staying in rental properties for the long-term. The recent Multihousing Report from Knight Frank found that the private rented sector (PRS) is expected to expand rapidly and significantly in the next four years, with the number of UK households renting rising from five million (21% of all households) to 5.79 million (24% of all households) by 2021.

The report, which reflects the views of 10,000 renters, also revealed that 68% of tenants across the UK believe they will still be renting in three years’ time.

The booming growth of the PRS can be attributed to a number of factors, including an increasingly transient population, high house prices and deposits which render buying a home out of reach for many, and changing consumer habits which makes renting more appealing to young professionals than buying a home.

For many, renting is now a lifestyle choice, with the flexibility it provides and the chance to live in a nicer home than they could otherwise afford two possible reasons for this. For others, it’s a necessity, forced into the PRS through circumstances or the inability to buy a home of their own.

Whatever the reason, renting for the long-term is a growing phenomenon, particularly for those who come under the bracket of millennials or Generation Rent.

And, if you’re a tenant renting for the long-term, you will be all the more eager to make your rental property feel like a home, adding your own personal touches to turn it into as comfortable a living space as possible. This, of course, may include house pets – something which is popular among many families and young professional couples in the UK.

Different landlords have different rules and regulations when it comes to pets, which are typically set out in your tenancy agreement. Some will explicitly forbid it, some will take a more flexible approach, some may allow certain types of pets but not others, and some may be completely open-minded.

As a long-term tenant, the issue of keeping pets is likely to rear its head more than if you were a short-term tenant. There are ways you can raise the topic with your landlord to see if they would be willing to allow pets in their rental properties, including showing them why the pet is suitable to reside in a rental home.

Take the friendly approach

If you want to have pets in your rental property but your landlord is hesitant or non-committal, approach them (or the letting agent managing the home on their behalf) and do your best to talk them round, pointing out why allowing pets in the home would cause them no hassle, bother or damage.

Of course, there are all manner of pets, some of which would be more likely to cause damage than others. A goldfish, gerbil or hamster, for example, wouldn’t pose much risk to furniture, upholstery or wiring, whereas a dog or cat might. A house rabbit or one kept in a hutch outside is a fairly low-key pet, but there may be worries about damage caused to the garden and the mess (specifically rabbit poo) that could be caused. Some landlords may also, quite justifiably, shy away from rodents, tarantulas, snakes, parrots and other more exotic animals being kept as pets. Domestic pets such as dogs, cats, rabbits and hamsters are the most commonly found in the UK – and most commonly found in family households – and it’s these pets which are the most likely to be accepted by landlords.

Don’t try and bend the rules

If you’ve been told by your landlord that pets aren’t allowed, it’s important that you don’t flout these rules. If you’re unsure, or if your tenancy agreement doesn’t make it expressly clear about what the position on pets is, ask your landlord about this rather than just assuming it will be OK and keeping pets in your home without permission.

If your landlord or their property manager turns up for a routine inspection and finds a pet on the premises – or, worse still, panicked efforts to hide tracks of a pet – this could cause issues and complications further down the line. Make sure the agreement between you and your landlord regarding pets is clear; if they’re not allowed, don’t try and get round the rules. If they are, ensure that you control them appropriately and limit the amount of damage that could be caused.

Be aware that you may pay more   

While your landlord may allow you to have a dog or cat in your rental home, they may choose to cover themselves against the risk of damage by asking for a higher deposit or upping your existing rent. This acts as their insurance policy if any damage is caused. Dogs, the most popular form of household pet, have been known to cause damage to walls and floorboards, make a mess of lawns and gardens, and chew skirting boards and furnishings. Cats, too, may cause damage to furniture, upholstery, carpets or curtains.

Certain types of dogs (typically breeds deemed dangerous) might also be forbidden, while puppies may be frowned upon because they are seen as more troublesome than older dogs. If you can prove that your dogs are well-trained and obedient, the chances of your landlord being accommodating are much higher. With cats, you can point to the fact that they are highly independent creatures who often spend much more time outside than in, which means the likelihood of damage being caused is lower. Cats and dogs can also be well house trained to ensure the chances of damage are minimal. Cats, though, can drag in birds, mice or other prey – which is obviously something you would need to nip in the bud if you want to keep a cat in your rental property. 

Pets which are closely monitored or remain in one place – for example pet fish, hamsters or gerbils – are likely to be an easier sell to landlords as the scope for damage or issues is much lower.

Be clear from the start

It should be clearly outlined in your tenancy agreement what the rules and obligations are when it comes to pets. That way, no confusion can be caused or mixed messages sent. Your landlord should be consistent and clear throughout the duration of your tenancy. Over time, they may change their policy or they may be convinced that pets should be allowed in your rental property. If you’ve shown that you’re a good, reliable tenant who pays rent on time and treats the property well, your landlord may be more likely to allow you to keep a pet if they have previously forbidden this.

Other landlords will take a flexible, lenient approach from the very beginning. Some, meanwhile, may want you to prove that the pet in question will cause no damage to their property. Whatever their approach, make sure you and your landlord are on the same page when it comes to pets. Good communication will reduce the possibility of disputes and issues at a later date, so the importance of this can’t be underestimated.   

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