If dogs are a man's best friend then they seemingly are a landlord's biggest enemy. Most landlords simply refuse to allow pets in their buy-to-lets.
Of course, there are reasons for this:
* Potential damage to the property
* Risks of infestation
* Costs of repairs
According to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association's annual Pet Population Report, 45% of UK households have pets in 2018. That's a huge number of people. Moreover, it's a huge number of potential tenants.
But such is the thinking of the majority of landlords when it comes to tenants and pets, a survey by pet insurers AnimalFriends.co.uk in 2017 found that a huge 27% of tenants questioned were keeping pets in their rentals without telling their landlord.
Elsewhere in the report, AnimalFriends.co.uk found that almost one fifth of pets had caused damage to rental properties among those surveyed.
But is the approach of most landlords justified and, most importantly, are those landlords missing limiting their ability to let their properties because of their stance on tenants with pets?
Here are some key questions to consider as a landlord if you are considering letting to tenants with pets...
1. CAN A LANDLORD LEGALLY REFUSE PETS?
Yes, they can. But under the Consumer Rights Act (2015) there has to be a justifiable reason to do so. This could be due to the size of the pet against the size of the property, the amount of damage a particular pet would potentially cause to the property or the impact of a pet would have on letting the property to another tenant in the future.
2. I DON'T ALLOW PETS. AM I MISSING OUT ON TENANTS?
The research would suggest you are. Research by the Dogs Trust, as part of its Lets With Pets campaign, revealed 78% of pet owners have experienced problems finding rentals. Given the difficulties experienced by pet owners, many will pay a premium in order to rent a property where pets are welcome - something to consider when pondering how to offset any potential damage pets may cause to your buy-to-let.
3. WHAT IF MY BUY-TO-LET IS LEASEHOLD?
In this case, you would need to seek permission from the freeholder if the lease states pets are not allowed to reside in the building.
If the property only houses a small number of leaseholders, or if there is a shared freehold scenario, an agreement may be possible. If so, a solicitor would need to deal with a lease amendment.
Unfortunately in the case of large blocks of flats, getting everyone to agree to a change in the lease allowing pets is almost impossible.
4. MY PROPERTY IS FREEHOLD. CAN I ALLOW TENANTS WITH PETS?
Some freehold properties have covenants stipulating that pets are not allowed to be kept, but this is extremely rare. In most cases, these covenants apply to farm animals, so unless you prospective tenants keep pigs, cows or sheep, you should be okay!
5. OKAY, I'M CONSIDERING ALLOWING PETS. SHOULD I RESTRICT THE TYPE OF PETS I ALLOW?
In can be a good idea to run the rule over the kinds of animals tenants keep and the pros and cons of each. Here are a handful of common pets and the kind of issues you need to consider:
Dogs: The most common pet in the UK. But also the most likely to be rejected by landlords. Dogs, unfortunately, can do a lot of damage to a property and those who like to bark can cause problems with neighbours. But like parenting, a well-behaved dog will more often than not have a responsible owner at the other end of its lead.
Assess each case individually. Is the dog likely to be left alone in the property for long periods of time while the tenant is at work? If so, that is when problems with barking can occur. How large is the dog compared with the property? A Great Dane in a one-bedroom flat is perhaps not the best idea.
Has the dog been vaccinated against things like canine distemper, infectious hepatitis, leptospirosis, parovirus, parainfluenza and kennel cough? As a landlord, you should request a vet's certificate confirming these vaccinations have taken place.
There are a lot of things to consider. But one thing to remember is you must allow assistance dogs, such as guide dogs for the blind, in your property by law.
Cats: Although less problematic than dogs can be in some cases, cats are not without their considerations as a landlord.
They can spend a lot of time outside and problems with neighbours can occur when their prized begonias are dug up in order for your feline tenant to use the toilet. Their claws can also damage furniture and carpets so, for both of these issues, a litter tray and scratching post should be provided.
If you do decide to allow a cat in your rental property, ensure your tenant has someone who will feed their pet when they are away.
If your tenant is away from the property a lot, you may wish to come down on the 'no' side when it comes to pet birds.
They also need exercise and should be allowed to fly around for a short time each day. This could cause damage and, again, needs to be considered on a case by case basis.
Rabbits: While generally kept outdoors, many people now own 'house rabbits'.
As long as your tenant has a suitable hutch, there is no reason why a rabbit could not live happily in your rental property.
However, rabbits do like to breed, so if there is more than one in the property, you should ensure your tenant has had them neutered.
Rabbits also like to chew, so if your tenant's pet is partial to a wander around the living room, it should be done in a run. Your TV and lighting wires will thank you.
Exotic pets: Tortoises, lizards, geckos, spiders and snakes are increasingly popular as pets. However, you should think very carefully before allowing a tenant to keep them in your property.
Many of these animals require extremely special care and some, like certain breeds of snake, grow to become extremely large.
Question your tenant carefully if they request to keep these kind of pets in your property and seek specialist advice before making a final decision.
6 HOW CAN I REFERENCE A TENANT WITH A PET?
The best way to get an idea of how your prospective tenant's pet could impact you and your property is to speak to a previous landlord. Ask them:
* How long they lived at the previous property with their pet
* What pets they owned during the tenancy
* Are they a responsible pet owner
* How was their pets' behaviour
* Was any damage caused by the animals
* Were there any complaints from neighbours
If a reference from a previous landlord is not available, try to find out the above from a vet who deals with the pets' welfare.
Once you have obtained a suitable reference, ask to meet the tenant with their pet or pets. Ideally this will be in the tenant's current residence so you can assess the condition of that property and see the pets in a 'home' environment.
7. SHOULD I INSERT CLAUSES INTO THE TENANCY AGREEMENT AND TAKE A BIGGER DEPOSIT?
It can be worthwhile asking your tenant to agree to pay for any damage to the property and its fixtures and fittings caused by their pet. This can be done with a carefully and reasonably worded clause in their tenancy agreement.
Many landlords will also take a slightly higher deposit or 'pet payment' before agreeing to let to tenants with pets.
If you are unsure, speak to your local Martin & Co branch for advice.