Honourable and personal residential letting experts

5Nov

Are You a Pet Friendly Landlord?

If I was to ask you if you are a pet friendly landlord, I am pretty sure that about 45% of you are going to shout no! Given that in 2005 when we started the business the answer would have been about 95% I think I can say that times are changing.

If you find yourself in the 45% the question I would ask is ‘why?’.

Will you be returning to the rental property, and you are allergic? Fair point

Does your lease exclude pets? Very fair point

Are you put off by all the horror stories you read? NB happy stories don’t make the news!

You may have heard of the new model tenancy agreement (which you don’t have to use by the way)  that arrived at the beginning of 2021 which stated that landlords can no longer issue a blanket ban on pets in rental properties.   Instead, consent for pets will be the default position, and landlords will have to object in writing within 28 days of a written pet request from a tenant. Also provide a good reason for the decision. That objection would need to be reasonable. The fact that you just don’t want pets in the property will not be counted as a reasonable excuse.

Government Stance

Whilst this is guideline at the present time, clearly the Government are looking to bring this into legislative law at some point, so it is worth being aware of! We now have over 30 MPs from a range of political parties who have written to the Housing Secretary urging that private tenants be allowed to keep pets in their properties. Their approach is that landlords should be able to charge pet-specific fees – such as insurance costs or additional deposits – with the 2019 Tenant Fees Act amended to make the fees legal.

Dogs and Domestic Animals Accommodation and Protection Bill

This means they are beginning to understand why landlords are reluctant to allow pets.  Which is good news! The new bill that is being promoted is called the Dogs and Domestic Animals Accommodation and Protection Bill.

The measure – which has had its first reading but has yet to make significant progress because of a backlog of Commons activity caused by the pandemic – is urging a reform of laws allowing dogs and other animals to be kept in rented accommodation so long as owners can demonstrate their care for them.

 

Market research on tenant pet owners

A few years ago, we carried out a rental market survey and looked at the number of people requesting a rental property which accepted a pet (cat or dog) and the result was 82% of applicants wanted to own or already owned a pet. We also looked at how many properties we had on our lettings books during this time that allowed pets, it came out at a measly 27%.

We could also see the supply and demand factor coming into play – the properties which allowed pets gained higher rentals by an average of 9% (like for like). We’re a nation of pet lovers, and the national pandemic has caused a lot of people to want a companion to ease their mental health anxiety. If it means that, by accepting pets into your home you will have a happier tenant, what is the problem?

From our data, we can confidently say

  • most tenancies where a pet was allowed in the home, has led to a significantly greater tenancy length.
  • homes with a pet have been just as clean and in good condition as those without – no difference at all.
  • the exception where there is an issue can be handled by pet insurance very swiftly, much easier than negotiating a deposit dilapidation.

On behalf of our landlords we are always looking for the perfect tenant

Someone who:

  • pays the rent on time (so that the mortgage – where applicable – can be paid on time)
  • stays for a long time (so we don’t have to deal with void periods and the cost of the change over from tenants)
  • enjoys living in their home – and, generally speaking, a happy tenant will look after their home much better than someone who is unhappy!

So, what is our advice to landlords?

We are certainly not advocating that an Alsatian or a large dog could live in a one bed flat with no garden, (that would certainly be a valid reason to not accept a pet).  We do, however, think that the benefits of pet rentals can outweigh the negatives, so why not consider the following:

Pet Referencing

It’s a good idea to ask prospective tenants to provide you with a reference for their pet from a previous landlord. If they have not rented with their pets before, you could ask for a reference from their veterinary surgeon but please bear in mind that there may be some circumstances in which tenants cannot provide a reference.  It is always advisable to ask for photos of the pet and details of the microchip number, breed, age etc – that way you can judge the size and ‘liveliness’ of the pet and determine how it will fit into your rental home. Check out the Dogs Trust pet reference information.

Reference from a previous landlord:

The type of questions we ask are:

  • How long did the tenant live in the previous property with their pets?
  • Which pets did they own at that time?
  • Does the referee consider the tenant to be a responsible pet owner?
  • Were the tenant’s pets well behaved?
  • Did their pets cause any damage to the property?
  • Did their pets cause a nuisance to neighbours or visitors?

 

Ask the Vet

If the reference is to be provided by a veterinary surgeon, it should cover the following points:

  • Are the tenant’s pets generally well behaved?
  • Does the veterinary surgeon consider the tenant to be a responsible pet owner?
  • Does the tenant provide routine preventive health care, such as vaccinations and flea treatments, for their pets (when appropriate)?

Forward thinking renovations

When your rental property is due for renovation or refurbishment, why not make a change from materials which are not as pet friendly to those which will give more longevity between refreshing if you are going to allow pets on your tenancy?

  • Vinyl flooring or vinyl tiles are popular options for pet owners as they are cost-effective and highly durable.
  • Tiles work well with pets as they won’t show scratches easily and allow for spills and accidents to be cleaned up without any problems. If your budget stretches, you could install underfloor heating or provide rugs in the living area.
  • Carpets are usually not an ideal choice for pet rentals as they can damage, they show stains and harbour odours (let’s face it, pets can have accidents!). Maybe consider only laying carpets in bedrooms where pet access is limited.

Our conclusion

Protection of your asset is paramount to being a successful landlord, but so is protecting your income.  In our opinion your income is very dependent upon you having a happy tenant, and, hopefully, a long-term tenant.  And, let’s be honest, surely having to replace carpets or redecorate your asset is just part of running your property business?

If you would like to know more about our pet policy for landlords and tenants, please get in touch here.