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How to Reduce Risks When Renting to Tenants With Pets

In recent years trying to find a great, pet friendly rental property has proven to be extremely difficult. Despite being a nation of pet lovers, with over half of UK adults owning furry friends, the rental landscape has been surprisingly unreceptive towards the idea of opening its doors to tenants with animal companions. Of course, fears of property damage, exorbitant clean-up costs and lost time are justified concerns for property owners.

But, with the amount of pet owning households surging over recent months, and legislation looking to help tenants and their pets, its time landlords prepared for this new wave of renters.

Meet the Pet Prior to Renting Your Property

Before determining if you will be accepting a pet into your rental property, what better perspective of their behaviour can be gained than visiting the tenant and their pet in their current home. Not only does this give you more face to face time with your tenant to build a healthy renting relationship, but allows you to observe how the pet behaves once in a familiar environment. When visiting the tenant it could also be worth checking for the classic signs for pet damage, and get an understanding of what the close of your tenancy could look like for your property.

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Get References From Previous Landlords

Just as you wouldn’t rent to a prospective tenant without first obtaining a reference from a previous landlord, the same can be done for pets. This is perhaps the most helpful piece of foresight you can have when looking to rent to pet owners as you will be provided with an insight into the pets behaviour by someone in the same position as yourself. When gaining a reference from the previous landlord it is also an opportune time to enquire about any problems that may have arisen in the tenancy because of the pet.

Were there numerous noise complaints made by neighbouring properties? Were any repairs needed at the end of the tenancy beyond fair wear and tear? These are essential to know before proceeding with the tenancy.

Include a Pet Deposit

Traditionally landlords use this extra fee to protect themselves against any repair or cleaning costs that may be needed at the end of the tenancy. Of course such a high charge could be off putting to any potential tenants looking to rent out your property. However, as of the 1st of June 2019 landlords and property owners are no longer able to charge excessive amounts for their tenancy deposit. The move prevents the pet deposit from exceeding the cost equivalent to five weeks rent if the annual rent charged at the property is less than £50,000. If the amount of rent collected annually for the rental is higher than this threshold, the landlord is able to up the deposit to the equivalent of six weeks rent.

It is also recommended that to further encourage pet owners to be more cautious when renting, that a clause is entered into the tenancy agreement clarifying that it is the tenants responsibility to return the property in the same condition it was in as the tenancy period began. The Dogs Trust UK recommends stating that the tenant undertakes the responsibility to “remedy and pay for any damage caused to the property and/ or contents of the property which shall have been caused by the pet residing in the property. For the avoidance of doubt any such damage shall not be deemed to be fair wear and tear.”  The trust continues to highlight that “the tenant agrees to pay for the professional cleaning of the property at the end of the tenancy including the cleaning of all carpets and treating the property for fleas and mites.”

However, if this is not stipulated in the agreement arguments can be made by the tenant that these services are not a typical part of the tenancy transitional period for the property and dismiss any damages found at the tenancies end to simply be fair wear and tear.

Can You Increase the Rent for Pets?

It is also not uncommon for landlords to use the monthly rental fee charged to tenants as an additional cushion against devastating clean-up costs. Whilst the increased rental fees have been dubbed as “pet rent”, brought about by the loss of income and financial protection landlords lost after the introduction of the 2019 tenant fees ban, many landlords charge up to an extra £50 a month for tenants to rent the property alongside their furry friends.

It is important to note that whilst it is essential to safeguard against potential damage to your property, it is redundant to do so if there are no tenants to occupy the rental. Upping your rent can deter many potential tenants, assess the average charges in your area and adjust accordingly.

Is It Illegal for Landlords to Say No to Pets

Under the 2015 Consumer Rights Act, landlords are prevented from maintaining a blanket ban on letting their rental property out to tenants that own pets. This means that property owners searching for new tenants are unable to uphold a total no pet clause, and cannot refuse to proceed with the tenancy with the pet, based on unreasonable grounds.

Convincing arguments can be made by the landlord to not allow the pet to enter the rental property under a new agreement, typically citing costly repairs as a result of damage, increased chance of infestation, noise complaints and the possibility of future tenants being allergic to the animal. However, if the landlord has removed any mention of asking for their permission to own a pet from the tenancy agreement, then this would be considered as a blanket ban as there is no room for discourse on the subject, ultimately making the ban unenforceable in court.

However, as of January 2021 the UK government has brought forward plans to assist renters in keeping their pets when searching for new accommodation. With studies revealing that a mere 7% of landlords in the UK provide pet friendly rental properties, despite reports showing that around half of adults in the UK have a furry companion, a figure only bolstered by the dramatic uptake in pet ownership since the start of the pandemic. In spite of this dismal reception for pet owners, the government is looking to take practical steps to further stamp out the prevalence of “no pet” clauses and advertisements still prevalent throughout the rental market.

Dubbed the new model tenancy agreement  these changes will make consent for pets a standard practice when renting, meaning that not only will landlords and property owners be unable to enforce a blanket ban on pets in their let, but will also have to evaluate and respond to pet requests on a case by case basis.

If a landlord wishes to make a rejection in the case of a tenant wishing to bring a pet into the rental property, a compelling case must be done so within a 28 day threshold. However, whilst this does empower landlords to still have control over their property, rejections must be made for valid reasons. A landlord could dismiss an application to move in with a pet, if quite practically, the property is simply too small or doesn’t have sufficient outdoor space. In these instances, especially fi the animal is particularly large, not only is it not fair on the animal to have such little space to roam, but is almost guaranteed to lead to increased amount of damage to the inside of the property.

Landlords can make a case on grounds of there being insufficient space in the rental and future tenants potentially being at risk due to allergies, the tenant does have an opportunity to somewhat quash any notions regarding noise complaints and the classic story of chewed and scratched furnishings.  Whilst this could initially be seen as another barrier for renters with furry friends to overcome, it is important to remember the above. Before moving into the new rental property prospective tenants must first demonstrate to their landlord that they are not only a responsible pet owner, but that the pet is also well behaved. Of course these terms are rather ambiguous, something that doesn’t bode well if the legal route is pursued, but some criteria has been established. Aspiring tenants must ensure that their pet is vaccinated and spayed or neutered, is responsive to simple commands given by the owner and is free from any parasites or infestations. Many recommend that before renting, landlords first go and meet the pet at their current accommodation. If this visit has already been made then this gives tenants another chance to prove their pet is a perfect fit for the property and will not be a liability to the landlord.

It is important for landlords and tenants to keep in mind that these rules have not yet been fully passed by government and are yet to be in full effect. At present time landlords are able to opt into this, doing so of their own free will but for the time being are under no legal obligation to follow this new model tenancy agreement. With this being said, currently less than 10% of all UK landlords are receptive to pet owning tenants and closing the door to such a diverse, under equipped demographic is ignoring a surging demographic.

What Happens if You Don’t Tell Your Landlord About a Pet?

If you find that your tenants have brought a pet into the property without your permission as the landlord, it would be possible to commence the eviction process through a section 8 notice. However, as discussed the clause in the tenancy agreement that has been breached can’t be deemed unfair or it will be unenforceable in court. Eviction may also be a heavy handed resolution for bringing an animal into a home. Remember, this is not a small step, the legal process can be drawn out and extremely costly, with potential void periods throughout this time doing little to soften the blow. With this being said if the tenancy period has reached its end and the tenancy has become periodic, if the landlord still wished to have the pet and the tenant removed from the property a section 21 notice can be served.

Finding Great Tenants With PropertyLoop

Of course at PropertyLoop we understand the urgency in finding a new tenant and the apprehension that can come with a new renter and their stepping into your property. This is why we work to liberate and empower landlords searching for their ideal tenant.

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With other online letting agents and their high street counterparts a premium will be placed on landlords trying to find a tenant that will be respectful of the condition of their rental property. With PropetyLoop rental owners are never charged a penny to let out their property! This means that landlords do not have to succumb to the pressure of expensive void periods and can find a tenant ideal for their property. Traditionally tenant references will only provide an insight into the renter’s most recent relationship with a landlord. When referencing through PropertyLoop property owners gain a rich, uncompromising understanding of their future tenants rental history, with a reference being sought from each previous landlord.

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