Tips on pandemic pet rentals for landlords and tenants

Traversing the rental market at present is a tricky business and it can be even trickier if you have a furry friend with you, or any other pet for that matter.

Leading lettings management platform, Howsy, has looked at the current law surrounding renting with a pet and put together some tips for landlords and tenants when it comes to tackling the subject.

Renting with a pet often involves a premium so this is the first thing to consider when looking for a rental property. Many landlords will charge as much as £50 more a month for the pleasure, with the average premium coming in at 4% of the average rent, or £37.50.

It can be hard to find a landlord that allows pets but the good news is Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced an overhaul of tenancy agreements to help end pet bans in the UK rental market.

The government wants to make it easier for responsible pet owners to be allowed to rent with their pets and they aim to revise the model tenancy contract, the government’s recommended contract for landlords, in order to do so. While this is yet to materialise, the changes should remove restrictions on pets to make it easier for tenants.  

What does this mean for landlords?

Advantages

Well the advantages are higher demand for your buy-to-let property, as well as the pet rental premium you will receive. Current pet friendly landlords are few and far between which makes your property immediately more desirable. It also opens you up to a wider audience which should increase demand for your property.

Allowing a tenant with a pet also sets a good tone for the relationship from the start and more often than not, tenants with pets will make an additional effort to be good occupants so they don’t have to start their hunt again come the end of the tenancy.

Disadvantages

Of course the downside can be any damage caused at the end of the tenancy and poorly behaved pets can also annoy the neighbours, or bring other issues such as fleas if not properly looked after.

Can I charge a pet deposit?

Under new rules brought in with the Tenant Fee Act you can no longer charge a larger deposit above the five-week threshold for any reason, so if your deposit is already set at this limit you can’t charge more for a pet. This is why many landlords opt to charge more in rent.

Can I refuse pets?

For the large part, landlords shouldn’t refuse tenants with pets but for the above reasons the reality is often very different. The law stipulates that landlords can’t use a blanket pet ban clause to prevent tenants from keeping pets because it’s subject to the unfair terms regulations.

These unfair term regulations are part of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and as a landlord, you must have a legitimate reason for refusing pets. However, Landlords can include a clause or clauses within the tenancy agreement that require tenants to request permission if they want to have a pet.

Again, you will need reasonable grounds to say no but the reality is, as a landlord it’s down to you who you allow in your home and if you don’t want pets you can opt for a tenant without them.

If you do plan to allow pets in your home it’s advised that you get a specific tenancy agreement drawn up with special clauses stating what the pet-owners responsibilities are while renting your home. This can include being responsible for any damages as well as maintaining the property and the behaviour of their pet.

Leasehold and freehold properties

If your buy-to-let is a leasehold you will need to check the lease to ensure pets are allowed. If they are prohibited you will need to get the lease changed. This can be a lengthy process involving communications with the freeholder, as well as consulting all leaseholders if you live in a block of flats for example. If they do agree, you will need to instruct a solicitor to deal with the amendments.

If your property is leasehold, it should be more straightforward although some freeholds have restrictive covenants prohibiting animals; although these are rare.

All in all, allowing pets should be done on a tenant to tenant basis, so speak with them, ask for a previous pet tenancy reference, meet with them and their pet, confirm any emergency arrangements for the pets welfare and if the pet is suitable for your property. A 100kg Mastiff may not be the best fit for your top floor one bedroom flat in the city centre for example.

Not all insurance policies will cover pet damage but many letting agents may offer products, such as Howsy Protect, that cover rent arrears and damages to your home. Otherwise you should ensure you have contents or landlords insurance in place.

Tenant Tips

As a tenant, you’re unfortunately at the mercy of the landlord so always give yourself extra time to research and look for a property that is suitable for both you and your pet.

Go above and beyond to build a good rapport with your landlord and show them they can trust you.

Provide any necessary pet documentation to demonstrate your pet is well looked after and obedient if you have had them trained professionally.

Offer to meet them with your pet in person and abide by all other rules of the tenancy agreement. If your pet does cause damage, it’s often better to get this repaired without dragging the landlord into it but if you do, be prepared to adhere to any additional pet clauses such as paying for the damage anyway.

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