Whether or not to accept tenants with pets is a question many landlords and letting agents ask themselves. Here we’ll look at what you need to know about accepting tenants with pets, and at how to turn being pet friendly into a good opportunity.
Reasons not to accept tenants with pets
Lets look at the main reasons landlords might tend to avoid tenants with pets. First there’s the damage pets could do to the fabric of a property. Second there’s what might be called possible issues with pet odour. The main risk here is that it could make a property difficult to relet. Pets can also cause problems with neighbours in some cases and these can potentially develop into more serious problems for agents and landlords.
Currently the law entitles landlords to refuse to accept tenants with pets (or refuse permission to existing tenants to have pets) as long as they have reasonable grounds.
Reasons why you should accept tenants with pets
If you’ve automatically had a ‘no pets’ policy before, perhaps without even thinking about why, let’s take a look at how accepting pets can actually be an opportunity.
Tenants with pets often have fewer options when renting as most landlords are reluctant to accept them. One study reports that 68% of landlords in some places say they don’t allow pets. So there is more demand for property which accepts pets but often very little supply. Accepting pets may make it much easier to let a property, especially in a market where tenants have lots of choice.
You will probably be able to charge more rent and still let your property easily. And that could be a good money making and yield enhancing opportunity. Tenants with pets are paying up to £50 a month more in rent according to this newspaper report. according to this newspaper report.
So if, for example, if Landlord A lets a house with no pets permitted at £900 a month but Landlord B lets a similar house with pets allowed at £950 a month Landlord B will enjoy an extra £600 a year or £6,000 over a decade in rental income. If both houses cost £180,000 then Landlord B will earn a yield of 6.33% compared to 6% too.
Tenants with pets also tend to be more settled and will stay longer term. In fact they may well be more responsible tenant types not less responsible.
In reality the risk of a property being damaged by pets is probably fairly low. Indeed the risk of property being damaged by bad pets is probably much lower than the risk of it being damaged by bad tenants!
How to make a success of accepting pets
If you decide to accept pets here’s how to turn it into a positive and not a negative:
Make pets welcome. First of all make it clear in your advertising that you actually welcome pets not just tolerate them. Features such as a good-sized secure garden and proximity to good walking areas are highly attractive to dog owners for example. This way you’ll attract those loving pet owners who are willing to pay more rent.
If you list properties on Zoopla you can identify your property as pet friendly to help find these pet owning tenants more easily.
Is your property pet friendly? Unfurnished properties are generally a more practical proposition for pet lets. You could also equip a property with pet lets in mind and ask for more rent accordingly. For example, easy to clean hard floor surfaces, cat flaps or a dog pen cost very little extra to provide but could earn thousands of pounds more over the years.
Set an appropriate rent from the outset. Compare with similar properties which accept pets or decide a sum which it is acceptable to add to the market rate locally.
Pets and deposits. In the past landlords and agents were able to ask for a larger deposit for tenants who owned pets. The Tenant Fees Act makes this impossible today, as deposits are capped at five weeks’ rent. Of course, if the rent is higher the deposit will be higher too, which partly covers the extra risk.
Pets and tenancy agreements. It is a good idea to have a clause (or claws!) regarding pets in your tenancy agreement. You can specify what sort of pets a tenant can have and how many to make sure they are appropriate to the type of property. It may also be a good idea to stipulate that only normal domestic pets are accepted, eg. not farm animals.
You can also stipulate what a tenant’s responsibilities are. For example, you might require them to report any damage or make it good before the tenancy ends, or use professional cleaning at the end of a tenancy. You could insist that they have suitable insurance to cover any damage.
The Government’s current official Model Agreement for an Assured Shorthold Tenancy makes very little allowance for pets in tenancies. However, the Government plans to modify it this year to make it more pro-pet.
If you have an existing tenant who asks for permission to have a pet the Tenant Fees Act does allow you to charge a fee up to £50 for amending the tenancy.
Property inspections. Consider whether a property where pets live might need more regular property inspections – at least when the tenancy first starts.
One last very important point. There might be covenants in a property’s deeds which restrict the type of pets that can be kept in the property. If a property is leasehold then there might also be restrictions on the type of pets, or even if pets are allowed at all, in the lease. Be sure to check this out before going ahead and accepting tenants with pets.