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The Problem with Pets

44% of households in the UK own pets but only 7% of landlords actually allow tenants with pets. Is it time for this to change?

Golden Retriever? Tabby cat? Or a baby version of Nemo? Whatever it is, everyone will have memories good or bad related to their childhood pets. These furry friends or floating fish are more of a mainstay than ever now with 44% of households in the UK owning pets according to the RSPCA. We know that for nearly all these people their families don’t feel complete without their favourite non-human companion present. The problem is only 7% of landlords actually allow tenants with pets. 

Where do landlords and tenants stand legally when it comes to pets in rented homes? 


Put simply if you are a landlord you cannot simply have a blanket rule banning all pets in your home. So what can do you do instead to protect yourself? 


Well, first tenants must ask permission from the landlord to keep a pet and as a landlord, you cannot unreasonably refuse their request. What is classed as an unreasonable refusal does not have a black and white definition though. 


This example does show what kind of grounds you would accept a pet or refuse it. If a tenant wanted to move a large dog into a small studio flat with no outside space it would be considered a reasonable refusal as there is potential for damage to the property. However, if a tenant just wanted to have a goldfish it's pretty unlikely a landlord will be able to find a reasonable justification for not letting the tenant keep it. 


Another step some landlords take in order to accept pets is increasing rents. You should avoid using deposits as a way of allowing pets as the Tenant Fees Act 2019 sets out that landlords are no longer able to take a higher Security Deposit for tenants with pets deposits on new tenancies must now always be capped at an equivalent five weeks’ rent, where the total annual rent is less than £50,000-, or six-weeks rent, where the total annual rent is £50,000 or more. 


The best solution for protecting yourself as a landlord but also still giving the opportunity for tenants to have pets is creating a tenancy agreement with specific clauses that state clearly the expectations you have for the tenant when looking after the pet. Our free tool - https://compliance.ark.rent/signup - enables you to do exactly this, you can generate a personalised tenancy agreement that includes provisions such as stating clearly what kind of pets you will allow, allowing tenants to rent if they make provisions for the pet to be looked after if they are away or require tenants to show proof of pets vaccinations and vet records. 


Visit the government website for more information about what you need to do when creating tenany agreements for pets: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-standard-tenancy-agreement-to-help-renters-with-well-behaved-pets


What steps can I take to make tenants aware I welcome pets? 


This is where we need to paws for thought (sorry…). These tips are easy to implement and will help get your home ready to welcome pets.  


The first thing you can do is when doing pre-tenancy checks ask tenants if you can meet their pet face to face, this will allow you to make an informed decision where you can gauge if you think the pet will suit your property, but also you get to have a look at your potential new tenant. 


Also, new software has come out that you can access and it can be really helpful. It’s called PetScore an independent platform landlords can use to see the profile of a pet. The information is collected by tenants who ask previous landlords, managing agents, or hosts for testimonies on their pets. 


This one may seem simple but may just be the most impactful, make clear when you market your property for rent that tenants know it is pet friendly and put what rules you have for your home. It will make tenants know exactly where they stand and give you a solid framework that you can then act within. 


What to look for in the future?

There is nothing immediately to focus on as a landlord in relation to pets, however, keep your eye on this. The ‘Dogs and Domestic Animals Accommodation Protection Bill’ was stopped by COVID in 2020, however now looks closer to being passed through Parliament. The first version of the bill was going to compel landlords to accept pets regardless. However, this revised version favours an approach where landlords can charge tenants for pet insurance as a permitted payment similar to deposits, rent, and holding deposits.


Join our Facebook group - www.facebook.com/groups/2671656439646485/ - for up-to-date news and advice on rules and reg changes within the private rental sector.