It’s a dog’s life when you’ve found the perfect property to rent and then you see those gutting two words in the advert – ‘no pets’.
Yet in a country where 4.2 million households live in privately rented accommodation and approximately every second household owns a pet, you would think that landlords might have loosened the reins. A quarter of households own dogs and 19% own cats so there is a huge part of the rental market that many landlords are immediately shutting out, which makes no business sense.
Many agents have found that the number of applicants with pets significantly outweighs the number of properties they have that are suitable. Rural properties are often more difficult to let unless they accept pets, as the type of tenant who wishes to live in a rural property is often someone who wants to enjoy the countryside life and owns a dog.
A survey carried out by the Dogs Trust found that pet owners take seven times longer to find a property. This is compared to non-pet owners and one in three could not find a suitable property that would accept their pet.
So, why do pet owners get such a *ruff* ride?
Historically, landlords have preferred to not accept tenants with pets due to the additional wear and tear and, in extreme cases, the damage they believe pets can cause to a property.
Dogs and cats, in particular, can be destructive and messy, especially if they aren’t looked after properly. They can also smell, especially if they’re not properly house trained or if their hygiene is neglected by their owners.
These factors can mean that when the tenant moves out there may be an extra financial cost to the landlord for cleaning and fixing up wear and tear issues caused by the pet (have you ever tried to get the smell of cat poop out of a carpet?) Pets, particularly dogs, can also be disturbing towards neighbour’s i.e. barking at unsocial hours and it is important for landlords to maintain healthy relationships with neighbours.
But what about the benefits?
For landlords, opening your property up to tenants with pets will maximise its rental potential. By accepting tenants with pets you can:
Increase demand for your property. With so few properties on the market allowing pets, yours will be in high demand instantly.
Encourage tenants to stay longer. Pet owners are well aware of the difficulty in finding a suitable property that also allows pets so they are much more likely to stay longer than tenants with no pets.
Attract responsible tenants. Responsible pet owners often make the most responsible tenants. The lack of rented accommodation for pets means that tenants are less likely to do anything that will jeopardise their tenancy with you.
So, what can landlords do mitigate risk?
Negotiate a higher deposit/rent. As with all tenancies, fair wear and tear accounts for any natural deterioration of the property over time and this cannot be recovered from the security deposit. Therefore this should be accounted for in the rent your tenants pay and you can protect from the extra wear and tear that might result from additional paws on the carpet by charging a bit more. Most tenants will be happy to stump up a bit more rent if they can rest assured their beloved Rover or Fluffy is welcome.
Take the animal itself into account. Assess each case individually and take into consideration the nature of the animal, the property, its location and your neighbours. If you can’t meet the pet in person, you could ask for pet references from the tenant’s previous neighbours or a vet to ensure the tenant is a responsible owner and the pet is well behaved.
Include a pet clause in your tenancy agreement. To protect the property from turning into a zoo, it’s better to avoid clauses that grant an open ‘pets accepted’ policy. It’s better to advise on the specific pet(s) allowed in the property and account for the tenant’s liability for the proper control of the animal and their responsibility for any cleaning, disinfestation etc. that might be needed.
The relationship we have with our pets is unmatched. Many would be unwilling to give up their animals to secure a let in your property. By allowing them into your home, you’re able to take advantage of a share of the rental market that’s massively underrepresented. After all, animals need homes too.