A Landlord’s Guide to Pets

Whether or not to allow pets in a rental property is a common dilemma for landlords. While pets can make a rental feel more like home for tenants, they also bring potential for damage, disturbances, and other challenges. 

As a landlord in the UK, understanding how to approach situations where tenants keep pets, either openly or in secret, helps to maintain a harmonious relationship with your tenants and protect your property.

Understanding your legal rights and responsibilities

UK law allows landlords to decide whether to permit pets in their rental properties. However, with societal shifts towards more pet-friendly living environments, landlords need to consider each pet request carefully. You have the right to include a 'no pets' clause in your tenancy agreements, but you should first consider the request on a case-by-case basis. While outright refusal is within your rights for pets, remember that assistance animals are a separate category and must be accommodated due to disability regulations.

Legally, if a tenant violates a 'no pets' policy, this can be grounds for eviction under ‘breach of contract’ terms. However, eviction should always be a measure of last resort, pursued only after all other avenues have been explored.

Creating a pet policy

A well-defined pet policy is your first defence against pet-related misunderstandings and disputes. Instead of a simple yes-or-no approach, a situation-specific policy allows for flexibility and clarity. Specify which types of pets are acceptable and under what conditions, and consider the implications of pet ownership for your property and other tenants.

In your pet policy, detail your expectations for pet behaviour, waste management, and any restrictions on size or breed. This clarity helps prevent issues and provides a straightforward path for enforcement if problems arise. Incorporating a pet policy into both new and existing tenancies ensures that all parties understand their rights and obligations from the outset.

For existing tenancies without a pet clause, introducing such terms should be done with care. Open dialogue with your tenants can lead to mutually agreeable terms that then become part of the renewed or amended contract.

Dealing with hidden pets

Finding out a tenant has a pet without your knowledge can be unsettling. Address this discovery not with immediate confrontation, but with an aim of understanding and resolution. Start by confirming the pet's presence, then engage in a conversation with your tenant. Many tenants hide pets due to fear of eviction or misunderstanding the terms of their lease, so an open and honest dialogue can often lead to a positive outcome for both parties.

In this conversation, refer to the specific clauses of your tenancy agreement that the tenant is violating. However, you should also listen to the tenant's perspective and consider the individual circumstances. If the pet has not caused issues and accommodating it is feasible, negotiating terms that allow the pet to stay while protecting your property and other tenants can be a win-win situation. If an agreement cannot be reached, you must then remind them of their contractual obligations and the potential consequences, including legal action, while also exploring all possible solutions before escalating the situation.

Approaching hidden pets with a balanced and informed strategy allows you to enforce your property rules without unnecessary conflict, preserve your relationship with your tenants and maintain control over your property. If you are having difficulty managing your tenancy due to pets or other concerns, seek the help of the tenancy experts at AST Assistance.

Managing damage caused by pets

When pets are allowed in a rental property, the risk of damage can increase. From scratches on doors to stains on carpets, the potential for wear and tear beyond normal use is something landlords must consider. If a pet causes damage, it is important to handle the situation fairly and methodically.

Firstly, conduct a thorough inspection to document the damage, preferably with photographic evidence. Comparing the state of the property before and after the tenancy can help clarify the extent of the damage caused by the pet. This evidence is crucial whether the pet was permitted or not, as it forms the basis of any claim you may need to make against the tenant's deposit or for additional compensation.

When dealing with damages, communication with your tenant is key. Discuss the findings and the need for repairs or cleaning, providing them with the opportunity to rectify the situation themselves or agree to financial deductions from their deposit. It's essential to follow the legal procedures for deposit deductions and provide the tenant with itemised costs and receipts for any repairs or cleaning services.

The approach to handling damage may differ based on whether the pet was allowed under the terms of the tenancy. If the pet was permitted, the tenant should already be aware of their responsibilities for any damage caused. However, if the pet was not allowed, this adds a layer of breach to their tenancy agreement, which could influence the legal and financial repercussions.

Best practices for allowing pets

Allowing pets in your rental property can have several benefits, including attracting and retaining tenants who consider their pets part of the family. However, to ensure a positive experience for both you and your tenants, adopting best practices is essential.

Establish clear guidelines in your pet policy regarding the number, size, and type of pets allowed. Require tenants to provide information about their pets, including breed, age, and vaccination status, and consider requesting a pet reference from previous landlords or a ‘pet CV.’ This CV will detail your pet's age, breed, behaviour, training, vaccinations, and flea treatments. It can also include a reference from your vet and/or a reference from your previous landlord. This will help paint a picture of what your pet will be like in the property.

Consider introducing a 'pet interview' to meet the animal and assess its behaviour before agreeing. This can also be an opportunity to discuss pet ownership responsibilities with the tenant directly. Additionally, requiring a pet deposit or additional pet rent can provide financial security, and cover potential damage or additional cleaning at the end of the tenancy.

Regular property inspections, with prior notice, can help monitor the condition of the property and ensure that the pet is not causing problems or distress. These inspections also provide an opportunity for tenants to discuss any pet-related issues with you directly.  You should give at least 24 hours' written notice if the agreement does not say how much notice the tenant can get.

By fostering a pet-friendly environment while maintaining clear rules and expectations, you can enjoy the benefits of pet-allowing properties, such as longer tenancy periods and satisfied tenants, while mitigating potential issues.

Review your tenancy agreements and consider how a fair, clear pet policy could benefit your rental business. For personalised advice and assistance in drafting pet-friendly policies or managing pet-related tenancy issues, contact a professional service that understands the unique challenges landlords face. Get in touch with AST Assistance’s knowledgeable team at 01706 619954 or fill out our contact form.

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