The Potential of Pet-Friendly Rental Properties
Private landlords are always striving to improve the appeal of their property portfolios. More competitive rentals command higher rates, suffer from fewer vacancies, and attract high-quality, long-term tenants.
Top of the agenda, therefore, is looking at what tenants want from their ideal rental home:
- Excellent quality decor and condition.
- Convenient locations and generous room sizes.
- Affordable rental costs and service charges.
And – the ability to keep a furry friend looks to be a criterion we need to add to that list!
Announcements made by Housing Minister Chris Pincher, introduce new rules meaning that landlords should not prohibit pets from their properties across the board. With the considerable rise in pet ownership over the pandemic, pet-friendly might be the tipping point in putting your investment properties at the top of the pecking order!
Let’s take a look at the new regulations, how important pets are to your tenants, and how you can safeguard your rental properties from animal-related wear and tear.
Government Regulations on Allowing Pets in Private Rental Homes
Across our lettings teams covering Chichester and West Sussex, we frequently manage enquiries from professionals and families looking for premium rental homes. Many require a property that will allow them to live with a pet.
Firstly, we’ll explain what these new rules mean. No law dictates that you must allow pets in your properties, but this can be a decision-making factor for many tenants. The Model Tenancy Agreement is a government published template and applies primarily to longer-term rental agreements over two years.
Recent amendments mean that:
- Consent for tenants to keep pets is the default, not the exception.
- Landlords must object in writing within 28 days should they wish to reject a pet request.
- There is no mandatory requirement to use the contract template, but it is widely regarded as best practice.
- Blanket bans of pets have been categorised as ‘unfair’. There is a likelihood that recommendations to allow greater flexibility in allowing tenants to keep animals may become law in the future.
Therefore, the model agreement is optional, and is a template that landlords can use, with any amendments as required.
That said, tenants rights are a crucial matter of national policy. With growing calls to support tenants’ well-being in all parts of their lives, including allowing them to keep well-behaved animals, this isn’t an issue that will go away.
A bill proposed by MP Andrew Rosindell called ‘Jasmine’s Law’ seeks to make it a legal requirement to ban no-pet clauses from rental agreements.
Could Allowing Tenants to Keep Pets Improve Your Rental Income?
As things stand, landlords can decide whether they will permit pets. If they use the model tenancy contract, they will need to follow the 28-day objection rule if they are not prepared to allow animals in their properties.
There are all sorts of reasons that many investors are reluctant to allow pets:
- Wear and tear to carpets, furnishings and decor.
- Damage to garden spaces caused by dogs and hutches.
- Potential for noise issues with louder pets.
- Extra costs to deep-clean properties after a tenant has vacated.
- Issues with allergy controls for new tenants moving in.
A balance is essential since although it isn’t unusual to feel that pet ownership might impact upkeep costs, it is a core requirement of many tenants.
- The RSPCA estimates that 44% of UK households own pets – 12 million families, and 51 million pets.
- Only around 7% of rental properties are marketed as pet-friendly.
- The Pet Food Manufacturers Association survey shows that pet ownership has increased dramatically due to lockdown and working from home conditions, with 35% of young adults now owning a pet.
- 1 million people collected a new pet during the pandemic shutdowns.
- Dogs Trust reports that 78% of pet owners struggle to find a rental property that allows pets – and it can take up to seven times longer to secure a suitable home.
These statistics add one to one inevitable conclusion; pet ownership has risen substantially, and allowing pets makes your rental property highly attractive to a large proportion of the rental sector. Tenants who are happily settled in a rental home with their family and pets are likely to stay longer, avoiding vacant periods.
Properties that allow pets are in high demand and short supply, meaning that it will be much easier to find a new tenant if they become vacant. Most families with pets, be that dogs, cats, hamsters, or rabbits, are families who are excellent tenants.
The big question for landlords is how to balance the appeal of marketing a pet-friendly rental, and avoiding any cost impacts of managing wear and tear! Rest assured that there are plenty of things you can do to insure yourself against any pet-related damage.
The Risk Assessment Process for Permitting Pets in Rented Accommodation
As we’ve seen, it isn’t yet a legal requirement that you allow every tenant in every property to keep a pet – and the best course of action is to run through a risk assessment process to decide what you’re happy to allow, and what you aren’t.
Tod Anstee runs full checks and assessments on every tenant, including whether they have any pets, and following up prior landlord references. This process is vital, as it ensures you get a firm idea about whether the pet is suitable for your property, and whether allowing that animal will cause any future problems.
- What sort of pet(s) does the tenant have, and are they at home during the day to care for them?
- Does the tenant have a positive reference from their previous landlord?
- Have there been any issues with noise or disturbances?
- How old is their pet, and are they planning to add to their furry family?
- Do any other tenants, or the landlord, have allergy issues that come into play?
Each tenancy agreement we manage includes pet clauses. These cover everything such as the name, size and type of pet that has been agreed.
Having a thorough inventory list, and photos of the property avoids any conflict should any damage occur. As a landlord, you can also request a meeting with the proposed tenants, and their pet, in advance – that allows you to assess the nature of the pet and judge whether they’re likely to live harmoniously in the property.
Landlords can also ask for access to veterinary records, checking that the pet is up to date with vaccinations, de-flea treatment, and worming.
Other options include:
- Increasing rental premiums on your pet-friendly properties to mitigate any increased maintenance or repair costs. These premiums must be disclosed and clearly outlined per the Consumer Protection Regulation Act 2008.
- Insuring the property with robust buildings and contents cover is essential, and the policy must note that pets are permitted. If you have an existing policy and change your tenancy agreement to allow a pet, you must inform your insurer and may need to switch your cover to a provider who allows pets.
- Should any damage occur, the tenancy agreement should cover who is responsible for the costs. For example, if you are concerned about a dog digging up the lawn, you could agree with the tenant that they will carry out repairs, in advance.
Whether you have allowed pets in your rental properties before or are considering permitting this in the future, by reviewing your policies, rental rates, and insurance, you can protect the value and condition of your investment.
The key takeaway is that allowing pet ownership is an effective way to market rental properties to a vast number of reliable tenants. With such a shortage on the market, it is a sure-fire way to stand apart from the competition!
For more advice about following the model tenancy agreement, managing the risk of pet ownership in your portfolio properties, or sourcing high-quality tenants, give the Tod Anstee Lettings Team a call.