The lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have seen a significant rise in the number of households keeping pets. This has been driven both by single-person households needing company while working from home and parents finally giving into their children’s demands for pets while both they and the kids have been home more.
The positive effects of pets on mental health have been widely discussed in the press and the Government has taken steps to make it easier for tenants to keep them at home. With the 2019 Tenant Fees Act, the Government banned landlords from levying additional “pet deposits”, which had previously been included in tenancy agreements by landlords to cover potential damage caused by their furry companions when allowing tenants to keep them in the property.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government took an extra step in January 2021 by adjusting their Model Tenancy Agreement to protect the rights of pet owners. From 28th January 2021, the Model Tenancy Agreement no longer allows landlords to issue blanket bans on pets. Instead, consent for them is the default position and landlords must object in writing within 28 days of a written request from a tenant with a good reason for the ban.
The Ministry referenced the increased proportions of households with pets in their reasoning and are continuing to move in this direction. The ambition to implement stronger protections is apparent in the Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill, currently at the reading stage in the House of Commons. The stated purpose of the bill is “to establish rights to keep dogs and other animals in domestic accommodation; to make provision about the protection of the welfare of dogs and other domestic animals, and for connected purposes.” – we’ll know more if and when the final version of the bill will be approved.
We will start this by saying: there are good reasons why landlords may be wary of allowing pets. They can be noisy, and they can cause damage to the furniture and property. This can impact your rental yields (and trigger a few discussions with your neighbours, potentially).
However, there are also advantages to be considered. Good tenants who love their domestic animals are often willing to pay the right price for a nice, pet-friendly property. In a similar vein, with so many new pet owners on the market, this opens your properties up to a larger pool of potential tenants.
And there are less tangible benefits as well.
Allowing domestic animals in your home means that your tenants don’t have to hide them from you. Being open and honest in this way means that ground rules can be put in place and tenants are much more likely to be open about any damage caused by their furry friends. Dogs often provide fantastic security to your properties. The mere presence of a dog can often end a burglary before it starts, keeping your property safe as well as your tenant’s valuables.
And one final benefit we are sure you can appreciate – keeping tenants happy is a win for landlords in various ways. Happy tenants stay longer and keep properties in better condition to name just a few.
All of this is to say that if you have a good relationship with tenants you trust, allowing them to keep pets within your property can benefit you immediately without any additional effort on your part. While we think this is absolutely not a decision to be taken lightly, we also think it is one landlords should seriously consider.
If you are open to the idea but don’t quite feel comfortable being pet-friendly while letting, there are some precautions you can take. For example, you may be comfortable with smaller or quieter domestic animals. If that is the case, you are well within your rights to restrict tenants to certain types (or numbers) of pets.
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Is it illegal for landlords to refuse pets?
No – there’s only guidance around this and no focus by the law about domestic animals in the property. Landlords can still refuse to have a pet in the property however, the landlord must put the refusal in writing within 28 days of the tenants request.
Landlords do need a reasonable excuse for not allowing a pet in the property such as the property being too small, owning a domestic animal being impractical, the terms and conditions of the building’s lease agreement, allergies or the landlord’s insurance policy.
Can you charge more rent for pets?
Under the Tenant Fees Act, landlords and letting agents are no longer able to take a higher tenancy deposit for tenants with domestic animals however, the rent can be increased to account for wear and tear a pet may cause.
A tenant can provide a landlord with a ‘pet CV or reference’ to approach a landlord with this could show a landlord what the pet is like.
What if a tenant is keeping a pet without the landlord’s consent?
Our recommendation is to speak to your tenants or ask your agents to speak to them first. Have an open conversation with them, to see if you can come to an agreement regarding the pet in the property.
This could open up the conversation to tenants being agreeable to cover any damage caused by the pet and also allowing you to get to know your tenants better.
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