The latest on renting with pets
As letting agents, we naturally meet with a lot of people looking to move - in a busy market the numbers can occasionally run more than 40 or 50 enquiries per available property. Amidst this sea of enquiries, one of the most common questions we get is whether the landlord accepts pets. This post is intended to clear up some of the confusion about pet legislation within the property rental landscape, as it currently stands.
When we receive such requests from pet owners, their animals are typically one of two species - dogs or cats. Unsurprisingly, according to statistics available from statista.com, these two species combined make up for 62% of pets in the UK, with the third largest category ‘indoor birds’ only as high as 2.9%. Unlike many smaller animals that live primarily in cages or hutches, dogs and cats typically have free reign and full access to the home and outdoor spaces.
This can make landlords uneasy, as there is always the potential that a pet can cause damage to a home, perhaps to carpets or floorboards or any provided furnishings. There is also the worry that subsequent tenancies who have allergies may be adversely affected. In addition, an untrained pet can disturb neighbours with excessive noise at unsociable hours or poor behaviour.
Most landlords know that the majority of pet owners love their animals, look after them well, and treat them like members of their own families. It is not the responsible pet owner that the landlord fears, but the irresponsible pet owner - something which is hard to discern when deciding to accept tenants following one brief viewing or meeting.
Pets and the law
As of August 2022, there is currently no legal obligation for landlords to accept a tenancy with a pet. It is still at the property owner’s discretion to allow animals to live in their property, although if their property is a flat or apartment within a larger block, there may be rules under the head lease prohibiting pets for the entire building, or a condition that permission needs to be sought from the freeholder first, taking it out of the hands of the landlord entirely.
It is worth noting that landlords who do approve pets can no longer charge an additional fee, nor request an additional pet-specific deposit - the tenant fee ban introduced in 2019 disallows this and the security deposit can not exceed 5 weeks’ worth of rent.
Some tenants are under the impression that the law has more recently been changed to the benefit of pet owners. This is untrue - the government has only proposed the introduction of a legislation amendment, with their aim to “ensure landlords do not unreasonably withhold consent when a tenant requests to have a pet in their home.” The intention is to allow tenants to be able to challenge a refusal received by a landlord, who will need to show good reason for refusing permission. They are also considering amending the tenant fees act to include pet insurance as a permitted payment, which, if made a requirement from the tenant, will then protect the property from damage and may persuade landlords to be more lenient in their stance.
Our thoughts and approach
We at base are here to assist and guide our landlords through such nuances of letting a property. There are benefits of accepting tenancies with pets - their owners are aware that the rental market is more difficult if you have a pet and therefore are more likely to stay long term in order to avoid the ordeal of moving again, which is beneficial for landlords as longer tenancies mean fewer void periods between tenancies. The demand for pet-friendly tenancies is also increasing, which means access to a larger pool of applicants and therefore more interest in your property when it is on the market.
In general, our experience with pet tenancies has been positive and so our advice is to avoid setting blanket rules on disallowing them, but to stay open-minded and consider each application on its merits, including how many pets they have, what sort of animals they are, and how to stay protected against the potential issues that may arise from them living within your property. For example, all our pet-friendly tenancies are signed up to a Pet Rider which covers landlords against damage caused by pets and any cleaning required as a result of their residency in the property. The decision is still made by the landlord.
For now, the decision still resides with the landlord, but if the government follow through with their proposed legislative changes, then life as a pet owner may become that little bit less difficult when traversing the rental landscape while landlords can stay secure in the knowledge that their property is in good hands.