Good News, Animal Lovers – it’s Getting Easier to Rent with Pets
It can be tough to find a suitable rental property in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Finding a pet-friendly rental is even more challenging. Countless home seekers are frustrated by the dreaded words, “Sorry, no pets” in the small print of an advertisement.
A mere 7% of private rental properties are advertised as pet friendly. Others may accept four-legged occupants, but there will invariably be an additional charge to the rent for this. The sizable majority, however, stick with this blanket ban.
This seems unfair and discriminatory to animal lovers – and it’s likely to cause a major housing crisis. An increasing number of people are looking to move house in the wake of the COVOD-19 pandemic. Also, adoptions and sales of cats and dogs have skyrocketed and people stuck at home seek animal companionship. Something is going to have to give.
Why Do Landlords Hate Pets?
If you’re an animal lover, you’ll likely be baffled by any landlord’s refusal to accept pets. After all, how can anybody with a soul fail to fall in love with your tail-wagging chums? The most common reasons that landlords will refuse pets are:
- Risk of damage. Boisterous pets can cause damage to properties, such as scratches to furnishings or carpet. This will take time and money to repair, even if part of the security deposit is withheld to cover the expense
- Smell. Some pets can create odours. Owners may not notice these – they live with them every day. These smells can linger though, deterring potential future tenants that are less inclined to adore animals
- Cleaning. Pets often shed fur, which can be notoriously stubborn and tough to remove from carpets (though many vacuum cleaners now specialise in pet hair). It’s best that we don’t even think about the stains caused by poor toilet training
- Noise Nuisances. If people leave a dog home alone, it may spend the entire dark barking and howling. This will annoy neighbours, who may then complain to the landlord
- Allergies. The landlord, or potential future tenants, may be allergic to pets. These allergies are sparked by dander – dead skin and hair particles that hang in the air after shedding. This means that, even after the pet has vacated a property, an allergic reaction is possible.
These are all valid concerns, but a blanket ban neglects the many and varied nuances that come with pet ownership. Some cats and dogs are hypoallergenic and do not shed. Most pet owners treat their animals like family members and would not dream of leaving them home alone. As for the risk of damage … well, that’s part of renting out a property. Some pets considerably better behave than troublesome human tenants!
Is it Legal to Refuse Pets in a Property?
Yes, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Previously, landlords have always enjoyed the freedom to install whatever policies they saw fit. Recognising that pet exclusion was causing significant issues in the wake of the pandemic, The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is looking to change the law.
As of January 2021, the Model Tenancy Agreement – which landlords are strongly advised to use as a template for a lease – accepts pets as a default position. If a tenant wants to move in with a pet, a landlord has 28 days to object in writing and must provide a valid reason. This would need to be along the lines of an allergy or concerns over the size of the property.
Be aware – the Model Tenancy Agreement is not legally binding, and landlords are not forced to adopt it. Some will continue to issue blanket bans on all animal inhabitants of their properties. If they’re not using the Model Tenancy Agreement anyway, though, these landlords are probably best avoided.
Can I Get a Pet and Just Not Tell My Landlord?
You shouldn’t. You may get away with a goldfish or a hamster, but anything bigger is dicey. Firstly, it’s potentially dangerous. If your landlord does have a valid reason to refuse pets, such as an allergy, you are placing their health at risk. Pet allergies cause sneezing fits and watery eyes, as well as itchy skin rashes that can turn quite nasty.
Secondly, you’re unlikely to keep your pet a secret for long. Your landlord will see or smell animals upon their first inspection. Also, neighbours may report you, especially if your pet is noisy or disruptive. This will be a breach of your tenancy agreement if pets are banned, and you’ll likely be forced to vacate the property – forfeiting your security deposit in the process.
I’m a Landlord – Should I Accept Pets?
We explained earlier why many landlords refuse to allow pets in their homes. We would advise landlords to reconsider such a policy, though. Unless you have a health reason to ban pets, doing so is cutting off your nose to spite your face. As we mentioned, more and more people now live with animal companions. If you refuse to entertain leasing to such tenants, you’re removing access to a huge part of the market.
Do not even consider telling people that you’ll accept their application if they give up their pets. That’s like asking them to put their children up for adoption to secure a house. If you accept animals, however, your good, reliable tenants are much likelier to stick around rather than moving on after 6 to 12 months. Tenants always appreciate a flexible, understanding landlord.
Pet owners are realistic. They know that they’ll likely need to pay more to rent a home with their animal companions. Very few will kick up a fuss if you increase the rent by £20-30 a month and demand a higher security deposit to cover any potential damage. Take up an offer to meet the pet, too. If you’re expecting a rowdy Rottweiler and are building your policy around that, meeting a pet Pomeranian may set your mind at rest.
You should also amend your tenancy agreement, stating that you’ll accept incumbent pets – but no more. Even the most understanding landlord does not want their property turning into Noah’s Ark. This will be satisfactory to most people. It allows tenants to move freely with their pets, while also protecting the investment of a landlord.