Many landlords are wary of pets in their rental properties, it’s thought that only 7% of UK properties for rent are currently advertised as suitable for pets.
It’s a familiar scenario for many even experienced landlords. You visit your tenant to repair their fridge - and find a half-empty tin of cat food in there. Add to that the long white hairs on the curtains, and you don’t need to be a detective to realise that your tenant has a pet - without your permission and contrary to a clause in your tenancy agreement.
What you do next depends on a few factors - we investigate your options...
Why don’t landlords like pets?
Many landlords are wary of animals on the premises - in fact, it’s thought that only 7% of UK properties for rent are currently advertised as suitable for pets. Landlords tend to be suspicious of the damage pets can cause to furniture, carpets and paintwork. Issues with fleas, smells and allergies are also a concern. However, the therapeutic benefits of pets are well-documented and pet bans can be seen as discriminatory to people in the private rented sector.
Can a landlord ban pets?
Say you’ve added a no-pets clause to your contract or specified that your tenants must seek permission first. If your tenant goes ahead and brings home a cat or dog, it might seem a clear case of a breach of tenancy. However, things aren’t quite that simple.
According to the Consumer Rights Act 2015, blanket bans on pets aren’t enforceable. The act says that tenants should have the right to ask permission to keep a pet - a request which a landlord can’t refuse without a good reason. Good reasons could include allergies, conditions in the building’s lease, or the landlord’s insurance policy.
In addition, the government has recently announced moves to make it easier for tenants to have pets in their rental homes, by amending the national model tenancy agreement for England. This is the government’s recommended contract for landlords to use when signing up new tenants. The revision removes restrictions on well-behaved pets, with the recommendation that total pet bans should only be implemented for good reason.
Whether you allow pets could also come down to the animal your tenant is proposing they bring onto the premises. A large dog would be unsuitable for a small flat - a hamster, less so. An older dog or cat with a calm temperament is less likely to cause damage than an energetic puppy or kitten. The important thing is to consider whether the proposed pet is right for the property.
If your tenant asks for permission to keep a pet, there are plenty of reasons why you should give the request consideration. Tenants who take care of the place, always pay their rent on time and are generally settled in the home are worth hanging onto. Allowing a well-behaved pet may be the price you need to pay to keep a good tenant long-term.
Even if your tenant has already brought the animal onto the premises, think seriously before taking action. Evicting the tenant could be a long and uncertain process, which will cost you money. You may also be faced with a void period while you find new tenants.
The consequences of keeping pets without permission
If your tenants have pets without permission, you can bring eviction proceedings using a Section 8 notice, under the Housing Act 1988, for breach of the tenancy agreement - but a judge may reject your case if your wish to restrict pets is deemed unfair. In these circumstances, you may need to demonstrate that the pet has caused damage to the home.
If your tenant’s fixed-term tenancy period has ended, you may be able to use a Section 21 notice to evict them. Bear in mind, however, that there are government plans to end these no-fault evictions during the current parliament.
You could tell your tenants to get rid of the pet. According to the charity Cats Protection, a fifth of the animals brought to rehoming centres are put up for adoption because of clauses in tenancy agreements. Allowing pets could save an animal from this uncertain fate and take the pressure off rescue centres too.
Another alternative is to come to an arrangement with your tenants. You could agree to a pet if they pay an additional deposit to cover damage – but bear in mind the rules about deposits in the Tenant Fees Act, which limit them to five weeks’ rent. You could also suggest a rent increase at the appropriate time. Take advice on either of these options.
Conclusions and advice
While your gut instinct may be to not allow pets on your premises, it’s worth giving the issue some thought. With rental homes, which allow pets, thin on the ground, being open to the idea could provide you with a larger pool of tenants and allow you to charge a premium rent.
Find out more
If you are a new landlord, we can advise you further about your legal responsibilities – when it comes to pet clauses and any other issues. To find out more about the services we offer landlords, contact us today.