Many landlords do not allow for pets in tenancy agreements by default. One of the main reasons for this is due to the exclusion of cover for pet damage on a standard landlord insurance policy. But, even though 46% of the rental market in Britain owning a pet, the vast majority of landlords still do not allow for pets in the tenancy agreement. That means that many tenants in Britain are keeping pets without permission from the landlord, which puts both the tenant and the landlord at risk.
What to do if your tenant is secretly keeping a pet
If a tenant is found to be keeping a pet despite the tenancy agreement stating that they can’t, the landlord has the right to evict them from the property as it is considered a breach of contract. But before you issue your tenant a Section 21 notice, you may want to consider your options. After all, you may lose money from your decision to evict if you cannot replace the tenant soon enough. Then there’s also the advertising costs of finding a new tenant.
At first you might be quite angry that your tenant has either lied to you about having a pet, kept their pet secret from you or generally just disrespected the terms of their tenancy. But if you have otherwise historically maintained a good relationship with your tenant (i.e. they pay their rent on time, they look after your property, etc), you may want to consider updating the pet clause of the tenancy agreement to include a pet. You should include in the clause that no further pets will be kept at the property, without the consent of the landlord, to protect and prevent the unlikely event that your property becomes a zoo.
You can see whether your tenant is keeping pets without permission or not by inspecting the property thoroughly for signs of accidental pet damage. Common signs can include:
- fur (or feathers?) in the carpet or on edges of furniture
- bite and chew marks on furniture
- scratch marks and pulled threads from carpets.
Are you letting the property furnished? This may play a huge part on whether you allow pets or not. Will the cat be scratching up your sofa? Will the dog be chewing on your table? If the property was remodelled immediately prior to the tenant moving in, you may be a little more protective over the state of your property. If you’ve recently installed new carpeting, or a new kitchen or bathroom, you may want to prolong the life of them a bit more than you would otherwise. So you may be quite adamant about your no pet policy.
Tenants may hide evidence of pets, but if you find that the tenant is cleaning up after their pet efficiently and there doesn’t seem to be any obvious damaged caused by the pets when you do your property inspections, then maybe you should consider adding the pet to the tenancy agreement since they are not causing much damage anyway.
Reasons to consider allowing pets in your tenancy agreement
Pets can cost up to £700 worth of damage to a property within the pet’s lifetime, through general “pet” wear and tear. If you are worried about the damage that pets may cause to your home, there are certain choices you can make to ensure that you won’t get stuck with the clean-up and repair bill once your tenant moves out:
- You can ask your tenant for a “pet fee” in the form of a non-refundable payment to cover any damage caused.
- You can ask for a higher deposit prior to the tenant moving in, so that any pet-related repairs can come out of the deposit.
- You can request a slightly higher rent amount each month to cover the pet.
By completely refusing permission for tenants to keep pets, you may be giving them no alternative than to keep the pet secretly, as they do not want to abandon their beloved pet but do not want to be made homeless. Their secretly keeping pets may mean that you, as the landlord, are unprepared when the time comes for them to move out and you see the amount of accidental pet damage done to your property. At least if you were fully aware of your tenant keeping a pet then you could protect your property against the damage within your landlord insurance policy.
It’s easy to blame “bad tenants” for secretly keeping a pet in the first place, but the unfortunate issue is that some tenants are struggling to find accommodation and are scared that they will have to choose between a home and their pet. The truth is that many renters are reluctantly having to resort to giving up their furry family members to secure a roof over their head. A lot of unwanted pet shelters are struggling as it is to re-home abandoned pets, with some sadly having to be put down due to a lack of resources despite their good health.
Renting your property to pet-owners also opens you up to a larger market of potential tenants, meaning that you may find it easier to fill empty properties. And pet-owners may be so desperate to find somewhere that allows them to keep their pet that you can usually ask for more rent. If you’re unsure of how much damage the pet will cause to your property, you can also request a pet reference from the tenant’s previous landlord to see whether the tenant is a responsible pet owner in addition to being a reliable tenant.
If a long-term tenant is requesting out of the blue that they want to get a pet, by amending the tenancy agreement to allow them a pet (remember to state on the agreement the exact number of each animal permitted!), you could be ensuring that the tenant stays in the property for longer, saving you from the stress and cost of having to find a new tenant. Everybody wins!