Pet Damage in Rented Property

Under the 2015 Consumer Rights Act, a landlord can only refuse permission to a tenant’s pet if it is reasonable to do so, such as refusing a large dog in a small flat or if the animal in question is likely to cause a lot of damage to the property. If you are going to rent to a tenant with a pet however, there’s plenty you can do to avoid mishaps.

Badly behaved dogs and puppies who are still learning what is right and wrong are a particular risk when it comes to potential damage. In fact, destructive pets are said to cause more than £600 worth of damage to their owners’ homes during their lifetime. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of ways that you can safeguard yourself against pet damage and costly repairs though, so don’t be put off opening your home up to pets too prematurely…

How do I know if a tenants pet will cause damage?

As much as we wish we could give you the formula, there’s no knowing how a pet is going to behave in your rented property. No two pets are the same but there are certainly tell-tale signs that you can look out for that might give you an idea of how much trouble an animal might turn out to be.

Cats are pretty low risk in terms of damage, although they do have a tendency to scratch furniture and curtains if they are not given scratching posts and toys to keep them entertained, so it’s advisable to check with the tenant that these are available to the cat. As for birds, rabbits, hamsters, fish and reptiles, damage should be minimal if any.

It’s important to be more wary when it comes to dogs. When dogs are left alone for long periods of time, they can become bored or anxious which can often trigger destructive behaviour. Dogs Trust recommend that dogs are not left alone for more than four hours at a time, so definitely find out as much as you can about the tenants lifestyle and working hours and how their dog fits into this. Also, perhaps arrange to meet the dog beforehand in its current home so that you can get an idea of its characteristics. If it is friendly, well looked after and appears to be well behaved, then you shouldn’t have any issues with damage.

What can I do to minimise the risk of pet damage?

Firstly, make sure that you have adequate provision for potential pet damage, as this is not usually covered by insurance policies such as contents insurance and landlord insurance. Definitely double check this with your provider before agreeing to a pet tenancy.

Arguably the main concern for many people when it comes to pet damage is the money they might lose buying replacement furniture or carpets or making repairs. For this reason, many landlords request a higher deposit – six weeks worth of rent instead of the usual four – when taking on a tenant with a pet, particularly a dog. This is generally accepted amongst tenants with pets, and knowing you have the money to cover any damage will put your mind at rest. You could also request that a tenant signs an agreement to cover specialist cleaning costs at the end of their tenancy if it’s required.

You should be doing quarterly inspections regardless, but these are all the more important when you have an animal living in your property. It’s one of the only ways you’re going to know if the pet in question is causing any damage. Regular checks mean that you’ll be able to spot anything untoward early on and resolve it before it goes too far.

In the same way that you would keep an inventory to track fair wear and tear, you might also want to do the same so to prove any possible pet damage or scratch marks to your tenant. Carrying out your regular inspections should put your mind at ease as you hopefully realise that the pet is being perfectly behaved! Just remember to always give your tenant at least 24 hours notice before carrying out an inspection.

And if all these precautions haven’t reassured you, you could always try and get a reference from a previous landlord in regards to the pet; just as you would if you weren’t quite sure about a tenant.

Is there anything else I should be aware of when renting to tenants with pets?

The UK’s Labour party are currently campaigning to strengthen the rights of tenants to keep a pet in their rented property, with plans for a need for evidence that the animal in question is a nuisance in order for permission to be refused. If plans go ahead, it’s going to be more difficult for landlords to refuse pets so it’s time to get your processes in place and become a pet-friendly landlord if possible.

Many would say that the pros do outweigh the cons when it comes to renting to tenants with pets. You can charge a little more rent and a pet-friendly rental is highly valued, so tenants will jump at the chance to secure a tenancy. They’re also more likely to be loyal and stick around for as long as you’ll have them.

Whatever the animal, do your research on the species and breed and its characteristics. Dogs Trust has set up the Lets with Pets website which provides lots of useful information and guidance for pet owners, landlords and letting agents so be sure to give it a read and get clued up.