Pets in rental properties: how to get it right

Are you or your clients turning away prospective Tenants because they have pets? 

Inventory dog1Many Landlords refuse to accept Tenants who have pets, but this could be excluding nearly half of all prospective Tenants with recent statistics* suggesting that 46% of the UK population are pet owners. With 36% of the UK population renting**, and this figure ever increasing as it becomes harder to become a property owner, this could be unnecessarily ruling out a large number of potentially good Tenants.

However, what is absolutely key to a successful Tenancy involving pets is to ensure that a pet clause or addendum is included within the Tenancy Agreement and the property has a comprehensive Inventory and is inspected on a regular basis.

Here are two stories that illustrate how to get it right and get it very wrong when renting to Tenants with pets.

Example 1: A Tenant had been permitted to keep two dogs at the property during the tenancy and a reasonably worded ‘Pet Clause’ inserted within the Tenancy Agreement naming the dogs and their breeds.  In addition to the standard cleaning clause requiring the Tenant to leave the property cleaned to the same professional standard as at the commencement of the tenancy, the pet clause additionally stipulated that the Tenant would pay for professional de-infestation and or fumigation of the property if required at the end of the Tenancy.  The Landlord had carpets professionally cleaned prior to commencement of Tenancy.  At the Inventory Check Out it was noted that there was an unpleasant smell throughout the property and dog hair on the carpet. The carpets were also noted to have dark shading around entrance walkways.

The Landlord claimed from the Tenant’s deposit for professional cleaning, especially in relation to the elimination of the smell of dogs.  They also claimed for replacement of the carpets, as they believed that the dark shading in the entrance walkways was from muddy dog paws.  The Tenant contested the claim stating that the property was clean and denied that there was any smell of dogs. Whilst there was no evidence that the dark marks on the carpet was from dog paws or other means, the Landlord had consented to the dogs being kept at the property thereby accepting a higher degree of fair wear and tear.  They were therefore unable to claim for the replacement of the carpet.  Although adjudicators note that judgment whether there is a smell left by animals is notoriously difficult (particularly for the owners who are accustomed to the animals in question), they will accept that an unpleasant smell in the property is associated with the former presence of dogs.  In those cases they do find that Landlords are entitled to eliminate any remaining smell of dog, because the Tenancy Agreement had stipulated that a condition of keeping the dogs at the property was to have the property cleaned if necessary. With the evidence provided by the pet clause in the Tenancy Agreement and the before and after date stamped photographs on the Inventory, the Landlord was able to claim for full professional cleaning of the property including the carpets and curtains.

Whilst a Landlord can expect slightly higher level of fair, wear and tear at a property, they do not have to be penalised unfairly when they give a Tenant permission to keep pets at the property.  The evidence by way of Check-in and Check-out inventories, photos, signed Tenancy Agreement incorporating a comprehensively worded pet clause and an invoice would be sufficient evidence to show that the Tenant should pay for the remedial cleaning required to bring the property up to the standard of cleanliness as at the start of the tenancy and remedy specific problems associated with having had animals in the property.

Example 2: On another property, is an example of a Landlord not adequately protecting their interests and the poor outcome when they tried to claim from the Tenants deposit for compensation. The Landlord had given permission for the Tenant to keep a dog at the property.  A clause was inserted in the Tenancy Agreement permitting the dog to be kept at the property, but the breed and name of the dog was not specified.  During the Tenancy, the Tenant’s dog died and they replaced it with a very large St Bernard dog.  The Landlord managed the property themselves and had failed to inspect it during the tenancy.  As the Tenant had not experienced many problems at the property, the Landlord had not seen it for at least 8 months by the end of the Tenancy.  The Landlord had used an old Inventory to Check the Tenant’s into the property himself at the start of the tenancy and given it to the Tenants asking them to sign and return it within a week.  The Tenant’s did not sign it and this was not followed up by the Landlord (who said he assumed that the Agent would do that).  When the Landlord went to check the property against the inventory at the end of the tenancy, the property was found to have a heavy build up of dog food residue in a corner of the kitchen floor, there was dog hair on the curtains, carpets, paintwork, kitchen units and bathroom fittings.  There was a strong unpleasant dog smell throughout the property and damage to the garden.

The Landlord sought to withhold all of the deposit towards costs of gardening, redecorating, cleaning and carpet replacement. The gardening and carpet cleaning costs were attributed to damage caused by the Tenant’s dog. Although the Landlord had provided some photos, the ‘before’ shots were taken a year or so before the Tenant moved in and the ‘after’ photos were undated.

By consenting to the dogs being kept, the Landlord was accepting a greater degree of fair wear and tear. However, the obligation on the Tenant remained to return the property at the end of the tenancy in the same condition as it was at the beginning, fair wear and tear excepted. The damage caused by the dogs certainly exceeded that standard but there was unfortunately no evidence offered to support it.

The Landlord had failed to provide any substantiation for the other costs incurred. Furthermore, without a Check-in and Check-out Inventory, the Landlord could not prove that the cleaning costs were incurred as a result of a breach of the Tenancy Agreement by the Tenant.   The Adjudicator would have no choice but to rule that the Landlord did not provide sufficient evidence that breach by the Tenant of his obligations made the redecoration and carpet replacement necessary. Accordingly, the Landlord’s claim failed.

Inventory dog2Has it put the Landlord off letting to a Tenant with pets again? No, in fact his next Tenant has a dog too, but this time he had a properly worded Pet Clause in his Tenancy Agreement and a professional inventory made and signed by the Tenants at the accompanied Check in.  He also now does quarterly inspections of the property to avoid any unexpected surprises at the end of the Tenancy.

So there is no need to turn away pet owners, just as long as the Tenant signs a Tenancy Agreement agreeing to accept responsibility for any additional damage caused by their pet.  The condition of the property should be sufficiently recorded at the beginning of the tenancy and discrepancies detailed at the end of the tenancy by means of a comprehensive Inventory process. Concise Property Solutions produce accurate, concise and detailed professional inventories.  Our digital colour Inventories, Check In and Check Out reports contain embedded date stamped photographs.  We can also inspect properties on a quarterly basis and provide Mid Term Inspection Reports where we specifically look for and record signs of pets at the property, using photographs to support our findings.

For further information on our services and pricing, please visit our website www.concisepropertysolutions.co.uk

* Every year the PFMA commissions the well respected Pet Population report, which looks in detail at pet ownership trends.  The pet population estimates were made over two years, with total sample of 8,353. In 2015 it is estimated that 12m (46% of) households have pets.  The pet population stands at around 58 million. – See more at: http://www.pfma.org.uk/pet-population-2015#sthash.3ajb5bhR.dpuf
**Office for National Statistics.  Part of 2011 Census, Detailed Characteristics on Housing.