Industry News Eleanor Bateman 08/03/2024

Lets with pets: What you need to know

Is the risk of renting to pet owners inflated? Following the publication of a new report by Battersea Cats and Dogs Home, considering the importance of pet-friendly renting, Senior Campaigns and Public Affairs Officer, Eleanor Bateman, looks at the risks. 

We are a nation of animal lovers, yet the issue of pets in the rental sector has always been problematic.

Figures published by Zoopla suggest that just 7% of property listed on the portal is advertised as ‘pet-friendly’.

This is likely to be partly due to the introduction of the Tenant Fees Act, which caps deposits at five weeks’ rent (where annual rent is less than £50,000) and prohibits landlords from asking for any additional pet-related charges which might mitigate the perceived risk.

The Renters (Reform) Bill is due to amend the Tenant Fees Act to allow landlords to ask tenants to take out or cover the cost of pet insurance. But will this be enough to encourage more landlords to accept pets? And are landlords overestimating the risks of letting to pet owners? 

Removing barriers to renting with pets 

NRLA research suggests that two-thirds of landlords are willing to let to pet owners.

However, some have been concerned since the Bill’s publication that the new right afforded to tenants to request a pet means they will be forced into accepting a pet in unsuitable circumstances, for instance in a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) where other tenants are affected.  

But the Bill simply gives a legal footing to what usually happens in practice – a tenant or prospective tenant can ask for permission to keep a pet and the landlord can accept or provide a reasonable justification for refusal.

The Bill sets out a timeframe for responding to any request – which charities like DogsTrust say will help keep any separation of pets from their owners to a minimum – but at forty-two days, it is unlikely to be a cause for concern for most landlords.  

Do the benefits stack up? 

Research commissioned by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home has now examined the evidence and found that, while pet damage does occur, it is far less frequent than most think.

The study finds that the benefits of accepting pets include longer tenancies, lower marketing costs, and better relationships between landlords and tenants.

It also suggests that pet-related damage may be less financially burdensome than non-pet-related damage, with average pet-related damage amounting to £300 versus non-pet-related damage of £775 in the study.  

A cost-benefit analysis was also carried out, which found that landlords may financially benefit from renting to pet owners.

The Net Present Value (NPV) varies depending on the property type, pet type and whether a ‘pet rent’ (a higher rent for accepting a pet) is charged, but found that, overall, renting to pet owners is positive for private landlords, and can be financially beneficial.  

Over half (51%) of landlords surveyed stated that they did not charge a higher rent for allowing a pet, while the average additional charge amounted to £29.10 per month.

However, the cost-benefit analysis found that a minimum ‘pet rent’ surcharge of £2.71 per month would result in a NPV of 0, meaning landlords were no worse off than if they had let to a pet-free household, suggesting that the costs of pet-related damage are deemed to be higher than they are.  

Will reforms go far enough? 

The modification of the Tenant Fees Act to permit pet insurance charges must be welcomed and will certainly go some way to assuring landlords that the costs – however minimal – of renting to households with pets can be recouped.

But the practicalities of the reforms are still uncertain – how much will insurance cost, should tenants take out the policy or should the landlord? With 81% of landlords indicating that cleaning and fumigation was needed at the end of a pet-friendly tenancy, will insurance extend further than damage to fixtures and fittings? The market will need to adapt, as without adequate insurance options, the reforms are likely to fail. 

More information

You can read the report in full here

Read the NRLA’s pet guidance here.  

Eleanor Bateman

Eleanor Bateman Senior Campaigns and Public Affairs Officer

Ellie joined the NRLA to progress its campaigning and public affairs work. Having spent six years working in town planning, Ellie became an ‘accidental landlord’ and went on to hold roles in the sales and lettings industry, both in agency and in policy and lobbying. She has amassed a wealth of experience in her 15 years working in housing at national and local levels and is passionate about making sure the needs and benefits of the private rented sector are fully recognised by Government.

See all articles by Eleanor Bateman