Pets in lets have long been a contentious issue in the rental sector. While the benefits of having an animal companion are clear, not everyone is a responsible cat or dog owner.

As professional property purchasers, LandlordBuyer has seen many buy-to-lets that have been damaged as a result of domestic animal. Of course, tenancy agreements can clearly stipulate that no pets are allowed but unless the landlord makes regular inspections, the presence of Felix or Fido can go undetected.

If research commissioned by Mars Petcare is anything to go by, renters are accustomed at hiding pets from their landlord. Its study of people who had owned a pet while renting a property found 24% refuse to ask permission to keep a pet because they said they’ll keep one regardless of the landlord’s decision. It was also revealed that 10% of participants were living with an animal despite it being banned as part of their rental agreement.

Tenants were found to be going extreme lengths to keep a pet, with 25% saying they had hidden an animal in the past to avoid being found out. Ploys to fool landlords included having someone on emergency standby to pet-sit, using home fragrances to cover up odours, telling a landlord the animal isn’t theirs and covering their pet’s cage or bed with a sheet. When it came to what animals a renter was keeping a secret, the most popular were dogs (59%), cats (56%) and rabbits (8%).

The research also revealed that pet ownership was rumbled in 48% of cases when a landlord made a surprise visit but other tenants were found out when they were spotted with their animal, such as on a dog walk (21%), and 20% were caught thanks to an anonymous tip off.

As well as being accustomed to hiding pets, renters are also comfortable with the consequences. Mars Petcare found 53% of those questioned were (or are) prepared for any potential action if their landlord found a pet in the property, even if it meant eviction.

Pets in lets will be brought back into focus in 2024, with the Renters’ Reform Bill heading towards Royal Assent. As a reminder, the Bill would ‘ensure landlords do not unreasonably withhold consent when a tenant requests to have a pet in their home, with the tenant able to challenge unfair decisions’. On the latter point, challenges would be heard by the Private Rented Sector Ombudsman.

Landlords and property managers were worried that the Tenant Fee Ban would prevent them taking a more substantial deposit to cover pet wear, tear and damage. After listening to concerns, the Bill was amended to allow landlords to require insurance covering pet damage when finding a tenant.

LandlordBuyer knows many property investors are pet lovers and own their own domestic animals but many have also been burnt by animals damaging their buy-to-let. From fleas and soiled carpets to excessive chewing and foul smells, correcting pet damage is costly and time consuming.

While the Bill says there will always be a reason why a landlord can reasonably refuse a pet in a rental property, it will become harder to turn away cat and dog owners. If implementing any new pet laws is a step too far, get in contact with LandlordBuyer. We can help you assess the right path ahead of new compliance and legislation, weighing up whether staying in the rental sector is viable.

And if you find yourself with a pet damaged buy-to-let that you can’t face recovering, LandlordBuyer will purchase it from you as is – no need to scrub, rip out or repair. You can start a sale to us online, using our free cash offer generator.

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