What do I do if my tenant is keeping pets without permission?

Letting to pet owners can be beneficial. It can help landlords let their properties more quickly, attract responsible tenants who will stay for longer, and build a better relationship with their tenants. But pets and landlords don’t always get on.

Some 12 million households in the UK own a pet, according to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA). Accepting tenants with pets opens up a wide market, giving you an edge over landlords who don’t.

But there could be reasons why you don’t wish to allow pets in your rental property. You might worry about damage or noise. Your property might be subject to a lease that prohibits keeping pets on the premises. You might feel that the property isn’t spacious enough for a pet.

Whatever the case, you aren’t obligated to let with tenants with pets. (The exception is where refusing to do so would count as discrimination, such as with assistance dogs.) But there might be cases where you find that your tenant has been keeping a pet without your permission.

Pet agreement forms give landlords more protection

You might be tempted to give your tenant the benefit of the doubt, particularly in the case of a small pet such as a guinea pig or hamster. You should confirm this in writing as an ‘addendum’ to the tenancy agreement. Ask your tenant to complete and sign a pet agreement form, and append the form to the contract.

Looking for a pet agreement form? Find a free download in our landlord downloads section

Using a pet agreement form allows you to veto the decision to allow a pet on a case-by-case basis. A pet agreement form also protects landlords in the following ways:

  • It reminds tenants to avoid causing a nuisance to neighbours and obey other rules relating to pet ownership.
  • It obliges tenants to take steps to avoid odours and keep pets free of fleas and worms.
  • In the case of dogs, it obliges tenants to exercise their pet away from the premises and promptly clean up fouling.
  • It makes clear that all damage caused by the pet is the tenant’s responsibility to remedy.
  • It indemnifies landlords against legal claims from third parties for damage, injury or nuisance caused by the pet.

A pet agreement form also provides for landlords to ask for an extra security deposit if needed. If you take an additional deposit as part of a pet agreement, ensure that you protect it as normal.

Making a rental property suitable for pets

You may wish to take steps to ready your rental property for the arrival of a pet. Landlords are most concerned about cats, dogs and other pets that are not usually caged.

If you are worried about damage to fixtures and furnishings, consider letting your property unfurnished. You might also consider alternative flooring options:

  • Stone and tile are scratch-resistant and easy to wipe clean. Suggest that your tenant brings rugs, because stone and tile are uncomfortable for pets to lie on.
  • Vinyl is also resilient to damage and moisture. Softer than stone or tile floors, vinyl is comfortable and quiet for pets to walk on.
  • Laminate flooring is resistant to scratches and stains, but it can be slippery. This can cause problems for pets, especially dogs. Embossed or textured laminate is better for pets than smooth laminate, but your tenants may still wish to bring rugs.
  • Cork flooring is quiet, and resistant to scratches and spillages. It requires more frequent maintenance than other flooring types, however. Advise your tenants to sweep it on a regular basis and clean spillages promptly.
  • Carpets can still be suitable if they are cheap and easy to replace.

Ensure that your skirting is secure and that there are no exposed wires. This should be the case anyway, but is especially important if your tenant is a pet owner.

Use the tenancy agreement to be clear on pets

If you don’t want pets in your property, your tenancy agreement can forbid it outright. But it is fairer to temper such clauses with the following:

“…without the express written permission of the landlord (which must not be unreasonably withheld or delayed).”

This allows landlords to make decisions on matters such as pets, redecoration, and subletting on a case-by-case basis. It also gives tenants the chance to make reasonable requests.

Most tenancy agreements only allow landlords to refuse consent for a pet if it is reasonable to do so. It would not normally be reasonable to withhold permission for a goldfish, for instance, but you might be within your rights to disallow a big, energetic dog.

Dealing with pets kept against your will

If your tenant has kept a pet against your express wishes, you might wish to take more drastic action. This may be the case if the pet has caused a lot of damage, or attracted complaints from neighbours.

If you wish to terminate the agreement straight away, you can do so using:

  • a section 21 notice
  • a section 8 notice, citing ground 12 for breach of agreement

More likely is that you will want to give your tenant time to rectify the situation. Inform them in writing that by keeping a pet, they are in breach of the tenancy agreement. If they don’t rehouse it, you regret that you’ll have to serve notice.

It is possible for landlords and tenants to compromise on almost any issue that arises. By being approachable and encouraging honest and open communication from the start, you and your tenant are far more likely to enjoy a good professional relationship.

Read more about good practice for landlords and pets at letswithpets.org.uk.

This information should not be interpreted as financial advice. Buy to let mortgage rates are subject to change. Speak to our advisors for a mortgage illustration.

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