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

Back in ye olden times (January), this blog saw its first post – Attracting the perfect tenant. In it, I mentioned the potential benefits of letting to pet owners; you fill properties more quickly, your tenants are likely to stay for longer, and they are more likely to make the effort to be ‘good tenants’.

However, the fear of mess, smell, damage and nuisance to neighbours might put you off. You might have a leasehold property that doesn’t allow pets, or you simply might be allergic to animals.

If you think adding the “pets considered” tagline in your adverts might be more trouble than it’s worth, there’s no law forcing you to let with tenants with pets (except in the case of assistance dogs for blind tenants – refusing those counts as discrimination, I’m afraid). However, there might be cases where you find that your tenant has been keeping a pet without your permission.

What you should do

If you don’t want pets in your property, your tenancy agreement should forbid it. However, there are eight words that I like to use:

“…without the express written permission of the landlord.”

This clause allows the landlord to veto things like pets, subletting, and redecorating on a case-by-case basis; it also gives tenants the chance to make reasonable requests without fear of getting shot down. Landlords can’t generally refuse reasonable requests; however, if your tenant wants to get a big, energetic dog, you’ll still be within your rights to suggest a guinea pig instead.

I recommend visiting your tenant at home with their pet (giving 24 hours’ notice, of course). You might find that the pet is wonderfully behaved, fragrant (perhaps more so than the tenant!), and the property in great condition.

You might be tempted to give your tenant the benefit of the doubt. This is fine, but this should be confirmed in writing as an ‘addendum’ to the tenancy agreement – see our forms and guidance section for a pet agreement form. As the form says, you’re justified in asking for an extra security deposit in case your carpets get eaten – make sure, though, that you protect any deposit you do take.

What is this, a zoo?

Even if the property hasn’t been destroyed by its new occupant, you might simply not want to allow your tenant to keep pets. That, again, is your decision.

If the tenant hasn’t been particularly good or the pet has caused a lot of damage, it might be that you want to terminate the agreement straight away. If you are serving a Section 8 notice to end a fixed-term tenancy, you’ll probably be citing ground 12 for breach of agreement.

If not, your tenant now has the difficult decision of trying to rehouse either their pet or themselves. Let them know (in writing) that by keeping a pet, they are in breach of the tenancy agreement, and if they don’t get rid of it, you regret that you’ll have to serve notice.

Remember, gut instinct is one of a landlord’s best weapons. I think that considering pets is worthwhile, but if the idea of an animal living in your property will keep you up at night, you don’t have to allow it.

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Amelia Vargo is an online marketing executive for CT Capital. Amelia writes for Turnkey Mortgages, Turnkey Landlords, TurnKey Bridging, TurnKey Life and Commercial Trust.