By Bindar Dosanjh

Should you relax your no pet policy?

Earlier this year, the Labour party revealed plans to change the law so that tenants will have the right to keep pets, as long as they don’t cause a nuisance.

The trouble is that for landlords, pets traditionally spell, well, trouble…

There’s the damage to furniture, fixtures and fittings – from scratching, biting or ‘accidents’, the smell permeating carpets, the additional wear and tear, and the possible inconvenience to neighbours of noise, poo, or other undesirable pet behaviour.

But the fact is that the UK is traditionally a country of animal lovers, with an estimated 27 million pets, and dogs and cats topping the list as the most popular pet choices.

And with people renting for longer – even for life – demand for tenancies which allow pets is understandably on the rise.

Whether or not Labour’s plans are a vote-winning ploy, and whether or not they ever come to pass, should you be thinking about broadening your market appeal by accepting four-or-more-legged friends in your properties?

There are possible advantages which could well outweigh the rather more obvious disadvantages.Allowing pets could allow you to attract different tenants for longer terms – and grateful tenants are more likely to look after your property well, and go above and beyond to prove their pet pooch or cute kitty is a model tenant too.

Things to consider

Who is your target market, and could you increase opportunity by allowing pets?

Obviously, if you're running an House of Multiple Occupation or any sort of multi-let, you'll need to consult all your tenants before allowing one to bring in a pet.

Does your lease allow you to have pets?

Around 20% of leasehold properties have a clause that disallows pets- so its well worth checking this if your property is leasehold.

What would the neighbours think?

Look around the street. Are there already cats and dogs around? Is it a family neighbourhood? Ask your neighbours what they'd think about pets in your property.

What do tenants think?

Obviously, if you’re running an House of Multiple Occupation or any sort of multi-let, you’ll need to consult all your tenants before allowing one to bring in a pet.

Mitigating the risk

Let your property unfurnished

Let pets damage your tenant's sofa, not yours

Add a pet clause to your tenancy agreement

This should cover unacceptable behaviour, property damage, and neighbour's complaints, and what you expect to happen in the event of these

Seek a reference from a previous landlord

It's worth getting good-behaviour note from a pet's a previous accommodation owner if you can!

Create house rules for pets

Which could include keeping them away from maintenance workers, or specify areas for their use.

Check your insurance policy

Make sure you've got the right cover in place for any damage that does occur, and check the exclusions to make sure pets are part of the policy.

Pets may be a pet-hate for landlords, but if they're the love of your ideal tenants' life relaxing your no-pet policy could actually make good business sense.