Information about landlords and pets in the USA and UK (2022)

Landlords letting out to renters with pets
Landlords letting out to renters with pets. Picture: Pixabay.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Apparently 7% of UK landlords rent out their properties as ‘pets allowed’. My research indicates that in the USA it is 55% of landlords who allow pets in their rental properties (sensible USA landlords I’d say). The information on this page is good as at 2022 to the best of my knowledge.

Do most landlords allow pets?

I’ve answered this question above. Clearly the vast majority of landlords in the UK don’t allow pets. The prohibition on keeping pets will be set out in the tenancy agreement which is an Assured Short Hold Tenancy agreement (AST) in the UK. There will be something similar – a Tenancy Agreement – in the USA.

Note: landlords are often leaseholders in the UK as flats are leasehold and flats are often let. They have an agreement between themselves and the freeholder called a lease. The agreement between a tenant and the landlord is called a tenancy agreement.

Landlord permission for a pet?

When a tenant agrees to rent from a landlord they can enter into negotiations as to the terms and conditions of the rental. Normally a standard agreement is produced by the landlord as mentioned above. This is not set in concrete. It is up for negotiation. Included in the negotiations could be an amendment to the clause regarding pets. It can be deleted or amended as agreed. There are a number of ways it can be amended but of course it must be done by agreement and before the document is signed.

Tenancy agreement?

In the UK, a tenancy agreement cannot include unfair clauses. An example would be removing a standard clause which allows the tenant to ask for permission to keep a pet. And such a request should not be unreasonably refused. Some landlords amend the standard tenancy agreement by removing wording which permits a tenant to apply for permission. This will leave the agreement with an unfair clause or the emission of a fair clause!

It is a tenant responsible for pet damage?

It depends what the tenancy agreement states. Normally the answer will be, yes. In fact, the tenant will give the landlord a deposit which he should hold in trust, in effect (or placed with a 3rd-party agent as per UK law) and it should not be spent. This money can be used to make repairs to the property should it be damaged by the tenant’s pet. The landlord can then return the remainder to the tenant at the end of the tenancy agreement. That’s the way it works.

Deposits are a source of aggravation between tenant and landlord. The landlord can claim that their property has been damaged by the tenant. The tenant disagrees. The landlord withholds some of the deposit. That’s the problem. You do get unscrupulous landlords. You also get some very bad tenants who trash properties. The key is to make sure that the tenant has good references

Why do landlords not allow pets?

Because (1) they have enough potential customers to allow them to place restrictions on keeping pets in their property. Clearly, they will lose customers but this doesn’t seem to worry them and (2) they believe that pets damaged their property such as the carpets and curtains. They don’t want the hassle to repair these items. Although they do, as mentioned, have a deposit so they should not suffer any financial loss. In fact, the amount that the tenant pays by way of a deposit could be negotiated upwards which may encourage a reluctant landlord to accept pets.

Another factor is that the landlord is subject to the lease and the lease will have terms which forbid one leaseholder making a nuisance which disturbs other leaseholder. If that landlord lets their property to a tenant and their dog barks all night, both the landlord and the tenant are in breach of an agreement (lease for landlord and AST for tenant). This translates to hassle at the very least and in the worst instances long-term nuisances by landlords can result in the termination of the lease which is the loss of their property as it returns to the freeholder.

Pros and cons of allowing tenants to have pets?

The pros are that the landlord significantly widens the number of potential customers that they can attract to rent their property. This will help to avoid void periods in rental and it may even help the landlord to increase their prices. At the moment in the UK (May 29, 2022) rents are rising at a record pace, which means that landlords can dictate terms more easily which in turn possibly means that they will be less likely to accept pets.

The cons for allowing tenants to have pets is the damage caused by the pet and the potential nuisance caused by the dog to neighbouring tenants through noise. In short, there’s a potential for hassle which a landlord wants to avoid because they simply want the money to roll in in the simplest way possible.

How to say ‘no pets allowed’?

This is a question that Google throws up. Landlords will normally advertise no pets allowed and the agreement will have a clause which forbids pets. The agreement may be hybrid in that it allows pets of a certain size or species.

Landlords should allow cats for commercial reasons
Landlords should allow cats for commercial reasons

About landlords in the USA

As is the same in the UK, the vast majority of landlords in the USA are individuals and not big investors. They are American citizens who want to have a steady income in their retirement or as an additional income. They normally own between one and four units. This accounts for 14.1 million properties in the US rental market. Apparently 47% of American landlords let out a property because they don’t want to sell it for sentimental reasons. In the US, 72% of tenants have pets from 43% in 2012. This is another reason why landlords should consider making their properties pet-friendly. Most tenants want to rent a unit where cats and dogs are allowed.

Tenants in breach of agreement

Bearing in mind that, even in the USA, a large number of landlords do not allow pets, it is unsurprising to find that about 20% of tenants break their agreement by keeping a pet in their rental property without the landlord’s knowledge.

Assistance animals

It is illegal in America and the same will apply in the UK to forbid a potential tenant from bringing their service or emotional support animal with them into their property. A no-pet policy cannot prohibit an assistance animal.

Responsible pet owners

Pet owners are generally more responsible than non-pet owners and therefore they take care of the rental property to a higher standard than non-pet owners. They are more likely to renew the agreement and therefore stay there longer which helps to bring in more income for the landlord.

Pet screening

Landlords should employ a pet screening process when allowing a pet to live in the property. It helps to protect against damage and noise.

Pet screening should include a meeting with the proposed tenant and their pet. The landlord should observe how the proposed tenant interacts with their dog. Excessive barking, growling, bared teeth and hair standing up on the dog’s back and neck are indicators of problems ahead. Perhaps the landlord might walk around the area with the dog and check whether they can respond to commands.

The website rentdrop.io has a useful list of questions to include in a pet screening application. The questions should ask about the type of pet that they have, how long they have been with their owner, whether the animal is vaccinated and in good health, any reported behavioural problems, the kind of training that the dog has been through, any injuries inflicted on others by the dog, whether the tenant can produce references from a prior landlord as to the dog’s behaviour, what kind of care arrangements are in place when the tenant goes on holiday, is the pet housetrained and how does the pet cope with being alone all day?

Separation anxiety

Note: some experts will state that dogs should not be left alone for more than four hours at one time. The belief that cats are independent and can be left alone all day is incorrect. They will suffer from separation anxiety, almost certainly. Dogs left alone may howl and bark. Cats who become stressed through separation anxiety may defecate in the property or they may develop cystitis. Idiopathic cystitis is often caused by stress and it can result in small drops of bloody urine being deposited around the flat on the carpet.

Below are some more articles on landlords and pets.

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