The accidental landlord: rental properties for pet owners

Choosy landlord Victoria Whitlock is told there are plenty of pet-owners out there seeking places to rent. But she's not interested
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The reason I don't accept tenants with pets is because they are so dirty and smelly — and their pets can be just as bad. Seriously, pets are daft, and so are their owners. Anyone who is prepared to walk around a park with a plastic bag full of dog poo should, in my opinion, be treated with suspicion.

Dogs bark and annoy the neighbours, they gouge holes out of doors and chew carpets; cats scratch the furniture, bring home rats and shed hairs everywhere.

Even little pets, like hamsters and those freaky "house" rabbits, are just as bad because the food left in their cages attracts mice. I know this because once, in a moment of weakness, I agreed to let my kids have hamsters. Never again. Even if the pet is as well behaved as is possible for a dim-witted animal, it's still an unpleasant addition to a tenancy.

Properties with pets always, ALWAYS smell and I don't want my flats made all stinky by someone's cat or dog. Don't believe a dog-owner who tells you their little pooch smells peachy — they've simply become immune to the stench. These are the same owners who, when learning that their normally docile dog has taken a bite out of the postman, will say: "Well, he's never done THAT before."

I'll make an exception for guide dogs: they seem pretty smart, but all other pets are banned. Even goldfish.

However, one letting agent, Mountgrange Heritage, pointed out to me that almost half the population owns a pet, so a landlord who is prepared to accept dog- or cat-owing tenants might find it easier to let their property. The agency, which has set up a pet-friendly section on its website, also told me that tenants with pets tend to stay longer than average, though it didn't show me any figures.

It suggests that landlords ask for a pet's CV — which just proves that animal-lovers are nuts — and that landlords meet the pet before agreeing to the let, presumably over tea and dog biscuits. Its more sensible advice includes taking an additional four to six weeks' deposit, asking a previous landlord for a reference for the pet and writing a clause in the tenancy agreement stipulating that the tenant will pay for the property to be professionally cleaned at the end of the tenancy.

If you would like to accept tenants with pets, the Dogs Trust has a website,, with more detailed advice for landlords. It provides a sample pet checklist of questions to ask the tenant, such as "Is the dog house-trained?" (code for "Will it mess on the carpets?"), "Does the cat need a flap?" (ie "Are you going to drill holes in my doors?") and "How does the dog get along with visitors?" (ie "Will it attack me?").

Letswithpets also has a sample pet policy that you can insert into your standard tenancy agreement imposing certain obligations on the tenant, such as not leaving a dog alone in the property for more than four hours at a time and, God forbid, not breeding on the premises.

If a tenant has a dog, you'll also have to work out what will happen when the tenancy is coming to an end and you want to show viewers around. Will it be practical for them to make sure the dog is secured for viewings, or will you risk losing a limb every time you turn your key in the lock? If your property is leasehold, check with the freeholder that pets are allowed. They often aren't, for good reason.

Follow our accidental landlord on Twitter at @VicWhitlock

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