The accidental landlord: why rental contracts must have a pet clause

A destructive cat leaves tempers and curtains frayed, proving it’s vital to include a pet clause in rental contracts...
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As a landlord, I have dealt with some odd situations, but I never thought I would end up in the middle of a catfight between two tenants, especially as they had always seemed before to be the best of friends.
I dropped by to make an end-of-tenancy property inspection after the girls requested to terminate their lease three months early — and I noticed immediately that there was a frosty atmosphere between the pair.
One sat biting her nails in the living room while the other stood in the kitchen, cradling a cat. They had obviously fallen out, which explained why they hadn’t seen their tenancy through to the end of the term.
The flat was pretty much as it was when they had moved in, which is what I expected as they had lived there less than a year, but the living room curtains were badly frayed along the bottom, which was odd.
“It’s her cat,” said the nail biter. “It claws at them.”
The other girl shot into the living room, still clutching said cat. “How DARE you?” she snarled. “How DARE you blame Mr Darcy?” Whereupon Mr Darcy jumped down and sauntered out of the room.
“I told you he’d make a mess when you got him,” said the nail biter, at which point Mr Darcy’s owner followed her cat back into the kitchen and slammed the door.
I was about to point out that Mr Darcy was an illegal occupant as the lease stated no pets were allowed, but decided it was more important to get the girls out of the flat without a punch-up.
Not wanting to get involved in their blame game, I told them it would be better for everyone if they left straight away and I completed the inspection after they had gone.
Fortunately for me, they had signed a joint tenancy agreement, which made them equally responsible for the damage so I didn’t have to decide who should pay for the frayed curtains. I just deducted half the cost from each of their deposits and left them to sort it out.
I admit this was unfortunate for the non-cat owner. I was certain Mr Darcy was the culprit so it did seem unfair deducting money from her deposit when she had made it clear she wasn’t responsible for the cat’s actions. However, as I couldn’t be 100 per cent sure of the facts I didn’t really have any choice but to take money from both girls.
This illustrates why it is important for landlords to have pet clauses in contracts — to make tenants aware that they will be responsible for any damage animals cause, plus any additional cleaning required at the end of the tenancy — and why it’s better to have sharers sign joint tenancy agreements. That way, if they can’t agree who is responsible for any damage, they all have to pay.

These girls aren’t the first of my tenants to fall out. I’ve let to two young couples whose relationships didn’t last as long as their tenancy agreements, and I have let to several groups of friends who discovered they weren’t quite as close as they thought they were once they were forced to share a kitchen and a bathroom.
Once, I had a group of mates who were literally all over each other when they came for the viewing, hugging and kissing each other like young people do nowadays, and yet within months I was asked to “get rid” of one of them who was disturbing the others with what they described as “random behaviour”.
Personally, I think it is best to avoid the role of referee and leave tenants to sort out their own spats.
  • Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock

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