Inventories will be the last line of defence for landlords worried about having to allow pets in their rented properties, according to one industry leader.
Daniel Evans, chair of the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC), comments: “A detailed inventory showing the condition of a property at the start of the tenancy agreement is the only way a landlord can be sure of the extent of any damage which may have been done by a pet.”
The new Renters (Reform) Bill, currently going through Parliament, has been described as the most radical piece of legislation affecting the Private Rented Sector (PRS) for a generation. It is intended to redress the balance of power between landlord and tenant.
One of the most controversial proposals is to make it easier for tenants to keep pets in rented properties. All they need is written permission from landlords but that permission must not be unreasonably withheld.
As things stand at the moment, landlords can ban tenants from keeping pets as part of their tenancy agreement.
But if the reform is passed, landlords will have to consider all requests from tenants who wish to keep a pet at the property and they will be required to allow or deny permission within 42 days in writing.
If a landlord refuses a pet request and tenants decide to challenge the decision, the matter could be referred to the courts or a newly-created PRS Ombudsman.
Evans said: “A professional, independent, inventory is vital for any successful tenancy if disputes are to be avoided further down the line. But if more tenants are going to be allowed to keep pets, the danger of additional property damage only increases.
“Of course, most pet owners are responsible people but with the best will in the world, there is always a risk of damage when animals are left in properties.
“Any dispute may well centre around what constitutes fair wear and tear. The only way to resolve that is to have accurate documentation and photographic representation of the state of the property when the tenant moved in.”
Included among the provisions of the new reforms is a clause allowing landlords to request that the tenant buys insurance to cover their pets for property damage or organise their own insurance which would be paid for by the tenants.
In years gone by, landlords could have charged a higher deposit for pet-owning tenants but deposits have been capped at five weeks’ rent since 2019.
“Insurance cover will be helpful,” said Evans. “But sometimes pet damage is not discovered immediately – it may be weeks before it comes to light.
“Or maybe the tenant hasn’t kept up with the insurance premiums? In those circumstances the landlord will be looking to the tenant’s deposit to make good the damage. If that happens, the inventory will provide the necessary evidence to prove or disprove the case.
“The same may be true of the quality of décor or cleanliness throughout the property itself, or in the surrounding gardens or outbuildings, if they form part of the let.
“In some cases, the best way to deal with this may be through more regular property inspections. Who better to conduct those than the professional clerk who drew up the check-in inventory?”
The Bill is currently at second reading. Before it becomes law it needs to pass a committee stage, report stage, and third reading in the Commons before going through the same process in the House of Lords.