Letting to Tenants with Pets
Majority of pet owners are law-abiding people who look after their pets with love and responsibility.
Landlords can no longer take a bigger deposit to compensate for pets. The Tenant Fees Act caps the deposits at no more than five week’s rent; however, this has meant an increase in pet rent.
What is Pet rent?
Pet rent is when a landlord charges a monthly fee for pets in addition to the regular monthly rent.
Pet rent is usually the least expensive option; landlords can charge pet rent for the period your tenant has pets in the property.
This provides wear and tear costs, like dirty carpets in the hallway, and contribute towards other pet-related repairs. Some landlords calculate pet rent as 1% or 2% of the rent or charge a flat rate based on market rent.
What are pet fees?
A pet fee is a one-time, that is a non-refundable fee for allowing pets that will cover potential repair and cleaning costs.
Some landlords charge a flat rate, requiring the same amount regardless of the number of pets; however, the fee is not refundable.
Most landlords will not allow pets
SpareRoom in a recent survey revealed some 69% of landlords said they did not allow pets in their properties, despite 17% of tenants paying a higher rent each month for their landlord to accommodate a pet.
This means two things: fewer landlords accepting pets or landlords charging higher rents to tenants to compensate due to the inability to take a higher deposit.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP on January 4, 2020, said landlords should make it easier for responsible tenants to have well-behaved pets in their homes as he announced an overhaul of the model tenancy contracts.
He added: “Pets bring a tremendous amount of joy and comfort to people’s lives, helping their owner’s through difficult times and improving their mental and physical wellbeing”.
A landlord can and some landlords are requesting vet reference: Does the referee consider the tenant to be a responsible pet owner and is the pet reasonably behaved?
Some pet lovers write a ‘CV’ for their pet to show that they are ‘responsible pet owners’ which prospective tenants include the properties that they have lived in, vaccinations, age, gender and breed.
This is an indication the prospective tenant is a responsible pet owner.
If the property being let is freehold, then the landlord is very unlikely to encounter any problems allowing pets in the property.
If the property that is being let is leasehold, you will need to check and read the terms of the lease thoroughly to make sure that pets are allowed under the terms of the lease. If they are, then you should be entitled to let to tenants with pets.
What legislation regulate pets and are related to landlords, pets and tenants:
The Animal Welfare Act 2006
This is a powerful tool for those who mistreat pets. Under this Act, an animal does not have necessarily suffer for the owner to be prosecuted.
The Act places a duty of care on the pet owner to provide for basic needs like adequate food, water, exercise, a suitable place to live and access to veterinary treatment.
The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976
This regulates anyone who keeps wild animals which are deemed dangerous like crocodiles, monkeys, and venomous snakes. Anyone who keeps such animals is required to obtain a license from the local authority.
The Animals Act 1971
Under this Act, a pet owner or any person responsible for an animal must ensure they take care that it does not cause any injury or damage. The owner can be held liable in law for any damage caused.
Seek confirmation in an emergency who will be looking after the pet?
In an emergency, should the tenant end up in hospital or prison you do not want to end up looking after the pet?
Before granting a tenancy, you should get in touch with this person that the prospective tenant has nominated for looking after the pet in an unlikely incident or eventuality.
You will need a name and address and contact details for the pet’s section within the tenancy agreement.
Consider the suitability of the pet to the property
For some property’s certain pets or sizes or number of pets may not be suitable. So carefully consider even if the prospective tenant has not the impact on neighbours.
A large dog in a flat may cause a nuisance issue. Tenant with five cats may cause problems for the next-door neighbour’s beautiful lawn.
Pet terms and conditions in a tenancy
I would suggest that you sit down with the tenant and go over with them the terms and conditions of the pet agreement, which should make it clear:
● That they only have consented to keep the specific pets agreed – if they want to keep any more, they must seek written consent.
● They are responsible for looking after the pet properly. If you consider the pet is neglected or ill-kept, you will report the tenant to the RSPCA.
● If the pet does not go with them, for example, when they go on holiday, they must board it or make proper arrangements for its care while they are on vacation.
● The tenant must make sure the animal is vaccinated property.
● The tenant is responsible for making sure the pet does not damage anything in the property and is not a nuisance to neighbours.
What pets are popular and the characteristics of these pets?
We the British nation, are dog lovers, without doubt, dogs are the most popular pet in the UK.
While we love dogs, they can cause considerable damage to a property, and it does not matter if the dog is small or large.
Problems start when a dog is being left alone or neglected at the property for long periods. It is under these circumstances the dog is most likely bark and cause damage.
Dogs can cause a nuisance by excessive barking; however, responsible owners are unlikely to allow for this to happen.
You must ascertain from the prospective tenant if the pet is a:
Guide dog for the blind
Hearing dog for deaf people
Dog for disabled people,
If so, then in law, you must permit the dog in your property.
The disability legislation prevents anyone who is letting a property to discriminate against a disabled person. This also includes discriminating against a person who requires a dog for assistance.
Cats are also popular pets; however, they are less problematic than their foe the dog. It is generally ok for cats to be left behind when their owners go on holiday, provided there is a friend who is willing to look after the cat.
However, this does not mean that they cannot be kept in flats. It depends on the cat as some cats are better kept inside, for example, if they are old or ill.
Birds are popular pets, and they can be kept, ranging from small finches to large parrots.
Birds are intelligent animals and need stimulation, for example, with mirrors and toys. They are also sociable and should not be kept alone unless their owner is with them for most of the day to keep them company.
They should have space and be allowed time to fly and stretch their wings once a day, albeit under supervision. It is illegal to keep a bird in a cage in which it cannot fully extend its wings in every direction.
Fish rarely cause problems for landlords and therefore are often accepted by landlords who may not agree to other types of pet.
Some aquariums can be enormous, so if so, you will need to ensure that your tenant has a suitable stand to put it on. The fish tank must be sited appropriately and on a stable frame.
Rabbits can be kept outdoors or indoors provided they have suitable size hutches. They are generally friendly animals and should be kept in pairs or more.
Indoor rabbits can be trained to use a litter tray. Rabbits are known to nibble wires and cables if allowed to run around inside freely.
Guinea Pigs should ideally be kept outside in a cage and have space run around. They are not known to be interested in toys but will enjoy having boxes and tunnels to explore and hide in. These pets are not suitable for flats or small studio flats.
These include things like tortoises, lizards, spiders, and snakes.
It would be best if you were careful about allowing a tenant to keep these pets as they often require specialist care. Make sure that your tenants understand the needs of these pets and question them carefully about the pet before deciding to offer a tenancy.
Birds are intelligent animals and need stimulation, for example, with mirrors and plenty of toys. They are also sociable and should not be kept alone unless their owner is with them for most of the day. Birds are suitable for older tenants or retired renters.
Can a letting agent or landlord charge my pet rent?
Yes, they can, and it is legal to do so. Landlord or letting agent are permitted to charge additional rent for a dog or cat on top of the rent charged for the humans in a rental property.
However, you must ensure when charging ‘pet rent’ the tenancy agreement is signed by everyone before moving in. The tenancy must be clear about the pet rent, including how much it is (amount stated separately for clarity) and who pays it.
How does the Tenant Fees Act affect tenants with pets?
It would seem most landlords are prepared to consider accepting pets to either attract long-term tenants or attract a wider pool of prospective renters.
The tenant fees ban legislation does limit the amount of deposit a landlord can take.
This is likely to result with a few landlords not accepting pets or landlords charging higher rents to tenants to allow them to keep a pet.
Source: The British Landlords Association
Author: Sarah Featherstone [email protected]
Date: 22nd of October 2020
Alan Boswell Insurance Broker: Landlord Building insurance & Content insurance 20% off, plus guarantee to beat any existing quote!