11.02.2021 02:39 pm

At Pets Lets, our network of UK relocation consultants are constantly speaking to agents and landlords across the country about pet friendly properties. We are so passionate about the subject of renting with pets in the UK that we have set up a Pets and Property Tips Facebook Group where we can offer professional advice.

Questionable Extra Fees for Tenants with pets

Otherwise known as pet rents, pet owners are finding themselves charged an extra rent per month for a pet, ranging from £20 – 50 per month. Finding pet friendly accommodation or landlords that will consider renting to people with pets can be tricky. Adding another fee on top is too much. It is merely a backlash because of the 2019 tenant Fees Act which made the landlord absorb some of the tenant’s costs. People renting with pets is an obvious way to recoup those costs.

We have even come across an Estate Agent trying to charge dog background checks

  • A Pet CV should suffice with a reference from a current or past landlord to say how well behaved your pet(s) was during the tenancy. Otherwise a reference from a professional such as a vet.
  • A cute image of your pet(s) also helps.
  • Bring your dog to the viewing if the landlord will be there. The Tenant Fees Act sets out the Government’s approach to banning letting fees for tenants. It did not at all consider the implications on tenants with pets.
  • Tenancy Deposits must not exceed the equivalent of five weeks' rent (unless the annual rent exceeds £50,000 in which case deposits are capped at six weeks’ rent). Landlords see this deposit cap of 5 weeks as too little to cover the potential damage a pet could cause. A tenancy comes with wear & tear. Children have paints and crayons, people have parties (during normal times), some tenants vape.
  • Holding Deposits will be capped at no more than one week’s rent. When it comes to pet friendly rentals, capping the holding deposit to one week makes sense.
  • The amount that can be charged for a change to a tenancy will be capped at £50 unless the landlord demonstrates that greater costs were incurred. Before, costs varied from agency to agency as well as some more unscrupulous landlords having their own rules. A take it or leave it approach

Alongside rent and deposits, agents and landlords will only be permitted to charge tenants fees associated with:

  • A change or early termination of a tenancy when requested by the tenant.
  • Utilities, communication services and Council Tax.
  • Payments arising from a default by the tenant where they have had to replace keys or a respective security device, or a charge for late rent payment (not exceeding 3% above the bank of England base rate).

ARLA Propertymark is the UK foremost professional and regulatory body for estate agents for lettings agents representing over 9,000 members. It campaigns for greater regulation in a growing and increasingly important sector of the UK property market. This article by ARLA covers the ban on Tenant Fees brought in by the Government in 2019.

Yet some agents & landlords are still charging people with pet’s extra charges which is illegal and can be fined.

The recent Government announcement suggesting the use of the Model Tenancy Agreement to make it easier to rent with pets, is a poor response to a growing issue. It is merely suggestive and not enforced. In other words. Nothing has changed. Andrew Rosindell MP is the key person in the Houses of Parliament, pushing to change the laws about renting with pets. It is backed by the big pet charities such as Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, the RSPCA, Dogs Trust as well many other main pet related bodies.

What are the key points that need to be changed?

  • The 2019 Tenants Fees Act needs to be amended. The deposit cap needs to be increased for special reasons, such as a pet friendly rental. This will satisfy more landlords and increase the percentage of pet friendly accommodation on the market. According to Government statistics, this stands at a mere 7%. I think it is more than that, circa 15% and depends on the areas.
  • Clamp down more on excessive charging by some landlords and agents
  • Allow landlords to be able to insist on a deep clean at the end of the tenancy. Currently this is not enforceable.
  • Landlords and pets in properties is a passionate discussion. Find a compromise. Pet owners and landlords have had their own bad experiences.
  • Pressure on freeholders and managing agents to update no-pets’ clauses in blocks across the country. For many pet friendly rentals is a topic, they would prefer not to approach because people do complain. However, many people wish to have a pet and are restricted by antiquated leases. They can only experience ‘having a dog’ through going for walks with other peoples dogs using companies such as Borrow My Doggy.

Summary

Nine times out of 10, a pet owner will lose out on a property to someone without a dog or cat. The natural instinct of a landlord is to choose the path of least resistance, unless they love animals themselves.

Things are slowly improving. Landlords will consider pets more. Some will state they would prefer a small dog or just a cat. It becomes trickier when you have a few pets. Even if a property does not state it is pet friendly, always ask. Sometimes people change their minds. Particularly if you could be a long-term tenant, in other words two years or more. Seeing your dog or cat, may bring in the aaah factor and they say yes. Showing you are responsible is key as well as being able to offer 3-6 months up front. We have seen it many times for clients.

Under lockdown, mental health is a huge issue for people of all ages. Research has shown that having a pet helps people mental health in so many ways. Just stroking a dog or cat has a relaxing influence. These are points that also need to be considered by legislators and landlords alike.

Russell Hunt is the Founder of Pets Lets, a UK pet friendly property portal where landlords consider pets. We also offer a UK wide specialist relocation service for people looking to rent with pets.