What does the new legislation mean for landlords? What should be included in a pet policy? Can landlords collect pet deposits or pet rent?
Allowing pets in your let is a good way to attract more prospective renters and fill vacancies fast. However, allowing pets also comes with its downsides such as additional damage. When it comes to determining your pet policy it’s well worth considering what animals are suitable for the property and then making sure you thoroughly screen any pets you let near your investment.
For example, you may have a small single bed apartment – or you may have a large detached house with a big garden. The former probably wouldn’t be a good place for a pet, the latter would likely be fine for all but the biggest of animals.
With this being said, the UK government has recently made a push with the Dogs and Domestic Animals Accommodation Protection Bill (currently in second reading) which is legislation that, if it passes, will make it harder for landlords to deny tenants with pets.
We take a look at what this new legislation means for landlords, what they should include in their pet policy, and whether landlords can collect a pet deposit or pet rent.
The Dogs and Domestic Animals Accommodation Protection Bill is in short designed to help responsible pet owners secure suitable accommodation. Almost every pet owner in rentals has had an experience where they’ve struggled to find a home because landlords don’t accept pets – and the number of pet owners is only increasing across the UK.
The bill will allow dogs and other animals to be kept in rental accommodation in England.
The reason for this bill is to protect animals from being forcibly separated from their families – and MP Andrew Rosindell, sponsor of the bill, says “for most people, being separated from their dog is no different from being separated from their brother or sister”.
Additionally, pets not being allowed in rentals is a leading cause for the abandonment of animals to shelters around the UK. This being said, the bill aims to promote responsible pet ownership – meaning well-trained and well cared for animals.
While this bill is principally represented as helping renters its key focus is really on the protection and welfare of domestic animals. The bill gives tenants the right to keep their pets, but also proposes a certificate of responsible ownership.
Certificates are issued subject to a responsible ownership test, conducted by a registered vet, including:
The bill also proposes more stringent monitoring and information management with all cats and dogs to be mandatorily chipped and ownership data being entered into a database.
Under this bill, tenants would not have an unconditional right to keep a pet. They would not be able to have a domestic animal unless they obtained the above-mentioned guardian certificate and can prove that they can care for the animal. If the animal living in the rental accommodation is deemed unsafe for the animal or causes danger or nuisance to people living nearby the pet could be disallowed. Under this caveat, larger animals may be deemed unsuitable for some smaller accommodation for example.
Additionally, landlords can restrict their tenant’s right to keep a dog or other domestic animal by applying for an exemption. There are several reasons a certificate of exemption could be issued including:
These certificates of exemption may be provided for:
Under the current rules, you can still determine your pet policy. And as such, we thought it worth outlining the pros and cons of renting to tenants with pets.
There are a few advantages to allowing pets. The main one is all about tapping into an otherwise underserved market.
Because so many landlords don’t allow pets at this time there are a lot of prospective tenants with pets looking for their next home.
Allowing pets will widen your audience and significantly increase your chances of finding a tenant fast.
For example, according to a survey by the “Dogs Trust”
Because it can be so hard for tenants with pets to find suitable accommodation they often make every effort to be exemplary tenants so that their lease will be renewed at the end of the tenancy.
The obvious disadvantage of allowing pets is the extra damage that pets can cause a property.
On top of the damage caused by pets, they can also leave lingering odours that are hard to get rid of. Whether it’s the insidious scent of wet dog or the cat got locked in one time and peed a little in the corner. Either way, animal smells are real and they can be incredibly hard to properly get rid of.
Some dogs bark. This can be upsetting to neighbours.
If not treated regularly cats and dogs are particularly susceptible to getting fleas. If they do get fleas there’s a chance that the property itself will become infested.
Lingering animal hair could cause issues for the next tenants that want to move in if they have allergies. Allowing pets now could restrict your ability to rent the property out later.
It’s worth noting that several of these disadvantages are also potential qualifications for an exemption certificate for renting to tenants with pets as outlined above in this article. So, even under the new bill, if these issues persist you may be able to restrict renters with pets.
If you decide that your property is appropriate for pets, and you think it will increase your chances to secure a great tenant then it’s well worth putting a clause specific to your pet policy into your Tenancy Agreement contract. In fact, the UK government recently updated their model tenancy agreement to include a clause that allows pets which we go into more detail below.
If you aren’t using the model tenancy agreement you should include specific clauses that state whether or not you accept pets, and the tenant’s responsibilities regarding their pets are.
For example, ensuring that litter trays are kept clean, that the pet gets routine veterinary checkups, or specifying the scope and limitations of allowing an animal into the rental eg. only 1 dog allowed below a certain size or specifying that some animal types or breeds not allowed.
If you do include these clauses in the agreement it is well worth going through them with your tenant to make sure they understand what you expect from them and what their responsibilities are in your eyes towards their pet. This will help you avoid issues in the future.
We will do a more specific article on pet clauses at a later date, exploring how and what to include in it. For now, have a look at the pet policy by letswithpets.org.
Alongside the proposed bill, the Ministry of Housing updated their standard tenancy agreement so that landlords cannot issue a ‘blanket ban’ on pets.
Allowing pets is now the default position on the government’s recommended model tenancy agreement.
If a landlord doesn’t want their tenant to have a pet, they must object in writing within 28 days of a written request from the tenant. The landlord must provide a good reason, such as in smaller properties where owning a pet would be impractical.
Tenants will still have a legal duty to cover the costs of any damage caused by pets, but more tenants will be able to find suitable accommodation.
You wouldn’t rent to someone without running them through a screening service. Neither should you allow animals in without first making sure they are compatible with your property.
Before renting to a tenant with a pet, you will want to check on the pet. The first step is meeting the tenant with their domestic animal. How well behaved are they? How healthy is the animal? You can ask to see copies of their pet’s treatment records from the vets to make sure that the animal is being properly cared for.
You can also get a reference from the previous landlord for the tenant to determine if there were any issues that the previous landlord had with the pet.
Finally, you need to consider the lifestyle of the tenants and how much time the animal will be spending time at home alone. For example, if the tenant is a nurse living alone regularly working 10 hours a day you might want to consider the distress this could cause the animal – which could lead it to misbehave and cause damage. If however, you have two tenants who work from home 90% of the time then the time the pet is left alone is massively reduced and the risk that it will act out is minimised.
It used to be that landlords would take a little extra deposit for protection against the damages that pets are often associated with. However, since the introduction of the “Tenant Fees Act 2019” on the 1st of June 2019, landlords in England can no longer collect a “pet deposit” or other fees related to pets.
Additionally, deposits are capped at taking no more than five weeks’ rent for the tenancy deposit where the annual rent is less than £50,000. There is six weeks’ rent cap where the total annual rent is £50,000 or above.
One way that landlords have gotten around the ban on tenant fees and pet fees has been to increase the total rent amount to collect a “pet rent”.
Ironically this is worse for tenants than collecting a small returnable deposit. However, an increase in rent or a pet rent is now more or less the only option landlords have to gain financial protection from the potential additional damages of allowing a pet in the rental property.
If you do decide on a more friendly pet policy, then this is something you might want to shout about. As we established earlier in the article. Pet-friendly landlords are few and far between, so letting the pet owners of Britain know that you are one is a sure way to secure a tenant fast.
That being said, as always do your due diligence when selecting your tenant, run a tenant referencing report, and if the tenant doesn’t feel like a good fit, or their animal doesn’t appear to be well-behaved and trained, then don’t feel obliged to rent to the first pet owner that comes knocking.
It is worth specifying up front the kinds of animals you accept and any limitations. A final note on this front is that if you have any particular conditions for your pet owners eg. you require them to have regular vet check-ups it may be worth mentioning upfront to filter out some of the less wanted enquiries.
The new legislation Dogs and Domestic Animals Accommodation Protection Bill as well as the updated model assured tenancy agreement make it clear that the UK government is pushing for landlords to become more pet friendly. On top of that, having a pet-friendly property can help keep your property full.
However, landlords should still be careful when choosing tenants with pets. Pets can cause additional damage if not cared for properly. There are a few actions you can take and stipulate in your pet policy to encourage responsible pet guardianship and it may be worth considering a small increase in the monthly rent amount to provide some financial peace of mind.
Every property is different, some are less suitable for pets than others and everyone’s situation differs. So, at least for now, it comes down to you the landlord to decide on how to create a pet policy that works for you and your tenants.
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