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‘No Pets’ no more?

Love them or hate them, landlords may have to start accepting tenants’ pets by law. But this new proposal really hasn’t been thought through, says Frances Burkinshaw.

Frances Burkinshaw

Link to Lettings feature

One of the first government announcements in 2020 was that the Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, is to encourage landlords to stop banning pets their homes by altering the model tenancy agreement.

Frances Burkinshaw image

Frances Burkinshaw

This is all very commendable but as ever the Government is pandering to tenant action groups without proper thought or consultation with those who actually understand the private rented sector.

The subject of pets in property has been discussed for years. There are many landlords who welcome pets and others who do not. That is the way of the world! There are responsible pet owners and there are those who do not care.

This action is being considered in the wrong order! Why talk about pets in property after introducing a cap on deposits under the Tenant Fees Act. It was always the case that landlords and agents would add to the deposit or take an additional fee if pets were allowed in property. This deposit would be refunded if the pet didn’t cause any damage.

Within a few minutes of entering a home my inventory clerk’s legs were covered in fleas – full fumigation was required.

The additional fee would usually be used to fumigate the property to avoid a flea infestation. These actions gave landlords the confidence to let to people with pets. This subject was discussed at great length before the ‘Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999’ were introduced. It was deemed ‘unfair’ to simply ban pets in the standard clauses. Agents and landlords were advised to introduce a ‘special clause’ if pets were to be banned. Otherwise permission to keep a pet ‘would not be unreasonably withheld’. As a letting agent I found that worked well. This issue would not be a problem if all pet owners were responsible people and if all property was suitable for keeping pets. Sadly this is not the case.

So many issues to consider…

Many head leases forbid pets. Many people are allergic to pets – this could seriously affect any future tenant’s health

  • Barking dogs create complaints of anti-social behaviour
  • Many pets cause damage by scratching, chewing or defecating
  • Many gardens are badly damaged by pets
  • Even careful pet owners may not avoid fleas being attracted to their pets.

I own a flat above an office in Sussex with a small garden. I let the tenant keep her small dog in the flat. I’m a pet lover! We spent a considerable sum soundproofing the floor in the very old listed building and those in the office below could hear everything happening in the flat above.

When the tenant vacated the flat the horror of the floors was literally uncovered! The carpets were completely ruined by stains (4 bedroom flat); the underlay was sodden in places and the expensive sound proofing was ruined. The worst area was in the hall where clearly the dog has wanted to go out but was locked in when the tenant was out at work. The whole area also had to be fumigated. The ceiling in the office below, also damaged had to be repaired by us.

The cost amounted to about £3,000, way more than the deposit held. There was loss of rent as the flat couldn’t be re-let for weeks.

Lessons learned

I would never have imagined that the tenant could treat her dog so badly. She was an impressive person with good references – I certainly didn’t give her a good reference! When asked to pay the additional cost of the damage there was silence! However – I have since let the flat to a family with a dog. This time the property is looked after, the dog is well cared for and behaves well.

As a letting agent I came across many cases of flea infestation. Flea eggs live for a considerable amount of time, particularly in carpets. Once the pet vacates the property fleas will look for another host and this can often be humans. On several occasions one of my Inventory Clerks found thousands of fleas on her legs within minutes of entering a property at check-out, very unpleasant for her and fumigation was required.

There is no simple answer to this issue. Clearly there are many good reasons for allowing tenants to keep pets – we all know the benefits of pets within families BUT landlords must be allowed to choose their tenants. Should damage occur funds must be made available to rectify the problems.

There are so many issues affecting landlords at the moment; we really don’t need another badly thought out regulation.

Frances Burkinshaw is an experienced independent trainer available nationally for in-house or group training. 01892 783961 or 07887 714341 or [email protected]

February 19, 2020

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