As we discussed in an earlier article, with effect from 1 June 2019, most fees charged to tenants by landlords and agents have been banned. This legislation has also introduced caps on deposits and in one particular respect, this has caused a problem.
Previously, where a tenant was renting with their pet, they would usually pay a higher deposit (which was sometimes referred to as a “pet deposit”) in order to cover any damage caused by the pet. This was typically an additional £150. However, deposits are now capped at 5 weeks rent (or 6 weeks for properties whose rent exceeds £50,000 per year).
It was also commonplace to require the tenant to pay for professional cleaning either upfront at the start of the tenancy, or at the end of the tenancy. These would now be classed as prohibited payments, and are therefore unlawful.
So what does that mean for tenants with pets?
Since the change in the law, there appears to be an emerging trend for landlords to charge an additional “pet rent” to cover any potential pet-related financial loss. We have heard of cases where this “pet rent” amounts to an extra £50 per pet per month; a considerable increase in the cost of renting.
In order to avoid a situation where landlords disguise administration fees by charging a higher rent in the first month, the Tenant Fees Act requires rent to be consistent throughout the rental period. Other than that, the Act does not place any restrictions on what rent landlords can charge.
However, there has been much debate on whether “pet rents” constitute genuine rent or a prohibited fee. Our opinion is that this will depend entirely on how this payment is defined in the tenancy agreement.
The intention of the Act
The Act was intended to save tenants across England £240m a year. However, with half of UK adults owning a pet and an estimated quarter of all families in England renting privately, the impact of “pet rents” upon this saving may be considerable.
Should you have any questions relating to residential landlord and tenant matters, please contact Bath Landlord and Tenant Solicitor, Mike Hansom at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, please call him on 01225 462871 or complete the contact form below.