#AskTDS: Can I use a pet clause to protect against damage caused by pets?

Image saying

In this week’s #AskTDS, we answer a landlord’s question, “can I use a pet clause to protect against damage caused by pets?”

Renters with pets can sometimes face a hard time finding somewhere suitable to live because landlords may be concerned that allowing domestic pets to reside in their properties can bring extra problems.

However, if approached considerately, any risks associated with allowing tenants to have pets can be minimised. By keeping things fair and reasonable, landlords can benefit from a growing market of pet owners; these home renters may stay longer when they find a highly sought-after pet-friendly property.

Here is some advice on having a good and low-risk relationship with pet-owning tenants.

Pet deposits

Asking for a higher deposit, or additional ‘pet deposit’ was a common way for landlords to cover themselves against additional cleaning or damage costs potentially caused by a pet. However, since 1st June 2019, tenancy deposits on new fixed term tenancies in England are now capped at an equivalent five weeks’ rent, where the total annual rent is less than £50,000, or six weeks’ rent, where the total annual rent is £50,000 or more.

If you are already planning to take the maximum deposit, you cannot take any more to cover against any potential additional cleaning or damage costs associated with a pet occupant. It’s not unusual for the rent to be set and agreed at a higher level in these circumstances.

Pet tenancy clauses

When allowing a pet in the property this should be reflected within the tenancy agreement with a ‘pet clause’.

The Dogs Trust provides a suggested template for such a clause:

“It is further agreed between the Landlord and Tenant that the Landlord grants permission for the Tenant to keep a pet {insert animal type and breed} named {insert animal name} (“The Pet”) in The Property for the duration of the Tenancy. The Tenant agrees not to keep or permit to be kept on the Property any further pets or animals of any description without the previous consent in writing of the Landlord.”

It is important to note that the Office of Fair Trading considers blanket bans on pets, without consideration of the circumstances, to be unfair.

Tenant responsibilities

A clause should also be included stating tenant responsibilities for keeping the pet in the property.

The standard expectation of all tenants is to return the property in the condition it was at the start, allowing for fair wear and tear. Just relying on standard clauses makes it more difficult for landlords to deduct money from the deposit for damage, professional cleaning, or pest treatment.

The Dogs Trust provides a suggested template for this clause:

“The Tenant hereby undertakes and agrees to remedy and pay for any damage caused to The Property and/or contents of The Property which shall have been caused by The Pet residing in The Property. For the avoidance of doubt any such damage shall not be deemed to be fair wear and tear.”

“The Tenant agrees to pay for the professional cleaning of the property at the end of The Tenancy including the cleaning of all carpets and treating the property for fleas and mites.”

Landlords and letting agents in England need to ensure that this is within the requirements of the Tenant Fees Act 2019 and in Wales the forthcoming Renting Homes (Fees Etc.) (Wales) Act 2019 which comes into force 1 September 2019.

If only standard clauses are included, the landlord could only expect the tenant to pay for a professional clean if the property was professionally cleaned at the outset. Pests must be present if you want to charge for pest treatment, and the tenant could potentially dispute deductions for damage caused by the pet as being ‘fair wear and tear’. This must all be supported by documentary evidence.

You may also want to reflect this in the ‘Deposit Clauses’ as to whether a deduction can be made if there is evidence that the tenant didn’t fulfil the agreed obligation.

Using specific clauses to reflect special circumstances gives less room for dispute over what the tenant is responsible for, and whether deposit deductions are reasonable.

Pet policy

The Dogs Trust also provides a ‘pet policy’ which landlords and agents can use. It sets out conditions under which they allow the tenant to keep a pet, for the benefit of all parties; including the animal.

These include conditions such as

  • A reference on the animal from a previous landlord if applicable;
  • Details of a nominated person to take care of the animal in case of emergency;
  • No animals to be kept if listed under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act or Dangerous Dogs Act;
  • Requiring the tenant not to leave a dog alone in a property for more than 4 hours and ensuring it does not cause damage when unsupervised

…and more.

The full policy can be downloaded here: http://www.letswithpets.org.uk/downloads/pet-clause-policy.pdf

Following the Tenant Fees Act, many landlords are now against having pets in their properties. However, including the correct clauses in your tenancy agreement can help protect you against pet damage, allowing you to benefit from a growing marketing.

For more helpful tips and guidance, visit our landlord FAQs page.

About TDS:

Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a Government-approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; TDS offers both Insured and Custodial protection and also provides fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that we protect.

We provide invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and disputes for agents and landlords through the TDS Academy as well as joining with MOL to provide the Technical Award in Residential Tenancy Deposits.

TDS Insured Scheme: where a TDS member can hold the tenancy deposits as stakeholder during the term of the tenancy.

TDS Custodial Scheme: where TDS hold the deposit for the duration of the tenancy.

TDS Academy: TDS provides property professionals with invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and tenancy deposit disputes.

TDS Northern Ireland: TDS is Northern Ireland’s leading and only not for profit tenancy deposit protection scheme.

TDS can only comment on the process for our scheme, other deposit protection schemes may have a different process/require different steps. Content is correct at the time of writing.

These views are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of TDS, its officers and employees.

ARLA|Propertymark: For agents who would like to stay up to date, you can contact Propertymark | ARLA at: join@propertymark.com. By being a member of Propertymark | ARLA you will be eligible for TDS Insured best headline rates.

RLA: If you are a landlord and would like to keep up to date with any changes that may affect you or your responsibilities, you can contact the RLA at: info@rla.org.uk and quote reference: dg715 to receive 25% off your first year’s membership.