Use a pet clause to protect you from pet claws

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Renters with pets can face a hard time finding somewhere to live; the idea of animals in their properties can strike fear into the hearts of some landlords. 

However if approached with pragmatism, the risks from pets can be minimised, and by keeping things fair and reasonable landlords can benefit from a growing market of pet owners, encouraged to 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’ is a common way for landlords to cover themselves against additional cleaning or damage costs potentially caused by a pet.

This can be an agreed increase to the standard deposit value, but if a separate deposit is taken to cover pet damage this is still considered to be a tenancy deposit under the Housing Act, and must be protected with a government approved scheme such as TDS.

Deductions can only be made from the deposit in line with the requirements set out in the tenancy agreement. It is therefore highly advisable to include special ‘pet clauses’ in the agreement.

Pet 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 also provides a suggested template for this:

“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.”

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 she wants to charge for pest treatment, and the tenant could potentially dispute deductions for damage caused by the pet as being ‘fair wear and tear’.  And, this must all be supported by documentary evidence.

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

You can read an example here in a TDS dispute case study where failure to include such clauses (as well as a lack of detail in the check-out report) went against the landlord.  The tenant kept a cat without permission, and the landlord wanted to claim for damage and flea treatment. However the check-out report stated that the property was cleaned to a high standard and did not mention any damage. The tenant had breached the agreement, but it contained no sanctions or conditions related to keeping pets. There was no evidence that the landlord suffered any loss, and so no award could be made.

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

 

 


Posted by Andreas Yiasoumi on 1 May 2015

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