Pets are often unwelcome house guests in rented property. This month, Anna Pettinger discusses how landlords can protect themselves against the potential damage dogs can inflict…
I have just discovered my tenants have purchased a dog without my consent. Can I raise their rent to cover any damage it causes to the property?
Increasingly, we are seeing landlords raising rent to offset the tenant fees ban and compensate for pets.
However, assured shorthold tenancies are usually for a fixed term and specify the rental amount for that period. This means you cannot increase the rent during this time, unless you have included a specific clause allowing you to do so.
At the end of the fixed term and if both parties are agreeable, you can increase the rent to cover the dog and grant a new tenancy. Alternatively, if neither party takes steps to terminate your existing agreement, it will run indefinitely as a statutory periodic tenancy. To increase the rent under these terms, you must serve a Section 13 notice, giving the tenant one month’s warning. If this is accepted, you cannot then raise the rent again for at least a year.
Many landlords have started to charge an additional £50 a month, for example, to allow for any damage a dog may cause to their property and I would recommend including a clause in your agreement, allowing you to increase the rent if a pet is introduced. You can also stipulate in your tenancy that pets are not permitted. On that basis, your tenants would be in breach of their agreement and you can serve notice requiring them to leave.
What happens if my tenants don’t agree to the increase in rent?
If your tenants feel the rent rise is unjustified, they can ask the Rent Assessment Committee to consider your proposal.
There are five regional committees in England and Wales, which usually consist of a valuer, a layman and a solicitor. They will visit your property and carry out research into the area before deciding on an appropriate level of rent.
When settling disputes, the committee looks at the rent you could reasonably expect to achieve on the open market. It does not take account of any increase or reduction in the value of the property, due to your tenants’ care or neglect.
The rent fixed by the committee is the legal maximum you can charge and will be payable from the date specified in the notice you receive, unless it is deemed the tenants will suffer undue hardship.
If you decide not to increase the rent and the dog causes damage to your property, beyond reasonable wear and tear, you would be entitled to pursue the cost of the repairs, usually via the Small Claims Court. Should you wish to take this step, it is advisable to discuss the matter with the tenants before beginning legal action, to try and find an amicable resolution. You could also agree to make deductions from the tenant’s deposit, if they paid one.
If you would like to discuss letting out a property to people with pets, don’t hesitate to contact me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (0114) 218 4000.