Trading Standards is not happy that agents are charging tenants higher rents if they have pets, a trend caused by the fee ban's five week rent deposit cap.
The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NTSEAT) has sought legal advice on whether agents can charge higher rents or additional ‘rent premiums’ for tenants who have pets, and a decision is likely in early December.
Many landlords have been charging up to £50 a month or £600 a year as a ‘rent premium’ to tenants who have dogs or cats.
This has been prompted by the tenant fees ban legislation in England and Wales, which capped rental deposits at five week’s rent for most tenancies, and six weeks’ rent for those over £50,000 a year.
“This has caused some issues especially with problem properties and tenants where agents have always quite rightly said that they wanted larger deposits because it’s very difficult getting money back from people after they have moved on,” says James Munro, Senior Manager at NTSEAT.
“So they want to ensure they have a contingency if there are problems during the tenancy. They are saying five weeks’ deposit isn’t enough now, and understandably they are trying different ways of trying to deal with this.
“But we’re not entirely happy with this because we think it’s something that should be dealt with and addressed via the deposit, not the rent.
Munro says he believes it’s not a fair way of mitigating potential cost or lost rent because agents are asking tenants to pay a non-refundable premium even if they are a model tenant.
“The Dogs Trust says people with pets are normally more responsible than those without pets,” says Munro.
NTSEAT is also worried that agents and landlords may eventually start charging higher rents for other ‘greater risk’ tenants such as families with small children in a bid to offset potential tenancy costs.