Landlords charge 'pet rent' to recoup losses after ban on unfair fees

Landlords are charging “pet rent” running into hundreds of pounds a year in an attempt to recoup losses from a ban on unfair letting fees enforced by the government this summer.

The new practice means tenants with animals are being charged up to £50 a month additional rent for a single pet, adding considerably to the cost of housing at a time when more and more families are priced out of buying and rely on rented homes.

One landlord in Bicester in Oxfordshire is asking £40 per pet in monthly rent in a two-bedroom home that already costs £995 a month for the human occupants. It means a family with a dog and two cats would face a yearly animal rent of over £1,400. Another in Cheltenham is asking £50 a month for “four-legged friends” with exemptions for fish or hamsters. Several landlords are seeking pet rent only for “clawed” pets.
“In certain letting agencies it seems to be a standard term in agreements,” said Darren Baxter, a renter currently searching for a new home in York with his partner, two children and cocker spaniel Padfoot. “It seems exorbitant given the potential damage a pet can cause. We went to one place where they wanted a reference for the dog. That was ridiculous.”

He said it was another example of how people who cannot afford to buy are disadvantaged in terms of being able to enjoy some of the basics of family life.

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One letting agent said the new practice had only emerged since June, when landlords were banned from charging cleaning fees at the end of a tenancy or demanding an additional pet deposit as a result of total deposits being capped at five weeks’ rent.

Before the Tenant Fees Act 2019 , which was supposed to save renters across England £240m a year, landlords often asked for pet deposits of around £150, repayable at the end of the tenancy. Pet rents now mean they have no choice but to pay more. “The only way to do it is to charge higher rent,” said Karolina Misiukiewicz, administrator at Elliot Oliver, an estate agent in Cheltenham. “It’s a new thing for us. In our experience we haven’t taken extra for hamsters or gerbils and definitely not fish.”
Dozens of adverts for homes demanding pet rent can be seen on the rental websites Rightmove and Zoopla, along with many more refusing to take pets.

Half of UK adults own a pet, with 11 million owning cats and almost 9 million owning dogs, according to the veterinary charity PDSA. At the same time more and more families are having to rent. A quarter of families in England rent privately, reaching nearly 1.6m last year, more than double the number recorded in the government’s English Housing Survey a decade earlier.