Dear Mr Jenrick
I was interested to hear your interview on Radio Kent recently (currently here about 1 hour 40 minutes in) on your announcement that the Model Tenancy agreement is to be modified to make it more favourable to tenants wanting to keep a pet.
The Model Tenancy Agreement
Since then we have all had to update our tenancy agreements to take account of the Tenant Fees Act 2019 (and the equivalent legislation in Wales). For example, the Model Tenancy Agreement does not point out that deposits must now be limited to no more than five weeks worth of rent.
So anyone looking to use the model tenancy agreement at the moment needs to be aware of that and use it with caution.
Use of the Model Tenancy Agreement
I was intrigued to learn from listening to your interview, of your belief that most landlords and agents use the Model Tenancy agreement as a base document which is subsequently amended. And that tenants will, therefore, question any variations to it (such as, when it is amended, blanket prohibitions on pets).
I am not aware of anyone using the Model Tenancy Agreement in this way.
Most landlords, if they don’t have their own form, will download a free agreement from the internet or (if they are sensible) buy an agreement from an organisation such as Oyez, Lawpack or one of the Landlord associations or use our Landlord Law Tenancy Agreement – all of which are markedly different from the Model Tenancy Agreement.
Most Letting agents will either have their own form of agreement or will use a tenancy provided by firms specialising in letting agent support. Or if they are an ARLA Propertymark member, will use their forms.
Disincentives to using the Model Tenancy Agreement
Not that there is anything particularly wrong with the Model Tenancy Agreement (apart from the fact that it is currently out of date) – which is on the whole well drafted with nice clear clauses. However, most potential users will be put off by the statement that it has been drafted with longer fixed terms in mind.
They will also be put off by the disclaimer on page 11 which states
… only a court can decide on the legal effect and enforceability of contractual terms. The Government cannot, therefore, guarantee the legal effect of this model agreement and shall not be held responsible for the consequences of the use of, or reliance on, this model agreement, including for any financial loss suffered by any landlord, tenant or other person. If you are in any doubt as to the implications of using this document you should seek independent legal advice.
Whenever I have mentioned the Model Tenancy Agreement in training and read that clause out, it has always raised a big laugh.
Problems with landlords allowing pets
So far as pets are concerned, if you really want to encourage landlords to accept pets you need to do a bit more than amend a document which in reality, few people know about or use.
First, you should amend the Tenant Fees Act to reverse the amendment limiting the amount of allowable deposit to permit landlords to take up to eight weeks worth of rent (which could maybe be limited to tenants with pets). Pets can be very destructive and most landlords feel that 5 weeks rent is insufficient to cover any damage that they might cause.
Indeed, I see that the current pets clause in the Model Tenancy Agreement provides for the Tenant to pay “an additional reasonable amount towards the deposit”.
Something which in most cases is now impossible due to the Tenant Fees legislation.
Many people (including potential tenants) are also allergic to certain pets – which makes cleaning properties after tenants with pets have departed more difficult and expensive.
The only way landlords can now protect their position financially is to charge extra rent – a ‘pet rent’ (which I discuss here) which just goes to make keeping a pet less affordable for ordinary people.
Leasehold Landlords’ leases
The other problem which many landlords face when asked by tenants if they can keep a pet is that if they are renting a property subject to a lease, it is highly likely that their lease will prohibit all pets. This is a common clause.
Which would mean that if the landlord agreed to the pet – they would be putting themselves in breach of their own lease and thereby risking penalties and ultimately, forfeiture.
They could, of course, request that their lease be amended, and in some cases, this may be possible (although no doubt expensive). But where the lease is in a large block of flats the request unlikely to be granted.
I do actually agree with you about the benefits of pets and have always tried to encourage landlords to allow pets where appropriate.
I have a detailed article on pets on my Landlord Law site and members of my Landlord Law service can use our special ‘pets form’ which will adapt any tenancy agreement to allow tenants to keep a pet and amend the terms of the tenancy to include suitable clauses relating to pet care and welfare.
However, if the government is serious about encouraging landlords to allow pets, amending a document relatively few people use is not going to cut it. A better way would be to amend the tenant fees legislation to allow higher deposits to be taken.