On a tight leash - landlords charging 'pet rent'
Man's best friend is getting more expensive to keep.
Despite the pandemic and a spike in unemployment, rents in Ireland remain high. And tenants are now facing a new trend in the rental market: pet rent.
Some landlords are charging an extra €50 a month and requiring an additional deposit of hundreds of euro for tenants who keep pets.
Letting agent Occu, which leases several residential developments in Dublin, charges €50 per month for one pet and €80 per month for two animals.
The company told Prime Time that the charges cover the cost of "additional cleaning that is required for the common areas of apartments or gardens due to pets". Pet owners must also pay an extra two weeks’ deposit.
Occu said it was "very proud" to have a pet-friendly policy.
"Not everyone has pets and in order to appropriately allow for animals in our buildings we must not tolerate the presence of mud, pet hair or other soiling on the carpets, lifts, outside spaces and other common areas of our properties."
It said pet ownership had increased during the pandemic as people spent more time at home alone. "We want to give people a choice and allow them to have pets. There is a cost to this and we do recharge for these costs."
However housing activist and Maynooth University lecturer Dr Rory Hearne described charging rent for pets as "ridiculous".
"What will we see next? Landlords upping the rent because you get a kitten? Or if you get your kids a hamster, a budgie or a puppy, will the rent be increased for each pet?"
The issue is a live one, since 61% of Irish households own either a dog or a cat and renting is a reality for more people than ever before.
Letting firm Havitat, which rents a number of apartment buildings in Dublin, also charges pet rent of €50 a month and adds two weeks to a tenant’s refundable deposit. The charges only apply to "roaming pets", such as cats and dogs, and not animals in cages or reptile boxes.
"All Havitat properties are fully furnished to a high standard and this can potentially be exposed to animal hairs, scratches and general additional wear and tear by the pet," the company said.
Dogs, the company adds, "are pre-approved through an official list of breeds which are deemed as suitable for apartment/small space living."
Institutional landlord Kennedy Wilson also has "pet friendly amenities" in its new development of rental apartments at Clancy Quay in Dublin 8.
"Our 'Bark Park’ is gated and includes dog games and we provide a bespoke dog wash area to shower pets down," the company said. However, Kennedy Wilson didn’t respond to queries in relation to any additional charges for the pet facilities.
In the US, charging rent for pets is common. Many tenants pay between $25 and $50 a month for their pet. However, if they are medically certified as a support animal, the rent can be waived.
Housing agent Owen Reilly told Prime Time that it is in landlords’ interest to consider renting to tenants with pets.
"Many private landlords won’t consider someone with a dog at all. I think that’s a mistake. Dog owners tend to be very responsible."
Mr Reilly said his agency encourages property owners to consider allowing pets and said that an additional refundable deposit is sometimes "extra comfort". But he describes a monthly pet rent as "unfair".
"We would not recommend it."
Dogs Trust, the dog welfare charity, also opposes charging rent for pets.
"We believe that by putting in simple measures such as taking a small pet deposit and doing regular checks on the property can help put a landlord’s mind at ease," Claire Byrne, head of communications said.
Ms Byrne said Dogs Trust research indicates that, while half of landlords cite issues with damage caused by tenants, just 11% point to damage from pets.
"Pre-pandemic, our records revealed over 15% of all surrender requests in Dogs Trust were from members of the public looking to give up their dog due to problems moving property with their dog," she said.
"If more properties were dog friendly, we believe that people would be in a better position to bring a dog into their lives."
The law is silent on whether a person can have a pet or not in a rented property.
But housing charity Threshold said that, if there is a clause in a lease prohibiting pets, then tenants cannot have an animal without breaching tenancy obligations.
Mr Reilly pointed out that many older apartment complexes also have "blanket bans" on pets.
"These are management company rules. It doesn’t matter what individual landlords think," he said.
Rory Hearne told Prime Time that tenants should have the right to keep pets in rented property.
"The issue of landlords not allowing pets is a symbol for all that is wrong with our private rental sector. Tenants cannot make their rented house or apartment their home," he said.
"It goes to the heart of the absence of rights of tenants in Ireland."