02.11.2020 10:34 am

This article was first published on The Portable Wife.

Our very first step in the UK relocation process was researching how to find pet friendly apartments in London. Bringing our German Shepherd across the pond was a non-negotiable. Unfortunately, finding pet friendly rentals in London turned out to be downright difficult.

Even without pets, finding a flat in London is challenging. Nice apartments in desirable neighborhoods can get multiple offers within hours of being on the market. If you have a clear vision of your dream London apartment, be prepared to compromise.

In a city where cafes, pubs, and even department stores have opened their doors to our four-legged friends, why are London’s landlords bucking the pet friendly trend?

To answer this question–and to shed light on how to find pet friendly apartments in London–I’ve invited Russell Hunt to share his expertise.

Russell is the Founder of Pets Lets, a 100% pet friendly London property portal with a relocation service and a hub of information about dogs in London. Pets Lets is a community where people with pets matter, and Russell is a staunch advocate for increasing the number of pet friendly landlords in the city.

What percentage of London flats are pet friendly?

Only 10% of London landlords are pet friendly. According to a survey by the Dogs Trust, 78% of pet owners have experienced difficulty finding accommodation that accepts pets. By not accepting pets, landlords are decreasing their potential market by 50%.

Why are London landlords ignoring such a big market?

6 dogs being walked on sidewalk in park in London during sunny afternoon Progress was being made with a growing percentage of properties becoming dog friendly, depending on the size of the dog. A bigger proportion of landlords were happy to rent to tenants with cats.

However, in 2019, that progress was reversed with the introduction of A Tenant Fees Act. In principle, it was all about helping tenants save on paying unnecessary fees. It also made agents and landlords cap their deposits to 5 weeks rent.

What legislators did not consider was the damaging effect it would have on tenants with pets.

The 5 week deposit cap was ‘apawling’ for renting with dogs. All landlords could imagine was a dog chewing the furniture, barking late into the night and disturbing the neighbors, while the cat clawed the sofa and the carpet. How could such a small deposit cover the cost of damages?

From then on, London landlords chose to ignore the pet market. It’s much less hassle to get a tenant without a pet. If after a few weeks and the property is empty, rather than losing money, landlords might consider a small dog or cat. But only as a very last resort.

Are there certain neighborhoods with more pet friendly apartments in London?

White columns with black numbers and iron fence next to London sidewalk One secret for how to find pet friendly properties in London is to search close to parks and commons. Luckily, London is one of the few major cities in the world with so much green space.

Hyde Park & Regents Parks cover large areas of Central London. In the North West of the Capital there is Hampstead Heath. In East London there is Victoria Park and in South West London there is Battersea Park and Clapham Common. All of these places are ideal for walking dogs on or off-leash.

That being said, in London it really does depend on the individual property owners. There really is no rhyme or reason to it. For example, some landlords have dogs themselves, so they are more open to making their property dog friendly.

In Battersea, there are new developments by the park that grant pet licenses to tenants. The problem here is that during the London property ‘boom’ over the last few years, many “buy to let” properties were bought by overseas investors. Many of them, for religious and/or personal reasons, see pets as being ‘dirty’ and refuse to allow any into their properties.

Why is it so difficult to find pet friendly apartments in London compared to other major cities?

Despite London’s dog-friendly reputation, it’s one of the most challenging European cities to rent with pets. In Paris, for example, you won’t have nearly as difficult of a time finding pet friendly flats.

This is mainly because the laws in France prohibit landlords from banning dogs or cats. Yes, they can choose a tenant without a pet, but they cannot turn away a pet owner simply because of their ‘four-legged’ friend. In London the opposite is true–landlords can from the outset refuse to accept a pet.

Additionally, the system of property ownership in London works differently than other countries, especially the US.

London is filled with blocks of flats, all run by different companies who have their own policies. Even if you purchase a flat in one of these blocks, you don’t technically “own” it. Instead, you have a “leasehold” for the property.

And while leaseholds can extend up to 999 years, you’re still beholden to the building-wide policies established by the “freeholder”, the person or management company who owns the block of flats. Dating back years, most of these management companies have enforced non-pets clauses in their buildings.

While your landlord may love dogs and is happy to accept pets in the flat they’re renting out, if the freeholder does not allow pets, the landlord is overruled. This is why it’s especially important to confirm that the building does not have a non-pets clause before signing a tenancy agreement.

Block management companies say the non-pets clauses are in place out of concern that neighbors will complain, despite the fact that nearly 50% of the UK population has a pet and view them as part of the family. These companies have not adapted with the times and there is resistance to do so, because it is such a big administrative upheaval.