03.06.2020 03:57 pm

If you rent, finding somewhere to live as a dog owner can be difficult. Russell Hunt, the founder of Pets Lets in London shares his advice on how to find pet friendly houses and flats to rent.

It’s estimated that a quarter of households in the UK have a dog. And with a rapidly growing rental property market, there’s never been a greater need for pet-friendly landlords. Various studies suggest that only 25% of the UK population up to the age of 40 will own a property in the next 10 years.

However, only a small number of landlords are pet friendly. In London, where a large number of people live in rental accommodation, less than 10% of landlords are pet-friendly.

‘No pet’ clauses in tenancy agreements The good news is that the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP has called on landlords to make it easier for responsible tenants to have well-behaved pets in their homes. He wants to do away with the current ‘no pet’ clause which many landlords use as default. A ‘no pet’ clause is often used by landlords who are concerned about damage being caused to their property. However, its use has seen many pet owners being forced to give up their pets so that they can find somewhere to live.

How to amend a ‘no pet’ clause in an existing tenancy agreement If you live in rented accomodation and would like to get a dog, you should get your landlord's written permission first. Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, a landlord can only refuse to let a tenant have a pet based on reasonable evidence. This could be the size of the pet compared to the size of the property and the risk of damage that a pet could cause to a property. This means that you will need to prove that you are a responsible tenant and will take reasonable steps to protect the property if you get a dog. If they agree, your landlord may add some wording to your tenancy agreement. This may include a requirement for you to pay for the property to be professionally cleaned when you move out and to keep the garden clear of dog poo. Beware of ‘pet rent’? In 2019, the Tenancy Fees Act came into force, which banned unnecessary charges such as letting agents’ admin fees and costs for running credit checks. It also placed a cap of five weeks rent on the amount that landlords could ask for as a deposit. However, this change in legislation has had a negative impact on dog owners. Landlords argue that the lower deposit may not be sufficient to cover the cost of damage caused by a pet to the property. In response, a growing number of landlords have started to charge pet-owning tenants a ‘pet rent’ for the additional four-legged residents. This can be anything from £20-50 per month.

How to find pet friendly houses and apartments to rent Some property rental portals, such as Zoopla and Spare Room, have added a filter so that you can search for pet friendly properties. PetsLets is launching an exclusively pet-friendly property search portal for pet owners in London. Pet friendly houses are easier to find than flats. With flats in blocks it depends on the communal policy and whether pets are allowed. With small conversions, it is better to look for a flat with its own front door and no communal areas. Some first floor flats have split gardens at the rear with stairs to the garden, which can work too. However, before you start your search you first need to prepare a pet CV - or resume. Writing a pet resume The purpose of a pet resume is to provide landlords with information about your dog. As well as detailing your dog’s character and temperament, it should also contain information about when they were last vaccinated, de-flead and wormed, and who will take care of your dog when you’re not at home. It can help to provide a reference for your dog too. This could be your dog’s vet. The aim is to show prospective landlords that you are a responsible dog owner and your dog will be a paw-fectly behaved tenant. You can get some helpful tips from the Dogs Trust’s Lets With Pets website about how to prepare your dog’s CV.

When you’re ready to begin your property search:

• Be focused. Know where you want to live, even particular streets, that fit your budget. • Be in regular communication with local estate agents. They deal with so many people and you will be quickly forgotten. Chase them up and keep on top of it. • Be clear about whether you want to be close to a common or park or have a private garden. Do a recce of the area you would like to live in - you can use Google maps - to research local parks. Make sure they are dog friendly before you begin your property search. London is full of them and they make great local dog walking communities. Don’t just focus on the main parks and commons. • Work out which local estate agents are pet-friendly - a clue is when the estate agent has their own office dog. They are more likely to work harder at persuading landlords to accept a pet. • Offer to meet the landlord with your dog, so they can see just how well behaved they are.

It is often easier to find a furnished pet friendly property than one that is unfurnished. If you find your perfect property but it’s furnished and you would prefer it to be unfurnished, ask the landlord if they would consider a 12-months - instead of six months - tenancy agreement. This may help to make any costs incurred by the landlord for furniture storage worthwhile.

Once you have found somewhere to live that’s happy to accommodate your dog, make sure it’s clear in the tenancy agreement what will be required of you. For example, are you expected to pay for a professional cleaner when you move out.

The Dogs Trust’s Lets With Pets website is a really helpful resource for tenants, landlords and letting agents. It includes some great tips about how to prepare yourself and your dog for moving house as well as good practice guidelines for landlords and letting agents.

Russell Hunt was a search agent and relocation agent for 20 years before setting up Pets Lets in London, having seen how difficult it was to find pet friendly rental accommodation in the capital. In the past he has acquired three dogs that had to be given up by their owners because their landlords wouldn’t allow pets.These days, he shares his life with just one dog, a basset/beagle cross called Biscuit.