06.08.2020 03:42 pm

At Pets Lets we are all about London pet friendly properties. Changing the perception of London Landlords, agents, managing agents and freeholders and their misconceptions of letting to people with pets. Why can’t London landlords be more dog & cat friendly!

The 1968 Theft Act outlines what is property and what is not. This act is so outdated that any animal known as being 'reduced into captivity or possession' is classed as property.

Under the 1988 Road Traffic act 1988, dogs are seen as property as are some other animals such as cows, sheep and horses. Unlike injuring or killing a person with your car, running over a cat or dog or a collision with an animal, does not have to be reported.

In 2020, when nearly half the UK population has a pet and when dogs and cats are seen as people’s children and part of the family, these acts really are from Medieval Times.

Not only is it difficult to rent with a dog in London and even harder with more than one dog, these devoted ‘furry’ members of the family are merely seen by the law as property! The Government really needs to first change the legal perception of household pets. Only then can dogs and cats be taken seriously, from a legal perspective, with landlords, freeholders and managing agents.

Pet owners should have a right to move in with their cat or dog. Agreed there should be landlord discretion depending on size of cat and how many pets are permitted. Blocks needs to re-write their non-pets clauses. Period buildings can more easily rectify any obstacles to people letting in the buildings with pets.

This then leads to the introduction of The 2019 Tenant Fees Act. Agreed, it needed to be introduced to protect tenants from excessive fees and has been a while coming. However, it really must have been written by a non-pet owner in the Civil Service, or some other Government establishment. Someone who did not even contemplate that capping deposits and making landlords pay more fees rather than the tenant, would have a backlash somewhere else.

The easy targets are pet owners. People who love their dogs, desperate to find a dog friendly rental and would say yes to extra ‘pet rents’ because their hearts rule their heads when it comes to their pets. Research has shown people would make cut backs on themselves rather than on their pets.

It is sad to say, but dogs and cats are ‘a last resort’ when it comes to landlords. It does not help that legally that dogs and cats come under the category of ‘property’ rather than a living being.

That is why you see so many ‘missing’ cats or dogs poster on lampposts because other than social media, there is not other means of getting help to find a lost or stolen pet.

Pet owners are also undermined by classifying their pets as property. You hear many stories of people who feed other people’s cats to lure them away. You can ask a neighbour to stop it. However, there is nothing you can do to prevent them locking your cat inside their house. You can knock on the door but then they may call the police on you. This is how ‘topsy turvy’ the law is on pets.

This is an interesting article outlining some of the points on Pets 4 Homes which summarises the law and pets.

Pets & Property from a Landlord perspective

Because the UK has a private letting market which is mostly about the short term in the sense of how long a landlord owns a property. Most long term tenancies are for a year, maybe two or three years. Some tenants stay for a lot longer but this is a minority.

However, the house is not your home, it is your landlord’s investment. You cannot knock down walls, change the layout of a property or replace items without the landlord’s consent. There has to be some control, otherwise tenants would do their on DIY.

Many landlords follow this rule of thought when it comes to pets. It is an investment and I can choose whether I will accept pets or not. Block Managers and Freeholders have disallowed tenants with pets for years. Why should we change, it is not worth the hassle.

How the landscape of renters has changed

Like with society and businesses, you need to adapt otherwise you get left behind. Look at Blockbuster Video; once a top high street chain but failed to take the internet seriously and now has been usurped by Amazon Prime and Netflix and have been forced into administration in the UK.

Landlords are doing the same when it comes to lets with pets. (the Dogs Trust which offers useful advice for dog and cat friendly rentals.

Just like Blockbusters, Landlords need to adapt with the times. There is a growing number of tenants who have pets. If you ‘close your doors on them’, others will create block of dog friendly rentals. It is all about supply and demand.

Fizzy Living offer pet friendly accommodation in London zones 2 and 3 because there is demand for dog friendly rentals. A case in point.

Here are some of the main reasons why the rental market has changed

  • Affordability: in years gone by, people have saved up or had family backing to get on the ‘housing ladder’ and own their own properties. With rising house prices, and now mortgage lenders restricting how much ‘Mum & Dad’ can lend you as part of their lending/ affordability criteria, it has made it even more difficult. This is a recent news article from the Nationwide and I am sure other companies will follow their lead.

  • Post lockdown with people coming off furlough, many are losing their jobs. Sectors like entertainment, events and airlines have been badly affected. Forget buying a property, it is about paying the rent. That is why the Government stepped in to prevent Landlords evicting tenants without a grace period.

  • The majority of other European countries such as Germany, Belgium and France, renting has always been the norm. Unlike the UK there has not been this fixation about owning your own property.

  • The UK is now following the European rental model. Younger generations want to enjoy life, see their friends and travel. They don’t want to be tied down by a mortgage.

  • A large percentage of millennials own pets. Most of this generation rent. It is all about supply and demand which Landlords can only ignore at their own risk.

  • UK property prices cannot just go up. The ‘bubble’ may well burst, and you could end up with negative equity if you have over-borrowed. Something people do worry about.

Tenants way of life has changed

  • Work from home culture: lockdown has shown employers that technology like zoom calls can work. Do you need everyone in the office all the time. Obviously not. So the trend is now to cut back on office space and rotate your employees. This means people will spend more time at home, so they will want their dog at their side and have early morning dog walks before the working day begins.

  • Takeaway culture: dogs can make a mess, but so does eating takeaway food sitting in front of the TV. Easy to knock over a drink or drop your slice of pizza on the floor or spill curry sauce on the sofa. It should not just be about dogs, people, children and teenagers, do not idy up after themselves. Dog owners are responsible and most dogs are well trained.

  • Pets at home: Through ‘thick and thin’ the dog is at your side. You have a bad day, they ‘pick you up’. Why should you be forced to give them up for adoption because your landlord says no. Move out, find somewhere else, let the landlord lose out on the income.

  • More people treat their rental property as a home: because rental properties are seen less as a ‘stop gap’ before buying your own home, tenants are treating them better. We have seen clients with dog, treating their accommodation as if it their own home. One of out clients has been doing home improvements, subject to the landlord’s permission, and is really happy in the flat with their dog.

When you take ‘rouge landlords’ out of the equation, many landlords/ private individuals have good relationships with their tenants. They are on hand to fix issues as they want their tenants to be happy. The same can be said for people renting with dogs. They want to stay in the same place for a while and for the ‘whole’ family to feel at home.

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