Renting with Pets in the UK

21.05.2021 02:51 pm

At Pets Lets, we work with clients from all over the world looking to relocate with their pets. They are astounded by how difficult it is here in the UK to find pet friendly rentals.

In other counties if you want to rent with your dog, it is a simple process. Yet here in the UK, it is a ‘hotly debated topic’.

Landlords are keen to protect their investments and are concerned at the potential damage can do to their properties. It takes one irresponsible pet owner to have a knock-on effect with landlords and estate agents. Talking to property professionals, you hear about cats scratching carpets and dogs chewing furniture.

Yet 9 times out of 10, pet owners are far more responsible than tenants without pets, and you can argue that dogs and cats damage properties less than children. On the other hand, pet owners are equally as vocal about landlords and agents not listening to them and ‘flatly’ saying no to pets.

New rules were introduced in early 2021, designed to make it easier for pet owners who rent their homes to find somewhere to live. What difference has this rule change made to renting with pets - are dogs and cats now more welcome in rental properties?

What was the rule change?

With just 7% of UK landlords offering pet friendly rentals, it makes it challenging for pet owners to find somewhere to live with their pets, the Government stepped in to end the blanket ban on pets in rental properties. As the article link above highlights, it is all about the 2019 Tenant Fees Act and the restriction of charges and the deposit cap. Yes, there had to be a crackdown on poor landlord behaviour; however, the consequences on pet owners for example were not thought through and they should have been made an exemption or raised the deposit cap.

This resulted in a change to the Model Tenancy Agreement to make consent for pets the default position. It now means that landlords can only object with good reason to a tenant who requests to keep a well-behaved pet. However, this is not enforced and merely suggestive.

As a result, there has not been much of a shift in the pet rental market - and pet owners are still struggling to find somewhere to live.

The few pet owners spoiling it for the many

To learn more about what might help to make renting with pets easier, Pets Lets, teamed up with Our Family Dog, who offer advice and support to first time dog owners, to commission a survey of landlords and letting agents.

It found that that the top two reasons preventing landlords from renting to pet owners are:

  • Concern about damage to property (86%)
  • Barking dogs and complaints from neighbours (70%)

However, the majority of those who responded to the survey (62%) said that from their own personal experience, most pet owners are responsible tenants. This suggests that the perception of the risk of damage to property or problems caused by pets is greater than the reality; and that a small number of irresponsible pet owners are creating big problems for the majority who are responsible.

A housing crisis for pet owners?

According to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, which carries out an annual survey of the pet population, 33% of all households have a dog, which equates to 12.5 million dogs in the UK and 27% of all households own a cat, which closely equates to 12.2 million cats in the UK. With high house prices in the UK, there is generation rent, the number of people living in private rented accommodation has increased significantly in recent years, particularly among younger age groups.

With 50% of the UK population owning a pet, there are a lot of tenants with cats and dogs who are struggling to find pet friendly rental accommodation in the UK. Landlords who will consider pets are in the minority, with agents and landlords citing damage and the lack of a deposit to cover it as the biggest issues. With little on the market, the easiest option for landlords and agents is to rent to people without pets. At Pets Lets we come across this all the time. Sometimes, we buck the trend because we know the landlords or agents and put together a case on behalf of the client.

The UK is a pet loving nation, yet AdvoCATSeastmids, a voluntary organisation which provides practical support for tenants and landlords, reports that not being allowed pets in rental property is the second most common reason for pets to be given up to rescue centres. That along with people who impulsively adopted a puppy or kitten during the lockdowns and now with life returning to normal, have decided that they cannot commit to looking after a pet. It is a worrying trend and one that affects the animals deeply.

Lobbying for change

At present, the Tenant Fees Act 2019, which was introduced to offer great protection to property renters, has inadvertently made it harder to rent with pets. This is because the Act bans most letting fees and has placed a cap on tenancy deposits paid by tenants in the private rental sector.

As a result, being unable to request a higher deposit or pet insurance to cover potential damage has meant that many landlords do not want to take the risk of renting to pet owners. On the flip side, the survey carried out by Pets Lets and Our Family Dog found that most landlords would consider letting a property to pet owners if the deposit cap of six weeks rent was increased, and if tenants took out pet insurance which covered damage to properties.

For a while now there have been calls for the Tenant Fees Act 2019 to be amended to allow pet insurance to be included as a permitted payment, a move which is backed by Andrew Rossindell MP for Romford who has lobbied the Government on this issue, and several animal welfare organisations. Also there needs to be more flexibility with the deposit cap when it comes to tenants pets. If damage is the main concern of landlords, then raise the 5 week threshold to a level that is acceptable to the majority of landlords, without it being excessive.

Pet friendly rentals in the UK are few and far between. Some landlords will only consider a pet if there is no other option.

Relocating alone is stressful enough. Relocating to the UK with your dog is on another level. That is why we set up the Pets & property Tips Facebook Group to advise people who rent with dogs and cats.

How to find somewhere to live with your pet

Some property portal websites, such as Zoopla and Spare Room, have added a search filter to help find pet friendly properties.

Pets Lets is a hybrid portal, where pet friendly properties are listed and yet you can easily contact us with any questions. We know pets and property so we can help people renting or looking to rent with pets.

While the competition may be high for pet friendly rentals, it’s not impossible. Here’s some tips on how to demonstrate you are a responsible pet owner:

  • Allow plenty of time for your property search.
  • Think carefully about what sort of property you need for the size and type of pet you have.
  • Ask for permission to have a pet - don’t just try to sneak a pet in otherwise you could lose your tenancy. Make sure you get your landlords permission in writing.
  • Introduce your pet to your landlord - preferably somewhere that they will be able to observe how your dog behaves.
  • Make sure your pet is up to date with their vaccinations, flea and worm treatment - and you can demonstrate this to potential landlords.
  • In our survey of landlords and property agents, a third of respondents also said they were concerned about dogs being left alone at home for long hours. Barking can be a sign of separation anxiety in dogs that are left alone, leading to complaints from the neighbours. This was high on the list of reasons why landlords don’t want to let pet owners.

A useful resource of information to help you find a pet-friendly rental

  • Lets With Pets, which is run by the Dogs Trust
  • Pets Lets - property portal connecting pet owners with pet-friendly landlords

This article was written by Russell Hunt, Founder of Pets Lets, a UK pet-friendly property portal offering properties where landlords consider pets.

Pets Lets also offers a Specialist Pet Friendly UK Relocation Service finding pet friendly rentals, properties that allow dogs and cats, takes time and can be stressful. Especially when you know your ‘four legged’ friends are getting on a plane soon and you don’t have a home.

For useful advice or to find out more about the UK pet friendly rental market, feel free to join our Pets and Property Tips Facebook Group for helpful professional advice on pets and property.