06.07.2020 11:07 am

The 2019 Tenants Fees Act has had a negative impact on dog and cat friendly rentals in London and across UK Cities

The introduction of the 2019 Tenants Fees Act, was introduced to save tenants money, preventing them from being ripped off by unscrupulous landlords and unfair extra agency fees.

The Act gives tenants more rights and takes off some of the financial pressure. These have been on-going issues which needed to be addressed.

As with many things the 2019 Tenants Fees Act was not clearly thought through. You would have thought that with nearly 50% of the UK population owning a pet, that the Government and their advisors would have considered people letting with cats and dogs. That this major ‘pool’ of people would need help in finding pet friendly rentals in the UK.

Only 10% of London landlords are dog friendly. Other Landlords will only consider a dog or cat if they have no other option. Time is money to a landlord. However, from experience, if there is another tenant without a pet who is interested in the property, 99.9% of the time you, as a pet owner, will miss out.

How the 2019 Tenant Fees Act has had a negative impact on dog and cat friendly properties in London:

  • The most frightening point is that tenants who signed their pet friendly lettings agreements before 2019 are mostly being evicted. Why is that? Simply because Landlords are now only limited to 5 weeks rent and they are afraid that will not cover any damage. I am hearing of tenants offering to increase their rent to stay and landlords still saying no to allowing their London property to be dog friendly.

  • Dog friendly rentals in London particularly are on the decline because the legislation prevents landlords from charging more. Some more unscrupulous property owners have introduced extra ‘pet rents’. Again, this is off the back of the 2019 Act and a way of just increasing their income lost by having to pay more fees themselves.

  • Some landlords were ‘on the fence’ about allowing a dog or cat into their home. After 2019, many of those landlords now say no to letting with pets

  • The Act has made is much harder for pet owners to compete with other tenants without pets. We are seeing landlords who have houses with gardens say no to dogs, even though it is a huge market, simply because of the change in legislation.

  • You can offer to deep clean the property after the tenancy. However, the new legislation stops a landlord from enforcing that.

  • You are limited on charges and people renting with dogs in particular are the ones who have ‘suffered’ because of these changes.

  • Children draw on walls, people vape and smoke in properties and have parties; yet it is the image of the barking dog, the chewing of the sofa leg or the cat scratching the furniture that sticks in the landlord’s head.

  • Some estate agents have also preferred to avoid allowing pets, because the legislation has made it trickier and not worth the hassle.

  • Dog friendly London rentals are hard enough with pet restrictions in big blocks. Another restrictive piece of legislation was the opposite of what was needed.

  • The 2019 Tenants Fees Act clearly did not involve people who own pets

How has this changed pet owners?

  • As we move forward, affordability mixed with house prices, makes it harder to get on the property ladder. The majority of people under 40 will be renting properties. That mixed with owning a pet, makes it harder.

  • Borrow My Doggy is a great concept. It allows people to spend time with a dog, build a relationship and then be able to hand the dog back to their owners. It also means you don’t have any issues with having to find a dog friendly rental yourself.

  • Tenants with pets are pandering to landlords too. Instead of a Labrador or Giant Schnauzer, they are opting for the French Bulldog, Pug, Dachshund because they are more likely to find a dog friendly flat in London. A ‘handbag dog’, no offence as they are wonderful breeds, which will be seen as being harmless and unlikely to damage the furniture. What percentage of people letting with pets have adapted their choice of breed? How many people grew up with Labradors but changed to small dog to make life easier when relocating to London or a big UK City with a dog.

  • You also notice that a lot of popular breeds shed less hair or are seen as less hairy. Is that another way of pandering to landlords and to say yes to pets?

What are the solutions to the lack of dog-friendly flats and houses in London and in UK Cities

  • One way would be to alter the 2019 Tenants Fees Act to help people with pets.

  • In other countries, there has to be a good reason for a landlord to say no.

  • At Pets Lets we are educating landlords, agents and freeholders to the benefits of having pets. A lot of it is about outdated perceptions people have about particularly dogs. Dog owners have become far more responsible and sophisticated. The majority of dogs are highly trained. Dogs and cats are part of the family. They cannot be blamed for all the damage. There are children and general wear and tear in any property has to be factored in by a landlord.

  • There are many positive points about having a pet. They make people happy. They help mental health issues. Research has shown that stroking a cat or dog, calms people and they are happier. Research has shown people with pets go to the doctors less. Walking the dog in London opens up a whole new social life. Dog owners talk to each other and some become friends and meet up away from walking the dog.

  • Educating Landlords that people renting with dogs and cats stay longer and are more responsible. We find that with our relocation clients, they are just as keen to make sure their dog is well behaved.

The pre-lockdown rush to adopt a pet, shows the pent up demand to have a cat or dog or guinea pig or lizard and so on. Day to day life with modern day stresses make it harder to have a pet. There are already stories of people handing back puppies & kittens post lockdown. Landlords are an obstacle to people living with pets, which needs to change.

Russell Hunt is 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.