Pro-an­i­mal let­ting agents are bark­ing up the right tree

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

As a pro­fes­sional in my late 30s, find­ing a place to rent should not be dif­fi­cult, yet it feels like seek­ing the holy grail. The rea­son is the wag­ging tail that comes with me. De­spite 44 per cent of UK house­holds own­ing a pet, 47 per cent of land­lords refuse to let house­hold an­i­mals in their prop­er­ties.

Al­though my mid­dle-aged labrador has flaw­less ref­er­ences from pre­vi­ous land­lords, the choice of ac­com­mo­da­tion on offer to us on our re­cent search in East Sus­sex was slim. In many cases, the prop­er­ties were poorly main­tained; per­haps the un­writ­ten rule is that if your pup is per­mit­ted, you must put up with stained car­pets and a mouldy bath­room. Thank­fully, not all pet­friendly prop­er­ties fit that de­scrip­tion and, in an at­tempt to cap­i­talise on pet own­ers’ needs for a roof over their heads, an in­creas­ing num­ber of de­vel­op­ers and land­lords are wel­com­ing four-legged ten­ants.

At The Hub, a new de­vel­op­ment of pri­vate rental flats in Har­row, Lon­don, the two low­est floors are re­served for dog own­ers. “The first floor to be fully let was one of the pet-friendly floors,” says Sam Win­nard, head of Lon­don res­i­den­tial prop­erty man­age­ment at JLL, which con­structed The Hub. “See­ing a few an­i­mals around re­ally does change the tone of the build­ing – it’s amaz­ing how it makes it feel more like a com­mu­nity.”

Two happy res­i­dents are Matthew Lloyd and his six-year-old Dober­man- Dal­ma­tian cross, Cola. “It had been dif­fi­cult find­ing pet­friendly places to rent so The Hub was a big re­lief,” says Matthew, a fire­fighter. Like­wise, his neigh­bour, Ethan Evans, and his two French bull­dogs, Bruce and Daisy, are chuffed with their home: “Be­fore mov­ing to The Hub, we’d been living in a rental prop­erty that wasn’t very nice,” says Ethan, an emer­gency med­i­cal dis­patcher and trainee mid­wife. “The Hub is a real find as most se­cure new builds don’t al­low pets.”

But not all rent­ing dog own­ers have such a happy tale to tell. Many find it a strug­gle to se­cure a de­cent home, which can have un­happy con­se­quences – last year, 1,343 dogs were handed in to Dogs Trust re­hom­ing cen­tres be­cause ten­ancy agree­ments didn’t al­low pets.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Land­lords As­so­ci­a­tion, most land­lords who refuse pets do so out of fear of prop­erty dam­age. “There is a per­cep­tion among land­lords that pets are de­struc­tive but, in my ex­pe­ri­ence as a let­ting agent for 30 years, that’s not the case,” says Paul Lee, who owns an epony­mous let­ting agency in Prim­rose Hill, Lon­don. “Lots of our ten­ants have dogs, and they are re­spon­si­ble peo­ple. It’s rare that we have any prop­erty dam­age.”

Pro-pets let­ting agents such as Lee do their best to en­cour­age land­lords to al­low dogs and cats by rec­om­mend­ing ways to pro­tect against dam­age. These in­clude ac­quir­ing ref­er­ences for the pet from pre­vi­ous land­lords, car­ry­ing out a pho­tographed in­ven­tory of the prop­erty, adding a pet ad­den­dum on the ten­ancy agree­ment stat­ing that the ten­ant is li­able for dam­age caused by the an­i­mal, check­ing on the prop­erty ev­ery six months, in­sist­ing car­pets are pro­fes­sion­ally cleaned upon the ten­ant leav­ing and, most im­por­tantly, tak­ing a large de­posit. “At the mo­ment, we take a de­posit equiv­a­lent to eight weeks’ rent for one pet, and a 10-week de­posit equiv­a­lent for two pets,” says Lee.

If the new ten­ancy de­posit cap (an­nounced by the Gov­ern­ment ear­lier this year) goes ahead, it could put a span­ner in the works. “The pro­posed rule to al­low a max­i­mum four-week de­posit will put land­lords off al­low­ing pets,” says Lee. “There is talk of this es­tab­lished safe­guard be­ing re­placed by a new type of in­sur­ance scheme taken out by the ten­ant, but who knows what form it could take. An­other op­tion could be to take two months of rent in ad­vance, but it is not yet clear whether this would work within the new Gov­ern­ment guide­lines.”

At the mo­ment, the only es­tab­lished al­ter­na­tive is for land­lords to en­sure that their prop­erty in­sur­ance cov­ers them against pet dam­age; in­sur­ers such as End­sleigh offer suit­able cover. This is one way that Ian Rose, a land­lord and trus­tee of Dogs Trust, cov­ers him­self: “I have never had an ir­re­spon­si­ble dog owner ten­ant in the 10 years I’ve been rent­ing out prop­er­ties,” he says. “But I have land­lord in­sur­ance, my prop­er­ties are reg­u­larly in­spected, and pets are in­cluded in the ref­er­enc­ing process. Own­ing a pet can have con­sid­er­able stress-re­liev­ing and en­rich­ing benefits, and this has been re­flected in the tem­per­a­ments of my pet-owner ten­ants, who have all looked af­ter my prop­er­ties well.”

Dogs Trust of­fers an in­for­ma­tion ser­vice (letswith­ for land­lords, agents and ten­ants, in or­der to keep all par­ties happy. Let­ting agents are in­creas­ingly ad­ver­tis­ing them­selves as pet-friendly, and more pro-pets new builds are on the way. This De­cem­ber, JLL will open The Hori­zon, a scheme of 111 flats in Green­wich, Lon­don, which in­cludes pet-friendly homes.

In the end, I was un­able to find a dogfriendly prop­erty in my per­fect area; bark­ers can’t be choosers, it seems. But I would rather have a long com­mute or a slightly tired kitchen than live with­out my four-legged friend.

Matthew Lloyd and Cola, main, rent at The Hub in Har­row; a six-bed­room coun­try house in

Wor­thing, West Sus­sex, be­low, is £1,038 per week with Winkworth

A two-bed­room town­house over four floors near Hyde Park, Lon­don, above, is £1,200 per week through Ch­ester­tons

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