Pro-animal letting agents are barking up the right tree
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 (letswithpets.org.uk) 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