Renting with pets

May 14, 2021

New rules were introduced in early 2021 to make it easier for pet owners who rent their homes to find somewhere to live. So what difference has this rule change made to renting with pets – are dogs now welcome? 

What was the rule change? 

With just 7% of landlords offering pet friendly rentals, making it challenging for pet owners to find somewhere to live with their pets, the Government stepped in to try to make things easier.

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, whilst the Model Tenancy Agreement is the Government’s preferred contract for landlords, it is not widely used and the pet-friendly clause is not legally binding. As a result, there hasn’t been much of a shift in the pet rental market. Pet owners are still struggling to find somewhere to live. 

The few spoiling it for the many

To learn more about what might help to make renting with pets easier, Our Family Dog teamed up with pet letting agency Pets Lets to commission a survey of landlords and letting agents. 

It found 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. That number could be even greater since so many people acquired a dog during the Covid-19 pandemic. And the number of people living in private rented accommodation has increased significantly in recent years, particularly among younger age groups. 

Put simply, this means that there are a lot of pet owners looking for rental accommodation. But they may be forced to choose between a home and their pet if there are not enough properties available. AdvoCATSeastmids is a voluntary organisation which provides practical support for tenants and landlords. It says that the second most common reason for pets being given up to rescue centres is because they were not allowed in rental properties.

Lobbying for change

At present, the Tenant Fees Act 2019, which was introduced to offer greater 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 means that many landlords do not want to take the risk of renting to pet owners. On the flip side, our survey 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. 

There are now calls for the Tenant Fees Act 2019 to be amended to allow pet insurance to be included as a permitted payment. This move is backed by Andrew Rossindell MP for Romford, who has lobbied the Government on this issue, and several animal welfare organisations. A number of insurance companies also support this approach but it requires a change in the law for the policies to be viable. 

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. There are also letting agents, like PetsLets, which specialise in finding rental properties for pet owners. 

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 that you can demonstrate this to potential landlords.

In our survey of landlords and property agents, a third of respondents said they were concerned about dogs being left alone at home for long hours. It may therefore be helpful to tell your landlord about the plans you have made for your dog if you are likely to be away from home for long periods of time. For example, for your dog to go to doggy day care or for a dog walker to come in during the day. 

Finally, if you’re planning to get your first puppy, make sure you are fully prepared for what’s involved. Sign up for this free Getting a Puppy e-learning course to get ready for your new arrival and learn about what you can expect in the first year with your new pup. 

Useful resources to help you find a pet-friendly rental