In the UK, around 44% of households own pets, which equates to a whopping 51 million dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, hamsters and more sharing our homes with us. If you’ve ever tried to rent a property though, either long or short term, you’ll know that that statistic seems to have passed landlords by. As soon as you tick ‘pet friendly’ on a rental property search engine, your number of choices dwindles down to almost nothing. Now, UK flatshare website SpareRoom are trying to address the problem, working in conjunction with charities, landlord representatives, economists, property experts and vets.
In the first initiative of its kind, SpareRoom plan to employ ‘pet ambassadors’ – well trained cats and dogs who will visit rented homes and demonstrate to landlords that pets can be a positive influence. The idea of the project is to develop ideas and policy suggestions to encourage more landlords to consider allowing pets into their properties – an issue that’s becoming ever more important in the era of ‘generation rent’. Allowing pets into rented properties could have benefits for all involved, as tenants are more likely to stay longterm if they find a suitable property and the number of pets who end up in rehoming centres could decrease.
According to original research by SpareRoom, 78% of tenants said they have struggled to find rented accommodation that will allow their pet(s) to live with them, which has resulted in 21% of tenants keeping a pet in their property without their landlord’s knowledge – and breaching the terms of their rental contract in the process. Only 7% of ads in the UK on SpareRoom would ‘consider’ pets, with this dropping to just 5% – that’s one in 20 homes – in the London area. Over two thirds (69%) of landlords said they wouldn’t allow pets in their properties, citing smell and potential damage to the property as their main concerns. Meanwhile, 88% of pet owners claim that their pets have never caused any damage to the property. If you do manage to find a property that accepts your pet, you’re likely to pay more rent (up to £49 a month) for the privilege.
Experts including representatives from the RSPCA and Crisis have come up an initial report, including ideas designed to help convince more landlords to accept pets. These include:
- Working to get damage by pets covered, both in landlord insurance policies and by tenants
- Tenants agreeing to sign a contract to say that they’d pay for any damages caused by their pet
- Charging a subsidy for pets on top of a tenant’s normal monthly rent
- Creating a pet policy agreement between landlords and renters, which could be easily downloaded. The template would include conditions such as ‘regular landlord inspections’ to check that the property is free of mess and damage, and to check with neighbours that they’re happy and have no issues with the pet
- Members of the committee would also like to see a set policy that all social housing providers must take pets
The report is good news for pet owners, and will hopefully make it easier in the future to rent suitable properties as well as reducing the number of animals sent to rescue centres when their owners can’t keep them due to lifestyle changes. Although it will still be down to each individual landlord to make a decision on whether or not to accept pets in their property, the report may help in highlighting the advantages in doing so.