Following discussion with social and private landlords, Battersea firmly believes there is appetite from both tenants and landlords to reach more positive agreements around pets in lets. But this will only be possible if common myths are challenged and dismantled, and the benefits to landlords underscored.
By giving landlords greater peace of mind, we can help the community embrace and facilitate this positive shift – preventing unnecessary pet abandonment in turn.
Capitalising on shifting market tides
The rental market is booming. In the UK, the share of households occupied by private renters has almost doubled in two decades, representing approximately 1 in 5 adults.
But renting is no longer the launchpad to home ownership for twentysomethings it once was. In fact, in 2021 approximately 54% of 45 – 64-year-olds were renting their accommodation from a private landlord in England, whilst Battersea’s recent survey revealed that half of all UK renters now fear they will never be able to buy their own home.
So we’re not just talking about more renters, then, but more lifetime renters – and across all age brackets. And there is no reason to suppose these renters are any less keen or capable of caring for their pets than homeowners.
Crucially for landlords, over three quarters of these tenants already own, or aspire to own, a pet – an undeniably large wedge of the market. This is reflected by property websites who are reporting soaring levels of demand, with searches for pet friendly rentals on Rightmove’s site increasing by some 120% in 2021.
Yet still, pet friendly properties remain rare – accounting for just 7% of listings according to Zoopla. This leaves open a significant gap in the market for newly pet friendly rentals.
In addition to the commercial advantage filling this gap could offer, research suggests that landlords who rent to pet owners experience lower rates of tenant turnover. Recent findings show that tenants living with dogs or cats stay on average 3 months longer in rented accommodation than those residing alone.
Despite these benefits, the potential for pet-related damage remains a commonly served defence against pets in lets. And often, there will be valid reasoning behind this – a negative prior experience, or perhaps letting a property with flooring particularly vulnerable to scratch marks.
Yet recent Battersea findings revealed only 3% of pet-owning renters had been subject a complaint around pet damage. Whilst landlords may believe the actual figure to be higher, the takeaway remains clear: only a very small minority of pets are likely to be at risk of ever damaging a property, and measures – like those highlighted in the White Paper – can be taken to reduce this small number even further.
Tried and tested solutions that can mitigate risk for both parties – like requesting the tenant take out insurance against pet-related damage – are slowly beginning to sway opinions. For example, out of 976 landlords Battersea recently surveyed, 70% said they were more likely to accept pets if precautions like this insurance were in place, with an assumption that it would pay the landlord directly following a claim. The findings highlight how, by opening up tenant-landlord communication channels and focusing on finding solutions, the benefits of pet ownership could be extended to so many more renters at no added risk to landlords.
The appetite is there – we now just need to take the leap. Battersea is pleased to already be working with the NRLA – whose members represent 1 in 5 landlords – to advise on potential pet friendly solutions, all whilst ensuring their preferences and concerns are reflected in evolving Government policy.
Reframing the ‘pet let’ narrative
We of course recognise that there are valid reasons for not allowing animals in some properties, as well as housing that isn’t suitable for certain pets. And as their property, any decision about who lives there lies with the landlord. Indeed, both they and their tenants are still waiting for clarity around what the Government deems ‘reasonable grounds’ for refusing a pet request following the White Paper.
Instead, our aim is to reframe the narrative – moving it away from what all too often turns into a partisan debate around pet-related damage, and instead refocusing our attention on improving communication; advocating solution-searching; and drawing attention to the social and economic incentives to both tenants and landlords for getting this right.
The reasons for this are clear – without constructive conversations, both will miss out on the myriad benefits of pet ownership in rented accommodation.
Let’s work together to change that.
* Mike Webb is Battersea’s Head of Public Affairs and Policy *
Want to comment on this story? If so...if any post is considered to victimise, harass, degrade or intimidate an individual or group of individuals on any basis, then the post may be deleted and the individual immediately banned from posting in future.