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By Mike Webb

Head of Public Affairs and Policy , Battersea

OTHER FEATURES

It’s Time to Talk about Pet Friendly Properties

Landlords across the country will be aware of the government’s shiny new proposed policy package for the Private Rental Sector, released to some fanfare in a White Paper earlier this summer.

One policy in particular may stand out: that all tenants will now have the legal right to request a pet, with an expectation this request be granted unless the property owner can offer ‘reasonable grounds’ for refusing; and provided acceptable pet damage insurance is in place. 

But crucially for landlords, rather than giving tenants the irrefutable right to house as many animals as they wish – and do so regardless of the suitability of the property – the aim of the policies is instead to support and promote responsible pet ownership in rented accommodation while giving landlords greater peace of mind. 

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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. 

Dismantling misconceptions

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.

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    I can't see how pet insurance works. If a claim is needed, I can't see the tenant fighting for a good payout, they are not going to see the money. How can the landlord claim on the tenants insurance?

    I think the solution is to charge rent for the pets. That way you will be self insuring against damage. Or alternatively, adjust all your rents to cover the possibility of pet damage.

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    That's what I do now, an extra rent for the pet, it's either that or no pet, an insurance policy just isn't going to pay out is it

     
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    I can imagine the hassle of a claim. Disputing how the damage was caused, was it wear and tear? I have recently dealt with insurance companies for car and house issues. They will try everything in the book to pay out less and delay as long as they can.

    My son has claimed for a new porch after a car crashed into it. The insurance company eventually paid out, minus the vat. Then when presented with the vat bill, is arguing the original pay out was wrong! What with all the delays with the builders etc. It has taken over a year and he is still waiting for the new door!

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    Anyway, why can't the Govt. just say that landlords and Tenants just agree if they can have pets or not.

    Much better than just enforcing ridiculous rules and regulations that cause conflict.

     
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    In my experience pet owners don't stay as long as non pet owners. The vast majority of my non pet owning tenants have been in their home for at least 2 years. I have one property where I will have pets. I bought it 3 years ago and it now has the 4th set of tenants in it. None of the animals have caused much damage but the smell of dog in the carpets is horrendous. Specialist carpet cleaning and multiple pots of Neutradol improve it but it's impossible to eliminate.

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    We're soon leaving our current rental after being here with a dog for 7.5 years. We're only leaving because it sold.

     
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    We've had our only cockerpoo non malting dog for 9 years over two rental houses. Without pet damage insurance and without paying a rip off "pet rent". We've just received our deposit on the rental we are leaving in full. Previous house was the same. Both rentals we made sure our dog doesn't go upstairs - we have a baby gate for that. He's not allowed in the house with wet paws until they are bone dry as not to stink out the carpets. We've done this whilst renting from landlords out of respect for the property and to get our deposits back in full when we leave. We are 4 weeks from being made homeless because landlords reject us everytime because we have a dog. Homeless!!!!! I am 52 years old, been renting all my adult life! My wife and I both working and responsible dog owners, neighbours and tenants. Been renting since we married for 27 years straight yet here we are. At this rate of rejection we will be homeless. This is inconceivable to us. I have no idea what we will do come October 15! Thats how bad it is in Plymouth!! We have been looking and applying for houses for 6 months. 7 months starts in October. Something has to be done. This is a national disgrace that people like us can be put out on the streets for NO GOOD REASON.

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    Paul, not all pet owning tenants are as responsible as you, now that we are not allowed to take an extra deposit it has to be the '' rip off pet rent'' sorry but that's the way it is now, I sympathise with you down there in Plymouth my youngest daughter went to uni there and worked there for a while so I know what it's like, she's now in Lanner Cornwall, much the same there, but her and her boyfriend now own a small barn which they are converting living on site, you say something has to be done, but what ?

     
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    Hi Paul, Have you tried applying to rent houses where the advert specifically states that the landlord considers letting to tenants with pets? There are some listed on Trovit for the Plymouth area - including a couple of smallish houses with gardens.

     
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    Andrew Townshend: Good point. But doesn't this article say that the real problem with pets is around 3% and it reads to me thats there's more myth than reality causing landlords to fear the worst? For us our priority has always been to keep our deposit safe so we live with that in mind, always. I wouldn't object to a time limit on pet rents - say 12 months max but like us if a tenant stays 5, 7 or 10 years then that's all extra income earned from responsible tenants who are already paying very expensive rents. I also think the government need to look at this from both perspectives. My frustration is that we are being punished for other peoples sins.

     
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    Ellie Edwards; Thank you for the heads up. I've never heard of Trovit before. Only been looking at Zoopla, Rightmove and OneTheMarket. I've done a search for a 3+ bedroom on Trovit now but can see no way to select a search to include pet friendly places?

     
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    Hi Paul - try going to the trovit website, select properties for rent, and then in the search box type plymouth pets considered, and you should get some results. Unfortunately, it is not possible to link to anything on this particular forum.

    I am not sure that you will have any luck, but you are more likely to find something if you can find landlords who don't mind taking pets.

     
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    Yes Paul that is an idea, a pet rent reassessed every 12 months could possibly work.
    Now your last sentence , we are ALL punished for other peoples sins in all walks of life, landlords certainly are

     
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    Paul, so sorry for your situation I wouldn’t wish it on anyone dogs or no dogs, at the same time you have to understand your were renting and couldn’t blame any landlord for selling up with the sustained attack on us although don’t know his reason for selling in this particular case. However its his Property his business and it’s his decision as it was when he made the commitment to buy.
    I never got anything for nothing off anyone I had to make my own way in life including housing which was under control and my own house build and loan free before I got married in 1974, so at 52 I have to say its a bit late in the day to turn around and say something should be done about it, by whom , with the greatest respect it not for other people to sort out your
    accommodation for you. I wish you well in the future, its not easy for anyone out here.
    Good luck

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    So much about what has been said above just does not accord with my experience. I am a large landlord with at one time over 1000 tenants, mainly blue collar HMO tenants. We say we do not take pets yet if anyone asks we will allow them to have a pet, I am talking about cats and dogs, providing the property is on the ground floor and access to a garden. Tenants who ask tend to be the responsible pet owners so we are happy to oblige. Most of my tenants just bring the pets in without permission and they are the ones that we have problems with, the main problem being the owner does clean up after them and dogs barking. What as a landlord can I do? very little it is very difficult even to evict tenants who do not pay the rent and are causing damage or antisocial behaviour. It takes months or if the tenant plays the game and defends the claim over a year to evict. In other words the tenants have the ability to have pets in practice regardless of the landlords wishes!

    As for the landlord selling up, my opinion is if the landlord has a tenant he has a responsibility to that tenant so they should sort out the problem and why didn’t they sell the property with the tenant in occupation? Yes he may get less for the property but it goes with being a landlord and taking the rent! Paul don’t worry about being made homeless it will take your landlord months or even years if they bring in an eviction ban to evict you. Why don’t you offer to buy the property from your landlord? I suspect it would cost you less to buy the property then you are currently paying in rent. There is nothing to stop your landlord getting a mortgage on the property and you paying the mortgage! Happy to share various creative strategies you can use to acquire property which I have learnt in the over 30 years I’ve been a landlord and has enabled me to build up such a large portfolio of properties. There is a myth you need money to own property.

    Michael I was 40 when I bought my first property and bought most of my properties after the age of 50 so never too late to start. They’re now offering mortgages and giving you up until the age of 110 to finish paying.

    Battersea why don’t you put your money where your mouth is and offer low cost pet insurance if pets don’t cause any or little damage? Providing insurance is one of the very profitable industries just look at the large insurance companies. Everyone has an opinion about landlords very few are prepared to walk in their shoes also a hint to Shelter and the rest of the anti-landlord pressure groups. House tenants at universal credit rates, not the enormous rates you receive as a social landlord and then tell us how to run our business!

    Jim Haliburton
    The HMO Daddy

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    Pets,most tenants give u a fait accompli. All dogs go to the toilet when they want to. Massive immigration, both legal and illegal is responsible for shortage of accomodation. Politicians have decided to change the ethnicity of the British population.

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    Paul Haynes, it's entirety government policy that has caused this situation. In theory if you are evicted the council must find you accomodatio . Why don't you put your phone number here, l am sure their are landlords here who would welcome a good tenant.

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    Jim, my friend you are talking rubbish I don’t care if you had 1000 Tenants or 1, you are not consistent in your statements. When I was shouting from the roof tops so to speak not to scrap S21, you were the one who said it didn’t matter and how great S.8 was and you had no trouble getting rid of Tenants, done it all the time, now saying the opposite you don’t do it at all. Thousands of LL’s have since sold up, you have your answer. Jim you are a HMO room LL its been documented enough who came late to the party at 50 and destroying PRS skying the Deeds when there was a bit of equity one get another and another like many others who done the same ending up with dozens or hundreds of properties and nothing paid off but eventually had so much it didn’t matter. That’s what happened to the business that we had built up, the unacceptable face of Capitalism, late comers in their 50’s like the retired School Teachers in Kent.
    Paul & wife working should be able to look after themselves at 50 years of age they are not children, we don’t owe them a living. I know some people say they are working but having it subsided as well.
    Maybe put the dog in Battersea dogs home. Have a nice day.

  • Jennifer Berezai

    AdvoCATS, the organisation that led the umbrella Heads for Tails campaign which was largely responsible for convincing the DLUHC to put the pets issue on the white paper, is now part of a working group chaired by The Lettings Hub, looking at how the proposals could work in practice.

    This is the way from forward : constructive discussions with all parties to achieve a solution that works for all. Vile comments like those from Crisp above don’t help anyone, and are deeply hurtful to people like Paul. Crisp wouldn’t say kill the baby (I hope), so please treat responsible pet owners in the same manner.

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    Jennifer l am a dog lover, but dogs go to the toilet when they want to. The fact that you have a fetish for animals shouldn't mean that we all have to bow to your whim. Further l have been bitten by a tenants dog, l had a nice polish lady cause chaos by breeding aggressive dogs in my property. You are living in a fantasy world.!

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    I too have been bitten by a tenant's dog, a Rottweiler , and that was no little nip either, I will consider tenants with a dog, no big dogs and no dangerous dogs, oh and the guy with the Rottweiler didn't have permission for him, but the dog's dead and the guy is serving 15 yrs, problem over

     
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    Jennifer I would love to agree but cannot. It shouldn’t be on THE WHITE PAPER, it’s already fair to everyone, some landlords take pets some don’t, some Tenants have pets some don’t. What is happening here is to further remove owners rights leaving him with no say whatsoever. So have your discussions to exclude us like has been happening with all the other recent regulators, you decide and impose it on us as usual.

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    That's right - imposing requirements on landlords only works to a degree; once the requirements are too onerous then landlords will sell. Everyone has their breaking point.

    Allowing pets in your property is a favour to tenants; it is not their right. The particular property may be quite unsuitable for pets.

     
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    Paul, like Jim said. Consider buying the property from your landlord. I am in the process of selling a property with a tenant. The advantage to the landlord is there are no estate agency fees and no loss of rental income between the tenant leaving and the completion of the sale, so you may get the property at a good price. As you are able to pay the rent ok, you should be able to pay the mortgage. You have various options. There are now lenders who will do up to 50 year mortgages. As for the deposit, you may be able to find lenders who will accept as little as 5% deposit. Also there are 'family' mortgages where a friend or family member (or your landlord) puts 20% into an account, which pays interest, for 3 or 5 years. This acts as a guarantee and you get a 100% mortgage. After the 3 or 5 years you would have paid enough for your own deposit.

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    I have mixed experience of pets. I had two professional women sharing (not the type of professional you are thinking) and they acquired two cats without permission which proceeded to urinate copiously in every single room in the house. Every single carpet and underlay had to be changed when they left. The deposit covered just over half the bill. I suppose I considered myself lucky they didn’t clear out without paying the last months rent. Other than that, experiences have been positive. I have a 4 bed which has hard floors downstairs and all three sets of tenants I have had have had dogs - no problem at all. In another house, I’d agreed to change a big carpet in the main lounge as it was stained and fraying in the doorways. The tenant then announced they had a cat so I rescinded my offer to change the carpet. The tenant cleaned it and got rid of the stains and it looks fine. So I guess I’m even on pets. It’s the human animals you have to watch for.

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    I like your last sentence, 'human animals' I've had a few of them over the years

     
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    I had a smoker, even though it was advertised as no smokers. Took ages to get rid of the smell.

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    I get my management people to assess the smoking issue every 3 months, and if it is there, then they are told to leave.
    It is clear in the contract.

    The Govt. should enforce no smoking by any tenant. After all the Govt. are always telling people not to smoke, why not do it now? Enforce their policies.

     
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    I don't do smoking in any way shape or form, and stale smoke, nicotine stains, yuck

     
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    We are now an animal Sanctuary.

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    For sure I ain't ever gonna allow any pets of any kind, size or smell in any of my properties whatsoever and whatever any Govt. says or does.

    At lease we should have some rights. If not, then I will take yet more properties off the market. Making it even harder for Councils, Tenants, Govt. and Estate Managements.

    Ya, sucks to all of them.

     
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    Sell your property to your Tenants if you want, its up to you and the Tenants but don’t tell us what to do.
    I have seen slums with Tenants bought by landlords at Auctions
    on the cheap but that’s in the past. To buy now the property has to be compliant or vacant to enable you to get the work done and costs a great deal.
    The idea of a 50 year Mortgage and telling that to a 50 year old man is crazy. That’s some inheritance to burden relative’s with leave them a Mortgage.
    I despise 35 year Mortgage’s as well. a colleague a Surveyor his daughter has brought Flat on a 35 year Mortgage, it a life sentence.
    You are not going to get the market value without vacant possession.

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    The idea of a long mortgage doesn't mean you have to pay it for 50 years. When you sell the property, to move on, or when you die, the mortgage is paid off and the equity is inherited. You don't have to wait 50 years to sell it. The long mortgage is so the monthly payments are lower, it's not a life sentence. So you will be paying more interest, but at least you will be building up equity.

     
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    When I first started I bought a few tenanted properties from an older landlord , I was just buying someone else's problems, they really need to be vacant to buy or sell now.

     
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    27 years renting and haven’t sorted out accommodation of their own, in Plymouth above all places where rent and property prices are low. You can buy a 3 bed Terrace there for the price of a Studio in London or Rent it for the same as well. I know people who have property there, for 2 people working it must be a doddle even more so if they settle for
    a Flat, where’s the problem buy your own. Why expect someone else to House you .

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    Michael you misunderstand me. The reason I mention the number of tenants I deal with is to show my experience and to try and reassure other landlords that evicting using section 8 has covered, so far, all my problem tenants, so the abolition of section 21 will I believe not affect me nor I suspect many other landlords. All that will happen is if section 21 is abolished the same number of tenants will be evicted but the reason will be shown which is I believe, generally nonpayment of rent. This hopefully will be a good thing as the government will realise that the landlords do not evict tenants on a whim and address the issues as to why tenants do not pay the rent.

    I am beginning to see a change. With one of the councils I deal with and possibly another, they taking a different approach and are instead of telling tenants not to pay the rent, wait until they are evicted and they will be rehoused they are now taking an active part in addressing why tenants are not paying the rent. The reason in my experience is why every tenant does not pay the rent is they do not have to, they can afford to pay the rent they just wilfully refused to do so and it is often the case that the council will rehouse them. When the council get involved the belief they will be rehoused changes and to my benefit. The tenant either leaves or starts paying the rent.

    Landlords are selling up in the thousands: who does this benefit? Higher rents, more choice of tenants for landlords, tenants realising that it is not easy to get another property so more likely to behave. All this done by government saying it is trying to improve things for tenants! What are you moaning about Michael?
    Jim Haliburton
    The HMODaddy.

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    I personally am sick and tired of this woke, patronising and simplistic reasoning that we get from far too many in government positions of authority.

    The author airily states that ".......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".

    Does the author have a figure for the average cost of damage that is caused - costs all too often are effectively uncollectable due to the limitation of deposits to just five weeks rent? If not, why not, and if so, why was this not quoted in the article as it is clearly relevant information.

    Does the author seriously believe that an extra 3 months on an average tenancy length of 19 months is a decisive economic factor compared to the damage costs that he has conspicuously failed to quote?

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