Renting With Dogs: What You Need to Know

The UK is a pet loving nation. The phrase ‘man’s best friend’ refers to domestic dogs and dates back to Frederick the Great of Prussia.

51% of the UK population owns a pet. An extra 3.2 million new pawrents over lockdown, 59% of which are made up of Gen Z and Millennial generations (ages 16-34). 

59% of UK households own a pet, of which 33% are dog owners followed by 26% who own a cat. Of those surveyed by Statista , the main reasons why people got a dog was because it made them happy (51%), followed by for love and affection (47%) and then companionship (35%).

Cafes and pubs as well as shops and department stores are increasingly opening their doors to dog owners. An article from Ldn Fashion tells the story of when the John Lewis Group said yes to a dog owner who wanted to celebrate their dog’s birthday in the Milton Keynes store. This request had a knock on effect. The John Lewis Group opened their doors for other dog owners across the UK.

Holiday lets seem to be more relaxed about allowing pets than long and short lets. Why? 

When holidaying you want to bring your dog. There are many holiday lets that allow dogs. It does not seem to be such an issue compared to long and short lets. Perhaps holiday let owners are more relaxed and realise that a large proportion of their potential customers have dogs. It may be too big a market to ignore. People want to walk with their dogs on the beaches, country paths. By not allowing rentals with dogs, you restrict your number of holiday bookings. Holiday companies would inform their clients that they should be open to allowing pets. This has not translated to the longer let market. Estate agents on valuations don’t often enough advise their clients to consider pets.

Why is that you ask? Simple. There is so much demand from people without pets due to a shortage of rental properties, why open yourself up to a ‘potential’ issue of allowing pets. Maybe consider a small dog or cat if there is limited interest. Time is money to a landlord, so perhaps allow a pet and charge a pet rent. That is the thinking that pet owners are up against.

Landlords surely cannot continue to ignore such a large market?

Reluctantly landlords are beginning to consider pets more. It is a growing market which they cannot continue to ignore. However, landlord Facebook groups are filled with bad experiences with irresponsible pet owners. Property is a small world and this does put off landlords, some of whom own property portfolios.

Irresponsible dog owners are an issue. You walk along the streets, parks and commons and many people are not picking up after their dogs. As a landlord, you would immediately be put off renting to people with dogs. It is unfortunately the case of the few affecting the reputation of the many pawrents. Most pet owners are responsible. Dog training is a huge market and at Pets Lets we are sent many amazing pet CV’s by our relocation clients. We recently had a US client fly in to the UK and have settled in really well into London life with their dog Piper as you can see from the pictures. (will add to email up to you to use).

A bigger obstacle to pet owners’ ability to rent, are no pets clauses. Some landlords would happily allow pets, but the managing agents say no. If you find a pet-friendly property in a block, double-check this. Only sign a tenancy agreement if there is a pets clause. Without it legally, you have no rights and could be evicted. 

So why is it that according to government statistics, only 7% of UK landlords say yes to pets?

Lets that say no to the dogs

The simple answer is that a lot of landlords are set in their ways when it comes to pets. It is very difficult to change that mindset.

In our Pets & Property Tips Facebook Group , there are many people who complain that estate agents ignore their calls and emails because they have pets. They feel they are not seen as a priority. With some agents, the conversation starts well until you mention the words ‘dog’, ‘cat’, ‘pets’ or ‘pet-friendly’. Then the response is we have nothing available.

When estate agents are looking to take on a rental property, they do not ask the landlord if they will consider pets. The ‘fear’ is that they could lose the instruction. Anyway, why ‘rock the boat’ when there is enough demand from people without pets.

On the other hand, some savvy agents, will recommend to landlords that they consider pets. Be open-minded and consider offers on a case-by-case basis. That makes sense.

Why do some estate agents ignore pet owners?

Just like the current dysfunctional UK property legislation when it comes to renting with pets, the current estate agency way does not help either.

Having been an estate agent and property search agent for over 25 years before setting up Pets Lets, I know how it works ‘behind the scenes’.

A lot of it relates to the commission structure. Agents are on small basic salaries plus commission like many jobs. There are two main types of commission: ‘pool’ and ‘individual’. With ‘pool’, you sell or rent a property, it goes in to the ‘office pot’ and is divided up. ‘individual’ is basically winner takes all.

So, if you are working on a winner takes all basis, you focus on the properties that will let quickest. You call or email your best people who you know are serious.  Agents are up against their colleagues. If an agents person has a pet, they are less likely to secure the deal. It is the path of least resistance.

Do not despair though. Amongst those estate agents we come across people who love pets and are willing to help. Agency owners are increasingly understanding that pet owners represent a huge ‘untapped’ sector. That is also why build to rent operators like Fizzy Living, Essential Living Homes and Quintain Living allow renting with dogs.

So what are the main concerns UK landlords have with renting to people with dogs?

Damage: The myth is that all cats claw carpets and dogs chew the furniture. This outdated way of thinking is ingrained. Landlords don’t question children leaving handprints on the walls or spilling paint on the carpets. You don’t ask adults if they entertain a lot or ban red wine from the premises because the carpet is new. Yet somehow, a dog, irrelevant of age, is seen as a risk when it comes to the contents of a property. Thus, many landlords are unwilling to rent to people with dogs.

Neighbours: All it takes is for a neighbour to complain about your dog barking during the night or leaving a mess outside the property. No landlord likes to upset those who live in the same building. Tenants come and go.

Allergies: People with allergies is now far more common. Some landlords are concerned that by allowing pets, people with allergic reactions will not consider their properties, thus losing out on potential tenants. This refers to both long and short lets. However, not such an issue with holiday lets where the turnover is high. Perhaps holiday let owners are more relaxed and people with dogs represent a large proportion of UK holiday makers. Too big a market to ignore

Deposit cap: The 2019 Tenant Fees Act, limited the deposit cap to 5 weeks rent. Many landlords see this as too little to cover any potential damage by a pet. This legislation was poorly thought through and was obviously not written by anyone with a pet.

Over the last few years, renting with dogs has become harder, not easier, why is that?

Supply versus demand: The Tenant Fees Act mentioned above, reduced the number of landlords considering pets. Since lockdown, everyone without pets wants some outside space, a patio, garden or balcony. People have had enough of being ‘locked away’ and want to be able to stand outside at home. This pent-up demand mixed with fewer pet friendly properties has further disadvantaged pet owners. Sealed bids for good properties has become a norm. People offer above the asking rent and if you don’t have a pet, that gives you an advantage. 

Another reason for less properties on the market, is that landlords affected by the change in taxation rules and unable to offset mortgages, decided to sell their buy to lets during the stamp duty holiday. More demand from tenants due to unaffordability, as prices have been on the increase again, have less properties to chose from. With the rise of the virtual property tours and agents marketing properties 2 months in advance, you have to be quick or lose out.

Number of pets: It is fair to say that having more than 1 dog makes it harder to find dog friendly accommodation to rent. Some landlords will only allow a small dog or a house cat. Consider looking at unfurnished and more rural properties if you have a few pets. This will give you more options when looking to rent with dogs.

Is there any positive news for pet owners?

Pets and property in the UK is a big issue that is only now really being addressed. This has certainly been pushed up the agenda with Jasmines Law which is due a second reading in the House of Commons later in 2021. The extra 3.2 million pet owners over lockdown, has also certainly highlighted the issue of lack of pet friendly housing across the UK.

This is something that cannot be ignored. Legislation needs to change, but also there need to be compromises with landlords. One suggestion is to increase the deposit cap for landlords accepting tenants with pets. This is something that concerns landlords and off the back of this more landlords will be open to allowing pets. Simply forcing legislation on landlords is not the solution as they will find ‘loopholes’. Compromises offer the best long term solutions. Experience of responsible tenants with pets, will slowly change the negative mindset landlords have about pets.

Join The Pets Lets Community!

Pets Lets have created a Facebook group to chat about anything to do with pets and property: Pets & Property Tips Facebook Group. This is a great community, allowing pet owners to support and help each other.

What’s your experience with renting with pets? Let us know in the comments below!


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