House hunting with a pet – a guide

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78% of pet owners in the UK have struggled to find rented accommodation with their pet, according to a Dog’s Trust survey.

Finding a landlord who accepts pets can be so difficult that some tenants are forced to give away their animals when moving. To avoid having to come to this, here are some tips for pet owners who are looking for a place to rent with their pet.

Finding suitable property

If you own a larger dog, finding an affordable house that can meet your dog’s needs is enough of a challenge before you have to deal with landlords.

Ideally you want to be living on the ground floor of a building if you have a dog. It simply is not fair to have to have them go down several flights of stairs just to go to the toilet or get some fresh air.

You do not need a big garden, but rather just an outside area that is easily accessible. A balcony probably will not cut it.

Finding such housing on a budget can be very difficult, particularly if you live in London. Houses and even ground floor flats are becoming increasingly more expensive.

If you own a larger dog you therefore may have to live less centrally to accommodate their needs.

Finding housing that accepts pets

Finding landlords who accept pets, particularly larger pets such as cats and dogs can be challenging. This is for two reasons.

Firstly, if the landlord owns the property as a leasehold, then they are unlikely to be able to accept pets altogether. This is not the landlords decision, but rather the decision of the leaseholder (namely the owner of the land on which the house is built upon). Getting in contact with a leaseholder to put forward your case can be a lot more work than just with a landlord, and often their “no pets” rule is set in stone.

If the landlord owns the property as a freehold, then they decide whether they accept pets or not.

The main reasons why landlords have a blanket rule refusing tenants with pets is because they are worried about the damage that a pet can do to a property.

Ways that a possible tenant can help put a landlord’s mind at ease with regards to their pet can include:

  • Agreeing to pay a second deposit for your pet that covers any potential damage to the property caused by them.
  • Getting a reference from your previous landlord regarding the good behaviour of your pet.
  • Introducing your landlord to your pet (this is not always feasible and could go either way depending on whether the landlord likes animals or not.)
  • Coming to an agreement on where your pet will sleep, what parts of the house they are or are not allowed in, and how regularly they will leave the house for walks, and have all this in writing.

Most tenants review the suitability of tenants with pets on a case by case basis, so the more you can show a track record of your pet being a good houseguest, and a commitment to keeping it that way, the more likely you are to find a willing landlord.

You should also be realistic and bear in mind that for more competitive areas landlords will likely give priority to tenants without pets. Patience, and looking for houses in less crowded neighbourhoods, may be required.

Your rights as a tenant with a pet

At the moment, landlords are not obligated to accept tenants with pets, and they are also allowed to openly refuse any tenant with a pet on the grounds that the pet may cause damage to the property or be a nuisance to other residents.

As part of the Labour Manifesto, Jeremy Corbyn proposed that landlords need to have stronger evidence that a potential tenant’s pet could be a nuisance in order to deny their tenancy application. However with a Conservative majority these laws are now unlikely to change, and the power is still very much with the landlord.

One thing that you should watch out for as a tenant with a pet is blame for damages to your rented property. If there is any damage to the property that has been unaccounted for, you and your pet will be the easiest target to assign blame. This may result in you losing more of your deposit than you deserve.

Make sure that you record all damages to the property and what their causes were. Take photos of the damage at the time you have noticed them as supporting evidence in order to defend yourself and your pet if any undeserved blame gets shifted your way.

This was a guest post from Jon Graham, an estate agent with over 20 years experience and the owner of Dwell-Leeds.

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