Rent with pets: Thousands have to give up cats and dogs because “only 5% of owners allow pets”

When Ryan Davis moved in with the woman who would later become his fiancée, he immediately fell in love with himself – with her dog.

Mr Davis (not his real name) moved from London to Southend in early 2020 to spend a close-up with his then-girlfriend and her dog at her mother’s house. Reflecting on the bond he formed with his new dog helper, Mr. Davis, he says, “I’m in love.”

However, not everyone was thrilled with the five-year-old breed mix — a fact that soon became apparent as the couple started looking for a home to rent with their four-legged protégé.

“We probably looked at about 20 locations — only two would consider dogs,” Davis says.

The couple reluctantly left the dog with Mr. Davis’s future mother-in-law, where she would remain until they could afford to deposit their property. They join tens of thousands of other tenants who have been forced to abandon their beloved pets to secure shelter.

In January 2021, the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Governments, as it was then known, announced an update to the recommended contract for private sector homeowners, which initially seemed an exciting development for pet-loving renters.

Under the revised model lease, UK landlords can no longer issue a blanket ban on pets by default. Instead, they should only reject potential applicants with pets “if there is a good reason to do so”.

According to the government, this would mean that “responsible renters…with polite pets” would find a home more easily than under the old rules, when only 7 percent of private property owners advertised pet-friendly homes.

Owners would be “protected” as promised and renters would have a legal obligation to repair or pay for property damage caused by their furry, feathered, or scaly companions.

This new, animal-friendly approach is expected to increase the number of “pets allowed” ads. After nearly 18 months, however, the percentage of real estate rental ads indicating that pets are allowed has dwindled to just 5 percent, according to rental platform Goodlord, which analyzed data from more than 1,000 rental companies.

The government’s solution to the problem of tenants having to choose between pets and a roof over their heads had one major drawback: the deal is completely voluntary.

“Renting with pets is unbelievably, shamefully difficult,” says Holly Brockwell, who runs a small shelter for elderly, sick and disabled cats from her Nottingham home.

The thought of seven cats — the number Mrs. Brockwell took care of when she moved last year — lounging on their property can disturb even the most lovable of owners.

But Brockwell, 36, insists: “I had a solid rental experience with no deductions from my deposit, had £10,000 insurance against animal damage to the property and was fully willing to negotiate the rent. †

It all seemed to count for nothing. “The first 30 landlords and rental agents I spoke to gave the blanket ‘no’ without any negotiation. A few even hung up,” he says.

“I was only allowed to rent my current home because, in addition to pet damage insurance, I was offering 25 percent more than the home was on the market and agreeing to replace all the carpets if I move, regardless of their condition.”

Ms. Brockwell has a good relationship with the landlord, but, she says, “it was expensive and stressful having everyone see me as professionals without pets.”

She adds: “I had the exact same problems when I only had two housing, long reading, news, cats, dogs, landlords, pets, renters, rent, and even if I had none, I wanted it. The officer said, “If you tell me you’re getting a cat, I’ll rent it to someone else.”

A major piece of legislation introduced to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords and rental agents demanding pointless payments has compounded tenants’ problems with pets.

The 2019 Tenant Charges Act, which prohibits landlords and letting agents in England from charging administration fees to tenants, has been a welcome relief to the countless tenants who have been stiffened by such charges.

The law prohibits landlords and agents from forcing tenants to take out insurance through a third party – including accidental damage caused by pets – and limits the security deposit to five weeks’ rent when the annual rent is less than £50,000. As a result, landlords fearing damage to their properties are becoming increasingly nervous about allowing pets.

AdvoCats, a volunteer organization that provides free advice and hands-on support to renters and owners related to pets, is pushing for a change in the law that would allow landlords to ask for a limited pet deposit or require each renter to provide one. have pet insurance. keep the pet. The case was endorsed by many industry stakeholders, including the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA).

“We recognize the importance of pets in providing companionship, especially for those who live alone…[but] it often comes with a greater risk of damage to the property the pet is housed in,” said NRLA Policy Director Chris Norris.

“We call on the government to make the level at which deposits are held more flexible to reflect this greater risk.” [and] that tenants are obliged to take out pet insurance or that they can pay the owners for it.’

The mental health benefits of having pets are now well documented. Less commonly, the emotional, physical and psychological costs of separating owners and their companion animals are discussed.

The damage could be significant, says Elizabeth Ormerod, a retired veterinarian who currently serves as president of the Companion Animal Research Society (SCAS).

In her 40-year practice, she has witnessed many tragic situations, but the “most disturbing” were “people forced by owners to abandon or evict their pets,” said Dr. Ormerod recently in a SCAS blog post.

“The pain … is enormous, the scale is enormous.”

In 2017, John Chadwick, a sensitive pet owner from Maidstone, Kent who needed temporary emergency shelter, committed suicide after being told he could not bring his two beloved dogs and a cat and that he would be recognized as “deliberately homeless” if he refused housing offered to him. He gave up his pets, which a friend called his “life buoy,” and died 10 days later. During the investigation, the coroner concluded that the loss of Mr Chadwick’s pets was a key factor in the decision to take his own life.

“The people in the rented apartment who have to choose are really having a hard time… We know a lot [of relinquished pets] were euthanized,” said Sandra McCune, SCAS trustee.

Allowing owners and pets to stay together doesn’t just mean a happy outcome for affected tenants and pets – research also shows the NHS could benefit financially. A 2016 study from the University of Lincoln, in which Dr. McCune estimates that owning pets will save the NHS up to £2.45 billion a year, mainly as a result of fewer doctor visits and improved mental wellbeing for owners.

It may sound counterintuitive, but according to Dr. McCune owners can also reap some rewards. Renters with pets usually stay longer because they know they’ll have a hard time finding another home, reducing the likelihood of the property becoming vacant and saving owners advertising costs, he says.

However, many owners are concerned. It’s just easier to avoid all this hassle if you can,” says a portfolio holder who owns properties in London, Guildford and Portsmouth.

Although she has a strong preference for tenants without pets, the landlord, who does not wish to be named, says he will allow them if the only alternative is a vacant property.

He and his wife recently allowed a group of students at one of their estates to bring a dog, but, he says, “if there was an identical group without the dog, we probably would have taken them.”

According to him, animals are “a luxury”.

“Of course I have sympathy [for pet owners struggling to find a home] but these are the things to think about when you get a pet,” she says.

AdvoCats co-founder Jen Berezai admits some “hardliners” won’t be fooled, but hopes the group’s “middle compromise” will win the majority: “A huge number of homeowners are open to another opinion,” she says. †

“The pandemic has exacerbated feelings of loneliness and isolation, possibly among people who have never felt this way. Because of this, many people realized the value of having a companion animal.

“If we succeed in solving the problem of financial risk, we face a moral obligation” [for] owners must be open to pets. There are many people renting longer than ever before. If they can show that they are responsible, they have the right to have a pet whenever possible.”

@kat_grant

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