Britain may be a nation of animal lovers but pet-owners are often second-class citizens when it comes to finding suitable private rented accommodation.
Three-quarters of pet-owners encounter problems when trying to rent a property, according to animal welfare charity Dogs Trust, while 54 per cent of owners are unable to find a landlord willing to accept them and their pet.
Damage to property and being a nuisance to neighbours are cited by landlords as the main reasons for not allowing tenants with pets. Yet a “no pets” policy could be unlawful.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) considers a blanket ban on keeping pets in a property to be unfair under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. A fair contract, says the OFT, would require the tenant to get the landlord’s consent before bringing in pets, but the landlord should not be able to unreasonably withhold consent.
'Pet-owning tenants are more likely to renew a tenancy and pay higher rent'
Landlords could also benefit commercially from a more lenient approach to pet-owners, say lettings experts. Because pet-owning tenants have less choice in the marketplace they are likely to pay a higher rent and are more likely to renew a tenancy than tenants without pets.
Indeed, with tenants in the driving seat because of a general oversupply of rental properties, landlords are already softening their attitude to pet-owners, according to Ruth Barr of Knight Frank.
“Landlords cannot afford to be as fussy as they were and are now more willing to accept pets. We’re dealing with more UK tenants, and enquiries from tenants with pets are up 50 per cent.”
Pet-owners are likely to find it easier to rent a house than a flat as many apartment blocks have lease restrictions; for example, a head lease may forbid pets even though an individual landlord will allow them. Landlords of unfurnished properties may also be more sympathetic to tenants with pets.
Residential Land (www.residentialland.com; 020 7408 5155), a property company with a 1,300-strong portfolio of flats in central London, welcomes responsible pet-owners. First, it meets with prospective tenants to discuss their lifestyle and will make a decision on whether to allow a pet based on the size and temperament of the animal, the number of hours that it will be left alone and arrangements for the animal's care when the owner is away.
This company markets and manages its own buildings, meaning tenants do not have to deal with estate agents. Most blocks have an on-site concierge or manager who is able to assist pet-owners and monitor the situation.
'We try to take up pet references. Recently we had a glowing reference from a dog school in the United States'
Landlords can cash in on seasonal demand from pet-owning tenants. “During the summer and the run-up to the new school year in September, we have more demand for houses with gardens from families with dogs,” adds Knight Frank's Barr.
“We take eight to 10 weeks’ deposit against the normal six weeks and have a clause in the contract saying the landlord can withdraw permission if the pet becomes a nuisance. We also try to take up pet references. Recently we had a glowing reference from a dog school in the United States. In general, there are not more dilapidations than usual where tenants have pets.”
Properties close to open green space - say, one of the Royal Parks, Hampstead Heath, Primrose Hill or Wandsworth Common - are popular with dog-walking tenants. Knight Frank (www.knightfrank.co.uk; 020 7591 8601) has a rare opportunity to rent a five-bedroom lodge house in the middle of Hyde Park. The house comes with its own private garden, conservatory and parking space, and costs a heady £3,800 a week to rent.
Tip for tenants: Write your pet's CV
Pets come in all shapes and sizes - from docile tropical fish and budgerigars to exotic snakes and lizards, from cats and dogs to ponies and horses. The type of pet you have will influence a landlord’s attitude.
PetFriendlyRentals.co.uk, an agency dedicated to matching pet-owning tenants with pet-loving landlords, recommends that tenants write a CV for their pet, highlighting, say, the dog’s breed, size and activity level, whether it has attended training classes and has been vaccinated, and including a reference from a previous landlord or vet.
“Also accentuate the positive by stressing that dogs are an effective burglar deterrent,” advises a spokesman.