With over 40% of households having a pet in 2016 you would think that finding a place to live with a pet wouldn’t be that difficulty? If nearly half the households in the UK have a pet then finding a home that allows pets must be easy?
It seems that it isn’t, from personal experience and news stories it appears that by having a pet you become a second class citizen in terms of housing. You can expect to be limited in where you can rent or buy and be expected to pay higher deposits and extra fees.
This issue has been brought into sharp focus for me with the recent Grenfell Tower fire. There is the issue of moving your pet safely in an emergency. Then there is the issue of where you move to. The safety precautions being taken at other tower blocks has meant residents have been evacuated to emergency accommodation. Camden Council have provided pet friendly emergency options, which is fantastic.
I hope this sees a change in attitude towards pet owners and their housing needs. Currently there are a number of issues facing pet owners when finding a place to live. Whether you are renting or buying there are limits to the properties available to you if you have pets.
When renting a property you will be required to meet the criteria of the property owner and agent before you move in. There are many properties that automatically exclude pet owners. This may be because there is a clause in the original lease for the property or more commonly it’s in the rental contract from the owner or agent. This is usually because there are fears that pets can bring disruption in the form of:
- Noise for neighbours
- Damage to the property
- Fleas or other parasites left in the property
- allergy issue for future tenants
I feel there is sometimes the assumption that as pet owners we enjoy living in a flea infested noise hell! For the majority of pet owners this isn’t true, just as there are different living condition choices for those without pets.
While there as an element of the property owners own choice in what they put in a rental contract they cannot discriminate or be unfair. Therefore if you are trying to rent a property with a caged pet such as a hamster it could very likely be classed as unfair to refuse a potential tenant. However if it is a second floor small flat with no private outside space and you are asking to rent it with two springer spaniels then a landlord can fairly refuse a tenancy.
Having said that I have found often it is the letting agents who can make life difficult. On more than one occasion when trying to find a rental flat I have had a letting agent suggest either:
- we “get rid” of our pets
- we lie to the landlord about the pets
- they alter the contract without telling the landlord
I was appalled about all 3 suggestions. Re-homing centres are filled with the results of these attempted deceptions. People either so desperate to get a place to live they re-home their pets, or lie and later lose their home and their pet.
Leasehold issues with buying flats
Buying a property is not always any easier
When I was younger I dreamed of 3 things, I would own my own flat, and have a car and most of all a dog. In my mind owning my own flat would be needed to get a pet. While it can be easier to get a pet when you own your home it is not always the case. Flats and some houses come with a lease or set of criteria about how the tenant or owner can achieve “quiet enjoyment” of the propert.
When buying a property check the freehold or lease for clauses or covenants that may preclude animals being kept there.
Particularly with flats you should get your solicitor to check the lease for any “no pet” clauses. This takes time and money. We have spent weeks waiting for a solicitor to send a copy of the lease to my solicitor, to read it and say there is a no pet clause. Even although the agent and solicitors were advised we would not buy with a no pet clause they assumed we would still go ahead. They were all shocked when we pulled out and the solicitor even said “get rid of the pets”.
There may be a clause that states you can have pets if you do not cause a nuisance to your neighbours. This is enforcing that pets come under the quiet enjoyment rights of living in a property.
What can owners do to help?
It is clear that the issues with having a pet in a property are linked to the possible issue they may cause. As a pet owner you can help yourself by taking a few simple steps.
Keep your pet up to date with vaccines and flea and worming treatment. You can provide a copy of your vet records to show your pet is registered with and regularly seen by a vet. This shows you are responsible.
You can write your pet a CV, as suggested by Dogs Trust on their excellent advice website for pet owners and landlords. The CV can include information on who cares for your dog while you are at work, or a reference from a previous landlord.
Where damage is the issue offering to pay a larger deposit can help. While I’ve always questioned the practicality of this – if my dog is going to chew off all the skirting boards 2 weeks extra rent is unlikely to cover the cost of repairing this – many landlords find this acceptable.
I would always advise to try and speak directly to the owner rather than the letting agent, or the management agent if buying. The typical estate agent wants as little work as possible to secure a sale or lease. Therefore if you are in an area of high demand they will try to find a way not to deal with pet owners. If you can speak to the people who actually make the decisions then you are more likely to negotiate a deal that includes your pets. In reality if you have pets you don’t want to move more than you have to and most people recognise this when you approach them.