Tuesday, 28 September 2021

If you want a property let... it’s time to say yes to pets

It’s a dog’s life if you’re looking for a rental that will not only be a

It’s a dog’s life if you’re looking for a rental that will not only be a fit for you and your family, but also for your best friend. LUCY BOON investigates

A FEW years ago a pet population report compiled by the Pet Food Manufacturing Association (PFMA) thew up some interesting figures.

It showed that 45 per cent of UK households have pets, out of which 25 per cent of households own dogs and 19 per cent cats.

But if such a high percentage of us have pets, such as a family dog or cat, what happens when we need to find rented accommodation?

According to local estate agents, this issue is something they come across all the time.

“At Simmons & Sons we find that there are always more applicants with pets than we have suitable properties for,” says Ashling Fox-Wilson of the Bell Street agency.

“Not all landlords are happy to accept the higher degree of wear and tear that pets will have on fixtures and fittings, although in our experience damage caused by pets is rare.

“Rural properties are often more difficult to let unless they accept pets, as the type of tenant who wishes to live in a rural property is often someone who wants to enjoy walks in the countryside and owns a dog.

“We always try to make it clear from the outset whether a property will welcome pets as we find that this attracts enquiries from pet owners.”

According to Savills, also in Bell Street, the number of lettings applicants with pets searching for a home appears to have grown.

Richard Maby, head of Savills’ Henley lettings, says this may be due in part to the increase in numbers entering the lettings market.

“Historically, landlords have preferred to not accept tenants with pets due to the additional wear and tear and, in extreme cases, the damage they believe pets can cause to a property.

“However, when faced with the choice between accepting a tenant with a pet over a potential void period, some landlords may be reassured that there are certain steps that can be taken in order to reduce damage to a property, thereby making the proposition of accepting pets more palatable.

“Simple changes to the property interior, such as installing laminate or wooden flooring, rather than carpet, will increase longevity as well as hygiene. The suitability of a particular pet needs to be assessed in line with the accommodation available within a particular property.

“It is also worth remembering that, for tenants with pets, we include specific clauses within the tenancy agreement. These ensure an increased deposit is taken and that any damage caused by a pet, either to the house or garden, is fully reimbursed at the end of a tenancy.

“A professional clean is always required at the end of a tenancy but any additional cleaning, such as steam cleaning or fumigation, can also be included and covered by these additional clauses.

“It is my experience that landlords who will consider taking tenants with pets tend to be those who experience fewer void periods than those who don’t. Given the increased number of people entering the private rented sector and the practical steps that can be taken to limit property damage, I would urge all landlords who want to reduce void periods to seriously consider all offers including those from applicants with pets.”

Richard is not the only local agent to see things this way.

Katie White, lettings manager at Hamptons International in Hart Street, says: “We are finding that a high proportion of our applicant base are entering the rental market having sold a property, and obviously when you own your own home the decision as to whether to have a pet or not is entirely yours.

“These families are then looking to move, bringing their furry family members with them. Almost 45 per cent of our currently registered applicants have pets.

“These are high-calibre applicants who can tick all the boxes in every other way. However, landlords are wary of the damage and mess they think a pet may cause.

“Obviously, not every property is suitable for pets, but I do feel there is the potential to miss out on some fantastic tenants by not considering pets on a case by case basis.

“As we explain to our clients, there are a number of ways to protect and reassure them about having a pet in the property, such as an increased deposit as well as clauses regarding liability when it does come to any repairs or cleaning required due to the pet.

“I think that by being a little more open to considering pets, landlords will absolutely reduce any potential void periods as they will be reaching a much broader applicant base and hopefully will secure a long-term tenant for their property with minimal vacant periods.”

Hart Street-based agency Romans also finds itself coming up against the issue of pets time and again.

Romans lettings manager Charlotte Mellor said: “For tenants with pets, it’s long been an issue that rented accommodation where their pets are welcome is especially difficult to come by.

“When we say pets, the general enquiry is whether the landlord will accept either a cat or a dog at the property. In many cases head leases dictate that pets are not allowed, so the option is already out of the landlords’ hands.

“But where the head lease is not restrictive or the rented property is a freehold, and therefore the decision is the landlord’s own, could landlords benefit from offering their property to pet owners?

“Currently, many families looking express to us that they want a home that is pet-friendly. Landlords with family homes to rent could potentially open themselves up to another 50 per cent of the market if they took pets into consideration, and that could make a big difference towards avoiding any potential void period.”

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