Sim Sekhon: Finding a home for furry friends

I remember a conversation, from more than a decade ago, with a woman who was desperately searching for a rental property where her three large dogs would be welcome. She was struggling, and in the end, her situation was only resolved, at the eleventh hour, when she agreed to pay a massive deposit to a landlord. At the time, it was generally accepted that rental properties were pet-free zones and to be a tenant meant a life without the companionship of a dog or cat. Some landlords even frowned upon budgies, a rabbit hutch in the garden or a tank of tropical fish.

Having animals in a property, however well behaved, does increase the likelihood of problems and no doubt most landlords would still prefer to minimise all their risks, but the rental market is growing and forcing change. Renting is more and more a long-term situation. Families put down roots in an area, children are born and start at the local school. Gardens are tended and friends made in the neighbourhood. Tenants aren’t just short-term visitors but are part of their local communities and just like the homeowners out there, they love their animals. Many are simply unwilling to wait for that far-off day when they may own their own homes. Others want their children to grow up alongside a pet and learn the responsibility of taking care of them.

It’s not easy. It is possible.

It’s still not easy to find a landlord who will welcome a four-legged friend, but it’s no longer a nightmare. In fact, some landlords are seeing it as a market niche and making sure that potential tenants know their pet-owning needs will be respected. So, if you own a pet and are looking for a tenancy, how do you go about convincing a landlord that your pet will be no trouble?

In short, you need to show you’re responsible. Firstly, consider the suitability of the property carefully. Has it got secure boundaries, for example? Is there adequate space? Is the neighbourhood appropriate?  Then, be prepared to show your landlord things like a pet’s vaccination records and if you’ve got a reference from a previous landlord, ask them to provide some info about your pet. If the landlord still isn’t sure, you could even arrange for them to meet your pet.

Recent changes to tenancy deposits have effectively stopped landlords charging extra “just in case” fees because of a pet, but it’s not against the rules for a landlord to charge extra on the monthly rent and you might need to spend a little more to rent a pet-friendly property.

Existing tenants

If you’re an existing tenant considering acquiring a pet, check the terms of your tenancy agreement. If pets are excluded, be prepared to talk to the landlord openly and honestly about what you would like to do and ask for permission. If you’ve got a good relationship, the landlord may see your request to bring a pet into the home as a sign you’re going to be a settled long-term tenant, something that most landlords prefer to the constant changeovers and risk of void periods.

If you do get the go-ahead, stick to what’s been agreed. If your landlord has reluctantly agreed to one cat, it’s not okay to have three. If you’ve told them you’re getting a small dog, make sure you both understand what you mean by small. Your bullmastiff puppy might be small now, but he’s not going to stay that way.

Finally, if you’re on the hunt for a pet-friendly property, don’t forget to mention it to your letting agent. You’ll find their knowledge of great help.

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