No mortgage, no pet: half of tenants who fear never owning own home face uphill battle in pet-averse rented sector
New research from animal welfare charity Battersea reveals that one in two tenants fear they will never buy a home, with the growing number of lifetime renters significantly limiting the UK’s aspirations of pet ownership.
In the UK, the share of households occupied by private renters has almost doubled in two decades.  Whilst 76% of tenants currently own or aspire to own a pet,  with 1 in 3 saying their pets help their mental wellbeing, last year just 7% of private landlords listed their properties as allowing animals.  This highlights the rented sector’s stark failure to meet growing demand amongst tenants for pet friendly accommodation.
The findings of the Battersea survey, which polled a nationally representative sample of 2,000 UK adults, are part of the charity’s ongoing Pet Friendly Properties campaign and come after the Government unveiled a series of new pet friendly policies in its long-awaited White Paper, ‘A fairer rented sector’, last month. The proposed measures include formally granting tenants the right to request an animal in their property, whilst requiring landlords to provide a justifiable reason for refusing a pet. With 1 in 4 people identifying a lack of pet friendly properties as one of the biggest housing issues in the UK, Battersea’s findings confirm the scale of the issue for the booming industry.
Peter Laurie, Battersea’s Chief Executive, said: “At Battersea, we take in much-loved pets for many reasons – but one factor we see owners cite time and time again is not being able to find a rental property that allows animals. It’s heart-breaking to see owners having to give up their cherished pets for lack of housing options.
“With long-term renting firmly on the rise, we’re calling on the Government to do more to increase the number of pet friendly homes across the country. Not only will this help ensure more dogs and cats are able to stay in their original, loving homes, it will also allow more people to enjoy the many benefits of responsible pet ownership.”
Fortunately, there are already landlords who support their tenants’ choice to own a pet. Dominic Payne de Cramilly, an Essex-based landlord with two dogs and two cats of his own, has had very good experiences with pet-owning tenants. A National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) member and landlord of 25 years, he believes the benefits of renting to pet owners – like lower tenant turnover and gaining a commercial edge over animal-averse competitors – have so far gone relatively unnoticed by landlords.
Dominic said: “Providing the property is suitable for the type of pet a tenant owns, I have absolutely no issue renting to a pet owner. Ultimately, I find animals are a product of their owners – if the tenant is well behaved, chances are their pet will be too. I’ve been a landlord for a quarter of a century and have had far more issues with humans causing damage in my properties than I’ve ever had with pets. The idea of all pets being destructive is a massive misconception, and there’s definitely some myth-busting to be done amongst the landlord community.”
One of Battersea’s recommendations, which was acknowledged in the Government’s latest White Paper, is to inform more landlords and tenants of the benefits of taking out insurance against pet damage. The charity’s research shows this kind of solution is well-received by landlords, with 70 per cent saying they were more likely to consider having pets in their accommodation if certain precautions, such as damage insurance, were taken. 
One tenant who reached a workable compromise with her landlord is Sophie Savage. After spending 18 months searching in vain for rental accommodation that would accept both her and her 13-year-old cat, she finally found an understanding landlord. The charity is encouraging more tenants like Sophie to broach the pet conversation with their landlords. As with Sophie, this will hopefully help them reach practical agreements and, in turn, enable more renters to reap the benefits of pet ownership.
Sophie said: “I think the reason why my situation works so well is that my landlord and I have communicated openly and honestly from the beginning, which is something that benefits us both. From the start I’ve taken sensible steps to avoid anything getting damaged – like putting a plastic shield around my stair banister to stop my cat from scratching it – which has helped create a shared sense of trust. The experience has proved to me that, providing both parties are willing to talk to each other and make reasonable adjustments, this kind of landlord-tenant relationship can be a really positive one.”
To find out more about Battersea’s Pet Friendly Properties campaign and sign a pledge to show your support for renters to have the opportunity to experience the joys of pet ownership, please visit www.battersea.org.uk/pet-friendly-properties.
 BDRC survey