Why Pet Friendly Properties Matter
09 FEBRUARY 2022
At Battersea, we know the absolute joy a pet can bring. This is why we want to keep challenging unreasonable barriers to pet ownership. Renting is often one of those barriers, so we’ve launched a new report as part of our ongoing campaign to promote pet-friendly properties in both the private and social rental sectors.
The value of pets
The anxiety many people felt due to the COVID-19 pandemic shone a spotlight on the value of our pets for our mental health. Pet owners are 60% more likely than non-pet owners to get to know people in their neighbourhoods and build support networks. Pet owners also make 15% fewer visits to a doctor, which translates as a saving to the NHS of £2.45 billion a year.
Battersea research found that rescue animals were an integral source of support during the first national lockdown in 2020, with 91% of dog owners and 89% of cat owners saying their animal helped them cope.
However, the pandemic also highlighted how unfair barriers to keeping a pet can be, with whole communities excluded from the benefits of pet ownership.
Renting with Pets
In the UK, 4.6 million households (23% of all households) rent their home from 2.6 million private landlords. But in 2021, Zoopla reported that only 7% of those landlords listed their properties as suitable for pets.
The traditional role of the private rental sector was to provide easy access to housing. Tenants aimed to leave private rentals fairly quickly and get long-term housing in the social or owner-occupier sectors. However, things are changing. Tenants are staying longer in private rentals and there are now more households with children in the sector. This brings even more demand for pet-friendly accommodation in the sector as families with children are the most likely to own or want to own pets.
What we found
Demand for pet-friendly accommodation in the sector is high, with 43% of tenants owning a pet and a further 33% aspiring to own a pet now or in the future. This suggests that 76% of tenants are impacted by landlord pet policies and these restrictions on pets could be problematic for 3.6 million households in the UK alone. Three in four tenants are looking for somewhere they could potentially take on a pet – a huge consideration for landlords.
Battersea’s discussions with landlord organisations revealed a willing and constructive attitude towards pet ownership. Generally, it was felt that tenants should be able to keep a pet, unless there were reasonable grounds for refusing requests. Key obstacles they raised were concerns that pets would cause damage, a lack of practical guidance on what to consider when renting to tenants with pets, and limited ways to provide security for the landlord.
Fizzy Living is an example of an organisation making pet-friendly policies work for landlords. Fizzy asks tenants to provide a ‘pet passport’, which includes an up-to-date record of their microchip and vaccination details. It also charges a monthly fee in addition to the rent that covers pet-related services. In 2019, 40% of its tenants had a pet. Fizzy Living’s experience is that owning a pet has no impact on whether any deposit is withheld at the end of tenancy. This indicates that pet-owning tenants do not cause any more damage than other tenants.
What can be done?
Battersea is calling on the Government to review its Model Tenancy Agreement to ensure that its being taken up and used by landlords to support more pet ownership in rented properties. We also know that more landlords would accept pets if they could insist tenants take out insurance against damage caused by pets, which is something that could be achieved through amending the Tenant Fees Act 2019.
We’re also going to be pulling together a toolkit for tenants and landlords with practical tips to help more people to have constructive conversations about how responsible pet ownership can be supported in appropriate properties.
How you can get involved
To find out more about the campaign, visit our webpage where you can also sign up to pledge your support and receive campaign updates in the process. You can also find out more by following the Battersea Public Affairs team Twitter account.