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Think tank launched to address lack of pet-friendly housing

House sharing platform SpareRoom has teamed up with charities RSPCA and Crisis, landlord representatives, economists and vets and to launch a ‘think tank for pets’ which will address the lack of pet-friendly rental accommodation in the UK.

They hope the coalition will develop ideas and policy suggestions to encourage more landlords to consider allowing pets into their properties – an issue that’s becoming ever more important as young people spend longer in private rented accommodation before getting on the housing ladder.

SpareRoom plans to employ cats and dogs as ‘research assistants’, to help better educate landlords and emphasise the positive effects that pets can have on tenants and properties.

The pets’ role would be to visit rented homes and demonstrate to landlords how well-trained cats and dogs might behave and treat their properties.

SpareRoom say landlords can benefit from more income, as many tenants are happy to pay a small premium to live in a pet-friendly home, with tenants benefitting from improved wellbeing.

They also believe it would also vastly reduce the numbers in animals that end up in rescue centres.

SpareRoom conducted research among tenants and landlords, which found that 78% of tenants said they have struggled to find rented accommodation that will allow their pet to live with them. This has resulted in 21% of tenants keeping a pet in their property without their landlord’s knowledge, and breaching the terms of their rental contract in the process.

Despite the popularity of pets among Brits, figures from SpareRoom reveal that only 7% of ads in the UK on SpareRoom would ‘consider’ pets, with this dropping to just 5% in London.

Landlord’s cited smell (57%), potential damage to the property (55%) and concerns they won’t be trained (37%) as their main reasons for not allowing pets in their properties.

Despite landlords’ reservations, a massive 88% of pet owners claim they’ve never experienced any complaints and that their pets have never caused damage to the property.

Matt Hutchinson, Communications Director for SpareRoom said: ‘We know that allowing pets into rented homes can be particularly beneficial – and in more ways than people might think.

‘Pets can be a source of higher rental income for landlords, but they can also improve the wellbeing of tenants, reduce the number of pets given up for rehoming or, worse, abandoned, and they can even have an impact on reducing homelessness.

‘Ultimately, there’s no reason tenants shouldn’t be able to live with pets, subject to certain relevant conditions and checks being in place. By finding the obstacles and removing them, as well as seeing the positives, not just the negatives, we should be able to make it much easier for people to have a pet, whether they own their home or not.’

SpareRoom has suggested including pet damage in insurance policies and tenants signing a ‘pet contract’ which would make them liable in case of damage.

They also say they would like to see a set policy that all social housing providers must take pets.

Richard Lambert, CEO of the National Landlords Association (NLA), told NewStart that the NLA encourages landlords to consider letting to tenants with pets as these tenants tend to stay longer and look after the property well.

‘We’ve been working with both Lets With Pets and Cats Protection to provide landlords with the right guidance to allow pets,’ added Mr Lambert.

‘There are a few steps landlords can take to mitigate the perceived risk, such as inserting specific clauses into the tenancy agreement. However, not all properties are suitable for pets, and some leasehold agreements prohibit them, so landlords do need to take these factors into account when making their decision.’

Thomas Barrett
Senior journalist - NewStart Follow him on Twitter

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