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Do you agree with the Government's plans to make renting with pets easier?

PUBLISHED: 19:01 28 January 2020

House-rabbits can be great 'tenants', if they have a diligent owner   Picture: Katie Versey

House-rabbits can be great 'tenants', if they have a diligent owner Picture: Katie Versey

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With a "model tenancy agreement" on the horizon there may be light relief for renters seeking accommodation with pets...but how easy will it really be to find these properties?

Katie Versey with Rodney, a three-year-old black and white Netherland Dwarf rabbit she and Jamie rehomed   Picture: Katie VerseyKatie Versey with Rodney, a three-year-old black and white Netherland Dwarf rabbit she and Jamie rehomed Picture: Katie Versey

This will sound weird, but stick with it. Katie Versey's feet are being tickled by the whiskers of a Netherland Dwarf rabbit as she tells her story of frustration, capped by a happy ending. But it seems she could do with still more cosseting. Mention "pets" and "renting" in the same breath and she admits it's "a topic that has always infuriated me!"

You can see why. When she and husband Jamie sought to rent a house with a garden, Katie would scan the details "and there it would be - NO PETS!

"I even wrote a letter explaining exactly what we wanted, that we were both working in steady jobs. Never missed a rent payment, took good care of our properties and we had the money for the deposit."

She sent it to every letting agent in a major Suffolk town. "I had one response. A phone call saying there could be a property available but they would have to call me back. They didn't."

Katie remembers viewing one home "and I asked the agent if it was going to go against us applying because we have pets. And in a non-direct way they said yes.

"We contemplated a caravan. I even contacted the housing association to see if we could get on the housing list, as I was led to believe they allow pets. I didn't go through with the application as I couldn't take a house from someone when we could afford to privately rent."

Meet Rodney   Picture: Katie VerseyMeet Rodney Picture: Katie Versey

There IS a problem. Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick wants landlords to make it easier for responsible tenants to keep well-behaved pets.

The Government says more young people and families than ever are renting, but only about 7% of landlords advertise homes as suitable for pets.

Some folk have been forced to give up their pets when unable to find a rented property that allows animals.

The Government will this year publish a new "model tenancy agreement". It's designed to encourage more landlords to remove restrictions on well-behaved pets.

Will it work?

Doris. 'She and Rodney fell in love instantly, which was great, because rabbits can be very hard to bond'   Picture: Katie VerseyDoris. 'She and Rodney fell in love instantly, which was great, because rabbits can be very hard to bond' Picture: Katie Versey

Robert Ulph is managing director of Pennington letting agency in Ipswich and is on the board of ARLA Propertymark, a UK professional and regulatory body for letting agents.

"A landlord has a right to choose who he/she wants in their property and to accept pets or not," he says. "Forcing landlords to take pets will only make landlords decide to exit the market; and, also, a lot of flats have head leases that have restrictions on them accepting pets, so I can't see how the Government would be able to implement this kind of law."

It seems any firm hand would be another squeeze on the sector.

"With the new Tenant Fees Act (which came in the middle of 2019), as ARLA Propertymark stated at the time, this will make it harder for owners with pets to find accommodation, as we used to be able to take a higher deposit to cover any damage.

"We as agents are now not legally able to take more than five weeks' deposit. So it will make it harder for agents to convince landlords to take pets now."

Jamie and Rodney   Picture: Katie VerseyJamie and Rodney Picture: Katie Versey

More of Katie's story

"My husband and I have always rented our homes. Due to medical reasons we were unable to have any children and trying to cope with that maternal instinct with nothing to pour it into was getting increasingly difficult.

"In a previous property, we got two indoor guinea pigs - Ginge and Blackie - without the landlord's knowledge or consent.

"When we moved to our next property I was honest from the get-go and mentioned our furry friends. They were very good and wrote it into our contract. They saw how clean the animals and the house in general was kept, so had no issues.

"We lost our Ginge to GI stasis when he was only two years old. Guinea pigs don't do very well on their own, so along came little Elvis, a tiny pig with a huge attitude. Three years went by and after many medical issues with the little guy we lost him also.

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"I knew Blackie didn't have much time left - he was approaching six years old - and from that point on I knew I couldn't have any more piggies, due to how heartbreaking it was, losing them after such a short amount of time.

"I've always wanted a dog, but where we were living was completely unsuitable (no garden), plus I knew it was a big ask for the landlord to go from two guinea pigs to a dog.

"We ended up re-homing Rodney, a three-year-old black and white Netherland Dwarf rabbit... Blackie went to join Ginge and Elvis not long before his 6th birthday.

"Since getting a house rabbit, I kept thinking how nice it would be in the summer for him to be able to run around in a garden. Plus, once in and settled in a new house, we could perhaps think about getting a dog."

It's then Katie started searching - and got another Netherland Dwarf: Doris. "She and Rodney fell in love instantly, which was great, because rabbits can be very hard to bond."

And the search, as Katie explained earlier, went on...

"I'd say a year passed of us actively looking for a house. I offered to pay extra deposits for pets, but the law has now changed and that can't be done anymore.

"We were literally days from giving up, and using our deposit money to book a holiday, when my husband received a message from a friend: that his partner was looking to rent her house out. In our price range, with a garden, and was happy for us to have pets! We were over the moon.

"We have been in the property since November and are so at home. We don't ever plan on leaving. And we are so grateful to have such a wonderful landlord!

"So any letting agents out there, you have missed out on many years of rent because you would not allow our little unorthodox family to live together.

"We have paid security deposits on all of our properties. Any minimal damage that has occurred, through the animals, we have fixed or paid for. We wash the carpets regularly. I do not understand the issue!"

Is there hope for others?

Well, Robert Ulph says the Dog Trust has a Lets with Pets leaflet. The scheme, says the trust, aims "to show landlords and letting agencies that accepting pets is straightforward and makes good business sense".

He also points out there are insurances owners can buy to give landlords greater peace of mind: if the pet does cause damage, it will be put right by the tenants.

So before looking for new accommodation, take advice from the Lets with Pets leaflet and tell agents you are prepared to get pet insurance cover for any damage over and above the deposit.

Details HERE.

Easily fixable?

We asked for comments about the issue. Here's a selection.

Tina T Bon: "I rent and have two cats. It's my main filter if looking for properties. It's like finding a needle in the haystack. I paid a bit more security deposit, which I was fine with."

Cary Midge Frost: "... It's a total discrimination against decent people who have a pet. Some landlords are quite happy to rent to a family that would wreck the house they are renting, but curse a pet-loving few that would more than look after their investment."

Colin Parks: "This is easily fixable. Landlord draws up a part in the contract that says 'Pets welcome', and then pops in the contract that any damage caused by the pet will be tenant's responsibility to sort.

"Simple. Everyone is happy, no-one has to give up a pet, the landlord's not out of pocket if it goes bad, and that's then fair for all involved."

June King: "When I was renting I always found a place I could take my dogs. If my dogs couldn't go, neither did I. They are my family. Unfortunately, like everything else it's a few bad owners that ruin it for the responsible ones."

Wendy Ann: "I was very fortunate and have a lovely landlord who let me have my dog in the house. I took her with me to the estate agents so they could meet her. That way they could tell the landlord they had met her. She fell asleep in the estate agents after so many belly rubs... they all fell in love with her!"

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