Startups disrupt discrimination against tenants with pets
Pet owners are often excluded from renting homes by owners and agents who don’t want the hassle and risk associated with furry residents, whether it’s damage to appliances, accessories and furniture or odors, hair loss or barking at night disturbing neighbors.
Yet with more and more people becoming pet parents and the share of renters versus homebuyers on the rise due to unaffordable house prices in many European countries, the current system has a urgent need for change to fight discrimination. Could digital innovation and proptech help?
Natasha Homer-Earley, a tech veteran with past roles at Nokia and Virgin, experienced the issue firsthand when she returned to the UK and struggled for months to find property to rent with her dog , Daisy.
The United States has around 135 million pet owners, but only 11 million properties allow tenants with pets.
Reading online forums and doing her own market research in 24 countries, she realized that the problem was huge and growing. Of the 1 billion renters in the countries she studied, about 857 million owned pets and there weren’t enough properties for them.
The United States, for example, has around 135 million pet owners, but only 11 million properties allow renters with pets. Europe is not getting better. The UK has around 5 million pet renters and only 119,000 pet-friendly rentals. According to the UK government, only 7% of owners report their properties are suitable for pets and 55% have blanket ‘no pets’ bans. The problem has worsened since the Rental Fees Act in 2019 abolished a provision allowing owners to request additional security deposits for pets.
In the UK, 55% of owners have blanket ‘no pets’ bans.
In Spain, Germany and France, where rentals are more common, the problem is getting worse as pet ownership increases, Homer-Earley says. Owners are a major reason many pets end up in animal shelters. With nearly half of the growth in millennial pet owners between 2007 and 2017, and half of millennials planning to rent at age 40, the problem will only get worse without change, predicts. Homer-Earley.
Political and legal changes can help. Campaigners in the UK, for example, are pushing for changes, such as amending the Rental Charges Act to allow pet damage insurance to be an authorized payment, which could help address homeowners’ fears and allow the insurance industry to start manufacturing products.
Homer-Ealey is hoping that digital innovation, as well as educating owners about the typical profile of pet owners, say long-term renters on average, could also help. She just launched the world’s first online pet referencing platform to do just that.
PetsScore allows renters to create a free digital pet profile based on structured questions about the types of issues that owners typically care about. Once created, PetsScore sends referral requests to former owners, rental agents, and even sharing economy hosts, which it combines with questionnaire data to produce a risk score, much like a rating. credit, which owners and agents can trust.
“Right now, there is no platform for creating digital pet credentials. “
It starts with a digital paper trail that makes life easier for tenants and landlords in the future.
“Right now, there is no platform for creating digital pet credentials. You have to create a paper benchmark, ”she tells Sifted. “Creating these digitally and being able to track the animal from one property to another can solve a major problem.”
Homer-Earley understands the perspectives of renters and pet owners, coming from a family of real estate developers, while her tech background has helped her see how digital innovation can facilitate the process. “I’ve seen both sides of it. We had to create something that would meet the demands of owners and rental agents with a level of thoroughness that you would find in, say, fintech ”.
Pet owners are a missed opportunity
She believes, however, that the owners are missing a trick to seeing pets as a problem. “Pet tenants are the best kept secret of rentals; they rent on average 48 months compared to tenants without pets at 20 months and the youngest would pay 10% more rent for a pet ”.
“Pet tenants are the best kept secret of rentals; they rent for an average of 48 months.
Longer leases save the landlord the considerable costs associated with the re-advertisement. Each pet tenant in the UK could generate £ 12,000 in additional income and cost savings per property over a 48-month period. Homer-Earley estimates that the UK’s 2.7 million private landlords could earn £ 32 billion if they all rented a property to pet owners.
More progressive owners see pet ownership and long-term rental as a twin generational trend – and a business opportunity. “When we started in 2012, we noticed a gap in the pet owner market and how difficult it was to find rental accommodation,” says Harry.
Downes, Managing Director of Fizzy Living, an awesome UK Built-to-Let developer focusing on young tenants.
“Most of our staff have pets, so we knew firsthand how difficult it was to hire in London while owning a pet. We also wanted to make rentals more accessible to young professional pet owners ”.
Citing data on the positive effect on mental health of owning a pet, Downes said that “pets are happy tenants, which is good for business.”
Tap into the pet network
Technology can also help homeowners once in properties; The Fizzy Living resident app allows them to find local promotional deals, connect with neighbors, and talk to property managers about any issues. “Renters often log in through the forum to discuss local pet providers and services,” Downes told Sifted.
The company’s biggest development, Fizzy East16, will even introduce a “washroom” with a pet washing and grooming station, along with grooming supplies and treats.
“The conversation has to evolve and technology is driving it forward. “
In the months and years to come, there will be more opportunities to bring fintech, proptech and data together to improve the matching process. PetsScore, for example, plans to partner up to cover more aspects of the rental process; he recently signed a letter of intent with InventoryBase, a UK software company, to create a specially designed pet registration, inspection and payment process.
“The technology will not solve the problem of pets damaging property, but it will create a fairer process for everyone,” Steve Rad, CEO of InventoryBase, told Sifted. “From owner to owner, everyone is different and what one considers normal wear and tear, another considers damage caused by animals. The conversation needs to evolve and technology is driving it forward.