Thousands of Brits up and down the country are struggling to pay their climbing energy bills, taxes and rent, as the cost of living continues to rise.
One woman has shared her financial battles after spending a whopping £4,500 in two months on Airbnb apartments because she couldn’t find an affordable London rental flat to accept her dog.
Single pet owner Kirsty Hunt, 36, was made redundant in August 2020, at the same time the lease expired on her rental flat, so she resorted in temporary accommodation.
Desperate for a place to call home, Kirsty took out a £23k loan to secure a year’s rent in the capital, but has now found herself without a flat again.
The dog groomer says her four-year-old French bulldog Harper is her “lifeline” and is calling on landlords to make renting easier for people and pets.
Kirsty explained: “My dog means everything to me. I’m not in a relationship and I don’t have children, so she is like my baby.
“I tried to be smart and do everything right and wait until I had a stable job and good money, so I could care for a dog, but that was all taken out of my control.
“I don’t want anyone to go through what I have had to go through.”
Kirsty has always wanted a pooch, but she didn’t get one until she knew she could care for it responsibly.
She said: “I did doggy day care for a while and then short-term fostering while I was in shared accommodation, but then I got to the point where I thought I was ready.
“I was in my 30s, had my own rented flat with a shared garden and a stable job.”
In February 2018, Kirsty adopted Harper from a rescue and “loved her straight away”.
“It took her a very long time to play with me or let me cuddle her, but now she is like my shadow and we can’t be apart,” she explained.
But everything came crashing down quickly after the pandemic hit in 2020, with Kirsty initially being furloughed from her role as a retail operations and project manager.
Then, just as she was told she would be facing redundancy in August, her landlord informed her that they would be selling the property where she rented – leaving her with two months to organise her life.
She said: “I was in sheer panic.
“It all happened at once and I thought, ‘What am I going to do for work? What will happen to Harper? Where will I stay?”
For those weeks, Kirsty frantically searched for both work and a new dog-friendly flat.
Luckily, she landed a job as a retail assistant and dog groomer at a pet shop in London, but was no nearer to finding a new home and suddenly found herself on a much tighter budget.
She said: “I couldn’t stay with family because they were outside London, where I worked.
“It was never a question of leaving Harper – she is my everything, I could never leave her.
“But it was an absolute nightmare. Nowhere would take dogs.”
Kirsty was forced to find urgent and immediate accommodation, resorting to the holiday homes and apartment rental service, Airbnb.
Forking out £86 a week for storage for her furniture, Kirsty left her flat with Harper in one arm and a suitcase in the other.
She said: “I managed to find an eco cabin with a sofa bed in Wimbledon, south west London for a week, which was pet friendly, so I stayed there.
“Then I found an Airbnb for one night, another for three and another for five.
“I would drag my suitcase to and from work with Harper coming with me. I felt like I was homeless.”
Whilst most of the properties were well-kept, Kirsty said some were less so.
She said: “Some of the places were horrible and I would be sharing with other people.
“It really stressed Harper out too which was heart-breaking. I tried to be resilient, but I felt so alone.”
In the space of two months, Kirsty ended up staying in 15 properties at a cost of £4,500.
Getting more and more desperate, when she finally found an apartment in November 2020 that said it would accept dogs, she offered everything.
She said: “I found a two bed flat in Richmond, south west London, which would take a pet.
“I put down a deposit, said I would clean, explained that Harper was a little dog, who never made any noise.
“It went to a bidding frenzy and I was so desperate, I offered to pay six months rent up front.
“I thought, surely, they would take it, but they asked for a whole year.”
Kirsty accepted and took out a bank loan for £23,200 so she could finance the move.
She said: “It was such a massive relief, but I was absolutely petrified of not earning the money back.
“I dramatically cut back on everything, I would take Harper to work with me, walked everywhere instead of using public transport, avoided meals out and just became a hermit, really.”
Most upsetting to Kirsty, however, was the effect it had on Harper, who became “unsettled and so protective”.
Then when Kirsty came to the end of her contract this year, she was forced to move back home to Somerset with her 61-year-old mum, Julie Hunt.
She said: “With the cost of everything now, I couldn’t afford to pay another whole year up front.
“I was lucky that I could go home with Harper this time, because my mum’s dog had passed away, but it is not ideal.
“I am going to have to start looking for another place to stay in London – it’s where my friends are and that’s where I work and my life is.”
Despite a recent government white paper, ‘A fairer rented sector,’ meant to make it easier to rent for people and pets, Kirsty is not hopeful.
She said: “I don’t want anyone to have to go through what we went through.
“My fear is that landlords will still be able to slip through the cracks and get away with things, but I am hopeful that the white paper proposals could help.
“We are a nation of pet lovers, so how many people are at risk of their tenancies being terminated and not being able to find a place with their dog?
“Our pets are members of the family and putting people in these situations is horrible.”