TrustedHouseSitters is a popular website used by homeowners and petsitters worldwide.
The major benefit of TrustedHouseSitters is that it allows homeowners to find free pet sitters and the petsitters to get free accommodation. All sounds brilliant, right?
But there are a few things that TriustedHouseSitters don’t make obviously clear until you dig below the surface in the terms and conditions. Sadly many people only become aware of these terms and conditions when they run into problems during or after a sit.
So I have taken the liberty to read through their Terms and Conditions and write this blog highlighting things I’ve come to realise that many users of TrustedHouseSitters are not aware of.
Things Homeowners Should Know About TrustedHouseSitters
1. You cannot use internal audio or video recording or streaming devices during the duration of the sit. These need to be deactivated when the homeowner leaves. In addition, any external cameras, whilst permitted MUST be declared to the pet sitter, this includes devices like Ring doorbells etc.
If a sitter discovers an active video or audio recording or streaming device in the home during the sit you will be in breach of TrustedHouseSitters Terms and Conditions and potentially liable to a GDPR claim by the pet sitter.
2. You can request contributions towards utility bills. This must be discussed and agreed with the pet sitter/s BEFORE a sit is agreed upon. Whilst it is perfectly permitted that homeowners can request contributions, of the 17 sits I have completed through TrustedHouseSitters, I have never personally been asked by a homeowner to contribute. And if I were asked to contribute I would turn down the sit.
3. Pet sitters in the UK are not police/DBS checked. This seems to be a common misconception of homeowners on TrustedHouseSitters and is likely due to the way that the platform’s website is worded. Pet sitters in the UK are not DBS checked. The only ID a UK-based pet sitter has to provide is a picture of their photo ID, for example, a driver’s license or passport. So hardly ‘vetting’ in my opinion as they require nothing else to confirm the pet sitters address or any validation whatsoever that the ID provided is indeed the person submitting it.
In the US, US-based pet sitters are Police checked.
4. You need a work permit or right to work in the UK to undertake free pet sitting. Many pet sitters on the platform use it as a cheap way to travel to various countries. However, by UK law, a non-UK resident would require a work permit to undertake even a free pet-sitting gig. The free accommodation is considered ‘income’ in the UK and many other countries in the world. Therefore, there is a small risk that a pet sitter from abroad may be deported at the point of entry if it is determined that they are here to provide pet-sitting services. This has actually occurred a couple of times in the UK and given how much pressure is on the UK border control these days, it would not surprise me if they are doing far stricter checks these days. The TrustedHouseSitters website makes mention of the work visa requirement for many countries however it seems many homeowners and pet sitters are chancing their luck. There are a few posts on their Forum about people having been stopped and deported by customs on arrival. Not only were they refused entry but they were either banned permanently from returning to the country or for a significant period of time.
If you are considering an International pet-sitter either confirm that they have the necessary work visa for your country or be prepared to take the risk that if they are refused entry would you be able to arrange alternative care for your pet/s.
TrustedHouseSitters addresses this issue and even provides template letters that sitters visiting another country can produce at Customs. You can read more about that here
Having read the template they have provided for the UK I’m simply not convinced that Customs would accept the contents thereof as UK entry requirements clearly state:
They (visitors to the UK) do not intend and will not be undertaking any prohibited activities during their stay in the UK, which include:
providing goods and services while they are in the UK
The very nature of caring for a person’s home and pets is providing a service. Professional pet sitters (those who earn an income through pet sitting) are regarded as service providers so I’m not convinced that TrustedHouseSitters attempt to bypass this requirement has been met in their template.
5. Home and contents protection insurance isn’t all it seems to be. You MUST have your own underlying home insurance. Quote directly from their Home and Contents Protection Insurance Terms and Conditions:
“Pet Parents must have their own Underlying insurance policy and must first attempt to claim through that policy. Only if this claim is rejected can our guarantee be used.”
So I’m not sure if it’s just me, but that pretty much makes their insurance pointless if you have to claim on your own insurance anyway? If your own insurance refuses to pay your claim then it’s highly unlikely TrustedHouseSitters will.
To be eligible to claim on this insurance you must have an active membership with TrustedHouseSitters for the duration of the sit.
You cannot claim if the pet sitter does not admit liability unless the damage is Malicious damage or Theft. So you are relying on the sitter to be honest if they do break or cause damage in your home.
This clause, under the ‘What’s Not Covered’ section, seems especially strange to me:
“mysterious disappearance, loss, or any unexplained loss of Contents; “
That seems to be covering TrustedHouseSitters from claims against theft 🤔
Another section of the Terms and Conditions which UK pet owners should question, I have to admit, I’m not entirely sure what this means but will attempt to find out and update accordingly:
13. We shall not provide any benefit or be liable to provide any benefit under this guarantee which:
(b) would breach economic, financial or trade sanctions imposed by Canada, the European Union, United Kingdom or the United States of America.
For TrustedHouseSitters to settle a claim they expect several things, the ones of specific interest to me are:
1. Mediation – Pet Parents and Sitter(s) should resolve any Sitter damage under $1,000 between themselves and at a minimum, We expect Pet Parents and / or Sitter(s) to contribute at least $250 towards any instance of Sitter damage (including theft).
I highly recommend you read the entirety of the Home and Contents Protection Insurance Terms and Conditions.
Things Pet Sitters Should Know About TrustedHouseSitters
6, You cannot request payment. Whilst homeowners are permitted to request contributions to utilities, a pet sitter can not request contributions to travel costs, food etc.
This seems highly biased in my opinion. A homeowner can request contributions but as a pet sitter, you cannot. In a fair and equal system of exchange, either neither party would be able to request contributions or both parties would be.
7. Check the visa requirements of the country you wish to visit. As per point 4 above, many countries require that if you are providing a service, which house and pet sitting is essentially classified as, you are legally required to have a work permit for that country.
The templates that TrustedHouseSitters have provided seem very unreliable to me and I personally would not risk presenting them to customs, especially in the UK where house and pet sitting is definitely classified as providing a service.
As there is an element of responsibility involved with house and pet sitting it would be very difficult to argue that you are simply a tourist or visiting the country for leisure. Leisure travel typically does not include responsibility for someone’s house or pets.
So be aware of this risk when visiting certain countries as if you are caught out then it’s very possible that you will be prohibited from visiting the country again.
8. You cannot cancel an agreed sit. As a pet sitter, you cannot cancel an agreed sit with a homeowner. Only the homeowner has the ability to cancel an agreed sit. Once again, this feels very biased against the pet sitter.
If you have to cancel an agreed sit for any reason, you will need to get agreement from the homeowner and they will have to cancel it and then relist it to get new applications.
According to TrustedHouseSitters guidelines, both homeowners and pet sitters should only cancel agreed sits for exceptional reasons.
In the 9 months I have been a member of TrustedHouseSitters I have had 3 cancellations by the homeowner. Two of them didn’t even message me to explain why they were cancelling. When I reported these issues to THS they took no action and simply stated, ‘We are sorry this has happened’.
If you have made travel arrangements, bought tickets etc, this can leave you out of pocket as a sitter unless you have their sit cancellation insurance as a premium member. Be sure to read through the T&Cs of the insurance because as with all insurance, there are several clauses that could catch you out and invalidate the insurance. For example, if you agree with the homeowner to cancel the sit then you will not be permitted to claim.
The following exclusion clause may be an issue for international sitters:
When the sit is cancelled due to regulations set by the government of any country (such as travel restrictions,enforced quarantining, area lockdowns).
So if you attempt to enter the UK for example and you do not have a work permit and you are refused entry, you would not be able to claim for any costs.
TrustedHouseSitters is a fantastic opportunity for sitters to visit new areas of their own country, or indeed visit other countries. However, it is important for both homeowners and pet sitters to be aware of all the above points and to understand that the platform is nothing more than a ‘match-making’ service.
In my opinion, there is no great benefit in joining THS as opposed to finding a pet sitter yourself through a Facebook group like Pet Sitters and Home Boarders UK. Given that UK sitters are not properly vetted means that the onus is still absolutely on the homeowner to do their due diligence, check reviews, have video calls with the sitter, call references etc. No different to what a homeowner would do with someone off Facebook.
Given that a homeowner needs to have and make claims on their own home and contents insurance first, again I don’t really see the benefit of joining THS for this particular ‘benefit’.
Pet sitters absolutely do face prejudice on the platform and if/when things go wrong, my personal experience is that customer service doesn’t really take action against homeowners even when it’s a clear breach of the terms and conditions of the platform.
THS is a great platform when things go smoothly, however, when things go wrong, and unfortunately sometimes things go really wrong (death of pets, theft, significant damage to property, last minute cancellations etc) then by many reports you are on your own and THS are not forthcoming in putting things right.
Homeowners, understand that you are engaging with a sitter who is providing a service for free, primarily for the reason of travel. Be realistic with what you expect from a free sitter and understand the risk that comes with any service that is provided for free. If the sitter decides to cancel the sit because they no longer wish to travel to your country or area then there really is nothing but their own ethics preventing them from cancelling the sit. You have no recourse to leave a review for a cancelled sit. You might contact customer support, and in some instances, I have heard that they have ‘forced’ a sitter to continue with the sit but as a homeowner do you really want someone in your home caring for your pets that is being forced to be there against their will?
Pet sitters, be aware of the prejudiced nature of the platform against pet sitters. When a homeowner cancels a sit you really are on your own and in my, and other sitters I have gotten to know experience, THS will almost always take no action against the homeowner.
Check out their reviews on Trustpilot
Whilst there are 1000s of 5* ratings on TrustPilot of TrustedHouseSitters, there are also around 700 (at the time of writing this post) 1 and 2-star reviews. it is important when looking at reviews for any business that you read the negative reviews as these will give you a good understanding of how a business deals with issues when things don’t go smoothly.
Get 25% off TrustedHouseSitters Subscription
If you accept everything pointed out above and would like to use TrustedHouseSitters for your pet-sitting requirements then use the link below to get 25% off your membership (I will receive 2 months free in return).
And don’t forget, do your due diligence folks!
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