Letting with Pets – I instructed my letting agent to let my home whilst I’m working away. I specifically said no pets as I have expensive carpets and furniture but I now find the agent has let my house to a couple with two cats and a dog. What can I do?
Of course not all pets are bad for your property and providing the pets are properly house trained and cared for most landlords will find them perfectly acceptable in practice.
In fact, according to the Dogs Trust, an organisation which campaigns on behalf of pet owners, around 43% of the population are pet owners, so landlords who refuse to accept pets are considerably reducing their choice of tenants.
The Office of Fair Trading in their guidance on unfair terms in tenancy agreements say that an outright ban on pets would not be a fair contract term – after all a “pet” can include all creatures, including something as innocuous as a goldfish.
However, landlords do have the right to assess the suitability of any pet a tenant wants to bring into the property, and to refuse if they feel the pet or pets in question would not be suitable.
It seems you instructed your agent, apparently only verbally, to refuse pets. But your agent went ahead regardless. An agent, who acts on the landlords behalf, has the power to form contracts with third parties, which in this case was done. A legal tenancy now exists, so there is little that can be done in terms of terminating the tenancy – I’m afraid you are stuck with the situation until the tenancy ends, or if your tenant wants to leave voluntarily.
An agent acting against the express wishes of their principal (the landlord) does so ultra vires (beyond their legal authority) and could face the consequences in damages should losses occur.
Unfortunately, you have no proof in writing of your original instructions so any claim, in my view, should the worst happen in terms of lasting damage to your property, would be based on the question: did the agent act in accordance with the professional standards expected of a reasonable agent in these circumstance?
I would expect a responsible agent to at least inform you of the three pets, to suggest taking up references for the three animals, to incorporate a pets’ agreement in with the tenancy agreement, and finally to agree an additional deposit amount in case of exceptional damage.
It seems your agent did none of these things, so should damage occur you may well have a claim against your agent for professional negligence.
Example pets agreement: www.landlordzone.co.uk/agreements.htm
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