A dog-owning tenant has launched a legal challenge against her freeholder which could result in parting with her pets or the leasehold.
The woman’s partner moved into her property five years ago with three small dogs – and admitted this to the freeholder. It then sent her a letter quoting part of the lease that says tenants aren’t allowed pets unless they have written permission, however she did not get official consent. When a new block of flats was built next-door by the same company, one of the new tenants asked to have a cat but was turned down, so kicked up a fuss to the firm.
Julie Ford (pictured), who runs Gothard Rowe landlord services, is supporting the tenant whose case is being heard by a First Tier Property Tribunal. She says there was ‘implied acceptance’ as the freeholder was aware of the dogs but didn’t ask for them to be removed.
“We’re hoping for a positive outcome as we’ve got a lot of support,” says Ford. “We surveyed a lot of neighbours who weren’t even aware the tenant had dogs and never heard them bark. If it goes the tenant’s way, it would set a precedent.”
Most leasehold flats, especially those in large blocks, specifically ban pets in the lease and so far, any legal battle has failed. David Smith, property solicitor at JMW, says landlords would find it hard to turn down a pet on disability grounds, but that they retain the right to say no for any other reason. “One recent legal challenge from a tenant who wanted to live with his dog because he said it would benefit his mental health, was thrown out by the court,” Smith tells LandlordZONE.
Nigel Glen, CEO of the Association of Residential Managing Agents (pictured), suspects the majority of leases forbid pets but says the standard clause aims to try to protect communal harmony.
He tells LandlordZONE: “I don’t believe this is meant to be a killjoy or a way to charge fees for licences – instead I suspect it is a feature of communal living. I’m a zoologist by training so animals fascinate me.
“But not everyone likes pets and people with allergies, phobias or simply easily disturbed have to be taken into consideration.”
This case follows Andrew Rosindell’s scuppered private members’ bill to give tenants the right to live with their pets if they proved they were ‘responsible and caring’, while animal charity AdvoCATS is pushing for the Tenant Fees Act to be amended to allow landlords to either take additional deposits off tenants seeking to rent with pets or require tenants to take out extra insurance.