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.” 

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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.

glenn arma pets

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.

11 COMMENTS

  1. MichelsonFoundAnimals.org did a study in the USA of residents in condo blocks.They asked residents how they felt about having pets as neighbours. 71% of residents (pet-owners and non-pet-owners) agree that pets bring people together within a whole community. 75% said“I’d prefer to live next door to a family with pets rather than one with students”. So pets create communal harmony, Nigel Glen, they won’t destroy it. With the right buildings rules in place for a tenant with pets and a good PetsScore, this is totally managable.

    • My son lives in New Hampshire USA and does not agree. I have worked in a Marketing office and have marketing in my Business degree… its a well known fact that with any survey if you ask loaded questions you will always get an answer that you want.

      Teh plumber that works for my letting agent was recently hospitalised after being attacked by three dogs in a property he was attending on a callout…

      The only safe pet is the one in the taxidermists window.
      Pets are a lifestyle choice… I play rock guitar but I wouldn’t dream of inflicting my hobby on others so stop forcing your nonsense on other people.

  2. Research by an organisation with a vested and financial interest in people having pets? Skewed possibly? Even if not skewed, it is rather undermined by the odd and rather odious comparison between pets and students (as a mature student I resent the implication anyway that students are trouble – there are students and there are students).
    My experience of most condo blocks in the States is that they are occupied by owners – not by tenants on tenancies which last a year or two. Those property owners would recognise and expect that damage by a pet is their own responsibility to put right, and would most likely not be considering the cost to a landlord of damage by the pet. That is if they were ever asked about rectifying the cost of damage by pets.
    And yes there are pets and pets, but as a past owner of several dogs and cats, I know that even relatively well-behaved animals (presumably with a high ‘Pet-Score’ which appears to be compiled by the pet owner) can and still do damage, damage which it is unlikely a deposit of five weeks’ rent would cover.
    In any case, as the article points out, higher leases frequently prohibit pets of any sort, so if the rented property is a leasehold flat or house, the landlord breaches her or his obligations under the lease by allowing tenants to have pets.
    The only solution is landlord checking of pets, and I have no idea how that would work but as a landlord I don’t want to have to do it, and a much higher deposit if the pet is allowed, and I can’t see that happening given how the government is in the grip of the tenants’ lobby.

  3. Tenants IGNORE LL conditions.

    Few LL will bother evicting if a pet turns up.

    Evictions cost LL a lot of money.

    Few DJ with a S8 would grant an eviction because of a pet.

    Tenants know all this which is why pets arrive after the AST has been signed.

    Unless it’s a giant dog few LL will evict if a small dog etc.

    With more WFH it becomes more viable to have a small pet.
    Your standard budgie few LL would have any issues with.

    LL have to consider the bigger picture and sometimes accept pets as a useful tenant retention device!!

    • In my view, the most important aspect of any lease agreement is due diligence and making sure your tenant and/or their guarantor has something meaningful to lose. This could be directly, such as financial loss or indirectly such as a bad credit score (very useful if your tenants’ next move it to own their own home); and has the means to pay. I will not let a property unless this is the case. Having this measure in place gives the landlord far more leverage to deal with tenants who are in clear breach of their leases. I have, on a number of occasions, used the threat of action to force compliance and, with the threat of either financial penalty or court action hanging over their head, they tend to play ball. If a tenant has nothing to lose, they have the whip hand and you end up giving in. Nor do I use things like DPS adjudication services, as this does not carry the same weight as the threat of a CCJ in the event they lose.

  4. How selfish of the pet owner to think their right to have a pet reside in an apartment block trumps the rights of all other tenants not to allow them. Whilst you could, perhaps, argue the reverse, existing rights should trump others’ claims to have them withdraw. Though I would imagine, from a legal standpoint, it would be difficult overturn provisions in existing owners leases that do not allow pets within the block since allowing pets could, potentially, be detrimental to owners assumed rights under a no-pet clause, such as noise, having animals in public areas etc.

  5. Perhaps Gothard Rowe Landlords Services should change their name to Gothard Rowe Tenant Services. I would be less than pleased if my agent supported a tenant where I did not support pets or my head lease did not permit pets. If a tenant has a dog that barks constantly and breaks the head lease terms who meets the cost of remedying the breach – not the landlords agent but the ast landlord.

  6. Why is it about her and her dogs, we have had all that in recent past, its not fair on the dog’s to be in a Flat, what does she do for a living ? or is she at home all day and night to attend to them, don’t forget they’ll be several other lease holders in the Block and some are likely to be unhappy about this causing friction between them. There’s usually a communal garden with small Blocks and others will have children playing there, the dogs must do their business somewhere. Also there will be common areas within the Block, you are using one case at Tribunal to change law on every one in whole Country. We had all that type of thing in the past when section 12 became case law so instead of max £500. under S.12 became an issue under S.13 with unlimited costs, so work it out for yourselves and don’t fiddle around with legislation.

  7. Sorry, utterly niave to think there’s no loosers when pets are involved! Even insurance, if not cancelled as soon as they’re able, will only go so far, but just more unneeded hassles and paperwork, most likely at landlord’s expense.

    It’s typical of some tenants, how can one imagine you can go against any contract, otherwise what’s the point.

    As already touched upon – pets are indeed a lifestyle choice, we own dogs, but would not consider if any contract stated so, or as per typical AST.

    More the fool us, maybe we should become more arrogant with selfish ignorant blinkered views, similar to our tenant, who thankfully has just moved out, 8 1/2 months with approx 6 months of those, we believe, having owned a cat, our property now freaking stinks, we can’t understand how is it so bad within such a short space of time, unbelievable, heinous odious smells that stay in your nose for hours, how come they didn’t notice it, becausethey don’tgive a d@mn, this coupled with laziness is a landlord’s angst.

    Lovely, £700+ worth of new carpets ruined, with the hope the floorboards are still good, being checked tomorrow, will the smell ever leave the place, but not to worry, being a landlord we’re allowed to print our own money, lol, what a joke, we’re low rate tax payers, like most others, like multitudes of other’s- it’s time to sell.

    Yet f00k them, we will have our revenge, regardless of expense – we’re willing to take it all the way, as it’s b@atards like this that cause so much grief!

    Now considering their cat mainly sh!t in our property, it was also defecating in particular neighbours garden, made a good mess there also, obvious not happy either, but from all evidence so far – it’s blatantly apparent they have no idea, did not have a clue with how to look after pets, so, how can you honesty legislate, insure or reason with lazy scum like this, you cannot!

    Yes it’s goner cost a packet to sort, altho, we will gladly pay twice to shove it to the d@mn tenant, it’s our new hobby 😉

  8. As I see it, this is another example of the legal system being unfit for purpose. If a contract is signed by two parties and a clear condition is that pets are not allowed, then the tenant gets a pet, that’s breach of contract, isn’t it? Surely the landlord should then have the right to terminate the contract and evict, if the LL does not agree to the pet. The LL should have this right, but the courts refuse to uphold this as a right.

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