The coronavirus pandemic has seen a sharp rise in pet ownership across the UK, with dog ownership being at the forefront of this trend. Possible reasons for this are for the companionship of a pet during the social isolation of lockdown and that animal welfare, exercise and dog walking are some of the only essential reasons under which leaving the home is permitted during lockdowns.
However, this can create particular problems in relationships between landlords and tenants and freeholders and leaseholders. Unless the owner of a new pet is also an owner-occupier or freeholder of their own property – in which case they can do as they wish in their own home, barring any very unusual restrictive covenant, they may be subject to strict ‘no pet’ clauses in their tenancy agreement or lease. These clauses are quite widespread in leases and tenancy agreements.
It should be noted though that the definition of a pet is different to a service dog – if a service dog is being treated as a pet this may well give rise to specific legal arguments to challenge this.
Getting a dog, or any pet, entails very deep emotional bonds and disputes about no pet clauses and any breach can become hard-fought and bitter, with an owner understandably wanting to avoid giving up their pet at all costs, even if it involves the risk of homelessness.
From a landlord’s perspective, dogs are perhaps a particular concern as a pet in that they can require a lot of training and an improperly trained or treated dog can generate the sort of behaviour which could constitute a nuisance to other neighbours.
Many leasehold blocks involve the freeholder and freehold management company including no pet clauses in their leases and a strict no pet policy in the building and it is important to be aware of the potential consequences before making the commitment of caring for a dog throughout its lifetime. In the private rental market it can be extremely difficult to find a landlord who is willing to accept a tenant with a dog. This is a big factor in the decision to get a dog in the first place if problems arise and it becomes necessary to move.
With the previously mentioned rise in pet ownership it benefits tenants, landlords, leaseholders and freeholders to obtain advice and enter into productive discussions on how to manage what is increasingly becoming a potential area for dispute with serious consequences. Depending on the exact status of occupation the remedies and routes to explore can vary considerably.
If you are a tenant or leaseholder considering buying a dog or pet and would like advice on any potential consequences for your lease or tenancy agreement this is an area we can advise on and a view on the pros and cons of getting a pet can be taken. Equally, if a pet was purchased some time previously and there are problems emerging with the landlord or freeholder there are potential arguments that can be raised and points to consider.
Similarly, if you are a landlord or freeholder and would like advice on renting to tenants with pets, the considerations involved, potential pitfalls and issues to consider; or you have recently discovered that a tenant or leaseholder has acquired a pet, we can advise on legal considerations and the best way forward with this.