Letting to Tenants with Pets

If a landlord or property manager is asked by a prospective tenant whether they may keep a pet in the property, several factors should be considered before a decision is made.

Prohibitions in the Tenancy Agreement

If a landlord wishes to prohibit tenants from bringing pets into the property, this may be specified expressly in the tenancy agreement. However, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) (now the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)) in the past has objected to clauses constituting a blanket exclusion of all pets without providing for consideration of the particular circumstances. These clauses are likely to be unenforceable under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

This suggests that tenancy agreements should not include a default prohibition against pets, and each request should instead be decided on an individual basis. The CMArecommend that unfairness can be avoided by inclusion of a term allowing pets ‘only with the landlord’s consent, such consent not to be unreasonably withheld or delayed’. Although this would not allow the landlord the freedom to veto pets as a standard term of the tenancy agreement, it would enable him to forbid the keeping of pets which are unsuitable for the particular property or circumstances. A tenancy agreement may also prohibit the keeping of pets that could harm the property, affect subsequent tenants or be a nuisance to other residents, as the CMAhave stated in the past that it is unlikely to object to this.

Restrictions in the Title

Despite the requirements of the CMA, in some circumstances external restrictions will oblige the landlord to prohibit the tenant from keeping any pets in the property.

Leasehold property – where the tenancy to be granted is actually a sub-tenancy, as the property is already leasehold, in deciding whether to allow a sub-tenant to keep a pet the immediate landlord or property manager should carefully examine the headlease. If the headlease prohibits the keeping of pets in the property, the immediate landlord is not entitled to give his sub-tenant permission to keep a pet. It is common for the headlease to prohibit pets, particularly in blocks of flats where the ultimate freeholder is unable to monitor the occupation of sub-tenants.

Restrictive covenants – Both a leaseholder and a freeholder must ensure that their title does not contain any restrictive covenants (legally binding promises) prohibiting the keeping of pets in the property. Although this is uncommon, such a covenant would prevent the prospective landlord from allowing a tenant to keep a pet. Breach of a restrictive covenant may lead to a liability in damages to the person(s) entitled to the benefit of the covenant.

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