Pets and lets: are animals allowed in a flat?

On 30 January 2018, the High Court held that a management company acted reasonably when it refused permission for a dog to be kept in a flat. An injunction was issued which required the dog to be removed from the flat.

The defendant owned a flat, on a long leasehold basis, within a gated development. The lease prohibited the keeping of pets without the written consent of the tenant's management company.  

Each lessee on the development was also a member of the tenant's management company. The tenant's management company had a strict "no pets" policy, reflecting the other tenants' wishes. The defendant was aware of the policy prior to purchasing their flat. The defendant requested formal consent to keep a pet, pursuant to the terms of the lease, but was refused. The tenant's management company was willing to consider specific circumstances such as the need for an assistance dog but the defendant was not able to produce any evidence to support a claim of special circumstances.

The High Court held that the management company's policy was not unreasonable or irrational, and that the management company had not adopted an unfair process. The full judgment can be read here.

The question of whether pets are allowed in leasehold development schemes is common in practice. Whether a pet is allowed will depend on the terms of the lease. A tenant, or a proposed purchaser of a flat, ought to ascertain whether the lease contains an absolute prohibition on keeping pets, or alternatively requires prior consent before keeping a pet. The clause might read, "Not to keep any animal or bird on the Property without the prior written consent of the Landlord, which consent may be revoked at any time".

In light of this case, landlords, tenants, management companies and prospective purchasers alike would be well advised to check their leases for similar covenants and regulations, and seek professional advice if clarification is needed.

For more information on understanding your lease, or setting up a new leasehold development scheme, please contact Gail Bedford