Without doubt, pets are a huge source of comfort for many of us in the UK offering companionship and mental health benefits. However, in the context of living in a flat, there are other considerations, most notably, the impact that keeping a pet has on other residents.
In practical terms, keeping a pet that no other resident would even be aware of is usually fine. i.e pets that make no noise or smells.
Pets and Leases
In terms of leases, there are usually three scenarios that exist;
- There is a blanket ban on pets.
- Pets can be kept with the permission of the freeholder or Residents Management Company
- The lease is silent on pets.
We will deal with each scenario in turn.
1. There is a blanket ban on pets.
In short, if there is a blanket ban on pets, then no pets may be kept, even assistance animals.
This has been tested in the courts and a notable case is Thomas-Ashley v Drum Housing Association Ltd  EWCA Civ 265
In this case, a disabled tenant was not allowed to keep a dog in their flat, despite the dog being critical to maintaining the tenant’s health. This was not considered to be discrimination against disability by law as the terms on the lease were clear and applied to all.
2. Pets can be kept with the permission of the freeholder nad/or residents management company
Many leases contain the following clause (or similar)
“Not to keep an animal or bird on the property without the prior written consent of the landlord, which consent may be revoked at any time”
Common Ground recommends agreement of a pet license in such cases; however, consideration should be given as to whether the pet being applied for (pet licenses are granted on an individual pet basis) could breach nuisance clauses and cause the license to be revoked.
According to the RSPCA, only a few types of pet will thrive in a compact indoor space. They suggest the best pets for flats include:
- Hamsters, rats, gerbils and mice
- Guinea pigs and rabbits
- Fish, reptiles, birds, small cats and dogs are also happy to live in a flat environment. Although small birds don’t need much space, they can be noisy which is something landlords should consider before accepting them.
If you are applying for a license to keep a dog, consider the following:
- Will the living environment be good for the dog’s welfare?
- Is the breed of dog being considered appropriate for the flat it will live in
- Will the dog make a noise?
- Are any other residents allergic to dogs (important if the dog passes through internal communal areas)?
- Will the dog bring dirt/smells into the communal areas?
- What are the wishes of the other leaseholders?
Case law suggests that Landlords should give reasonable consideration to such requests but are not obliged to grant a pet license.
In Victory Place Management Company Ltd vs Kuehn & anr , the high court determined that the Victory Place Management Company Ltd were entitled to revoke a pet license.
Despite the couple arguing there was a “therapeutic benefit” gained from living with their dog, Vinnie, Victory Place management company (VPMC), which represents residents in the gated 146-flat complex, said there was a no-pets policy as part of the lease, except in “special circumstances”.
The board reached its decision after more than 70 leaseholders voted in favour of the “no pets” policy, while only the Kuehns voted against.
Challenging that ruling, the couple’s lawyers argued the board had “pre-determined” their decision to refuse the couple permission to keep Vinnie and the decision-making process was therefore unfair.
But, dismissing their appeal, The High Court was not persuaded the management company had a “closed mind” or adopted an unfair process.
3. What if there is no mention of pets in the lease?
If there is no explicit mention of pets within the property lease it would be wise to formally request permission as a pet could fall foul of a general nuisance clause. The lessons of Victory Place Management Company Ltd vs Kuehn & anr  should be considered.