We are a nation of animal lovers. 1 in 2 households own a pet, with around 20 million pets owned in total. It is no wonder that residential property agents are frequently asked if pets are allowed in flats?
Can I have a pet in my apartment?
Landlords are often reluctant to let tenants keep a pet in their rental flat as there are often concerns about potential damage or noise caused by the animal. 78% of pet owners have had trouble finding a flat which allows pets, advises a survey by the Dogs Trust.
It’s important to check your tenancy agreement to see if there is a ‘no pets’ clause before you move in. If a landlord does allow pets, make sure that you get their agreement in writing. The landlord might have a covenant that allows them to withdraw their agreement if problems arise that impact the neighbours or damage the interior of the property.
It is also vital to inform the estate agent or property management company of your requirements for your pet when you are looking to rent or buy a property. When you buy a flat, it is most likely to be leasehold. If this is the case, the terms of the lease will specify whether you are allowed a pet in the property or in the grounds and what if any restrictions there are.
The other consideration that has to be prioritised when looking to keep a pet in a flat which is also very important, is the welfare of the animal. Many dogs and cats could be unhappy confined to a flat, especially if they don’t have easy access to a garden or outdoor space.
How do I find out if you can’t have a pet in my flat?
All leasehold flats will have a lease, which sets out the rules that you have to abide by. Pets aren’t the only potential restrictive clause in a property lease and you should look out for others. Subletting may seem an obvious one but even hanging your clothes to dry on your windows might be prohibited, alongside the installation of individual satellite dishes or aerials, more likely in listed or older properties.
What if pets aren’t in the lease?
If there is no mention of pets within the property lease yet the landlord refuses permission to keep a pet, they may argue that pets aren’t allowed under a general nuisance clause. However, the landlord would struggle to enforce this if the issue was taken to court without concrete evidence of what was deemed to be causing the nuisance.
What are the penalties for breaking the terms of my lease?
Under the unfair terms regulations – part of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 – you should be able to request that you can keep your pet in your flat despite a clause in the lease against it.
Be wary of a landlord who removes the wording that says a tenant can apply for permission to keep a pet. If a landlord does this, this automatically renders the clause unfair and so – in theory – nothing in the tenancy agreement will stop you from keeping a pet.
If the freeholder then gives their consent to allow you to have a pet, your solicitor will ask the freeholder for this agreement in writing. You could be taken to court by the freeholder if you breach a no pets clause on your lease. The court would then order you to remove your pet from the flat.
If you can show that there will be no problems with your pet, this will give you a stronger case. Your landlord will be concerned about potential noise and any possible damage to the property. They may consider allowing you to keep a pet if you can pay for the flat to be professionally deep cleaned when you leave. This could be funded using your deposit.
If you keep a pet against the clause and are on a shorthold tenancy agreement, the landlord can evict you using the section 21 procedure or simply refuse to extend your tenancy at the end of the term. If the animal is clearly inappropriate to be kept in the flat, the landlord has the right to take you to court even if you have a long fixed term tenancy agreement.
If you are a landlord and want to allow pets in your rental property, a tenancy agreement with clear terms and conditions will protect your property. You can specify what pets you will allow and refuse and who will look after the animal if the tenant is unable to do so.
Are guide dogs are allowed in flats?
You are not automatically entitled to keep an assistance dog in a flat. In the case of Thomas-Ashley v Drum Housing Association Ltd  EWCA Civ 265 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.
As a flat owner, how can I be prevented from keeping a pet?
You can’t be prevented from having a pet if you own the freehold to the flat, however when you buy a flat, most properties are typically leasehold. You will therefore need the freeholder’s permission to keep a pet in the property, as you would if you were renting.
You should check the property leasehold to find out if there is:
– A no pets clause
– A statement saying that prior consent is needed before you can keep a pet
Including a no pets clause in a lease is straightforward. The clause should be written clearly and explicitly and it should forbid any pets being kept in the flat, even temporarily. It should highlight the actions that will be taken if there is a violation, plus any costs that may be incurred.
A statement asking for prior consent should make clear that each pet will be considered separately – it is not a blanket authorisation. The leaseholder has the right to refuse any pet. The clause should also highlight that if permission for a pet is granted, each rule must be adhered to, otherwise the privilege can be automatically revoked.
Most landlords don’t allow pets in their flats due to risk of damage to the property, however by allowing pets in flats landlords may be able to attract more prospective tenants. Tenants with pets also tend to stay in their flat for longer, meaning a lower turnover rate and potentially higher revenue.
Always check and then check again!