Pet Peeves – a landlord’s perspective

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Post by Mark Brockhurst, National Landlords Association

There has been a proposal this week to make it a right for a tenant to have a pet in the property unless there is evidence that their pet is a nuisance.

I love pets. I have two cats. I don’t think cats or budgies are expected to be considered a ‘nuisance’ to others. I can only suppose that this is aimed at dogs. Although, some other animals might of course, cause problems.

But what constitutes ‘evidence’? How could you prove an animal you do not know would be a nuisance – without relying on assumptions rather than evidence?

Blocks of flats tend not to be pet friendly. The rooms are typically smaller. There is usually no outside access unless there is a garden perhaps. the buildings tend to be noisier and can set dogs off if there is footfall right outside their door. It is also sometimes written into the leaseholds that pets are not allowed. These rules are not driven by a need to restrict animal welfare. They are often to protect animals from spending their lives in small inadequate environments or from a loud animal being kept in a dense housing environment.

Once in, if an animal creates a problem, there will be no easy solution to the disturbances they cause. Eviction for anti social behaviour is by no means guaranteed and is costly. Judges may not be keen to end a tenancy based on a noisy pet. The likelihood is that a (no fault) section 21 will be used instead of a court case that requires proof they are breaking the rules of their tenancy. In either case, the process takes months and costs hundreds of pounds. If you are experiencing problems with a new neighbour with a barking dog it could be 6 months before anyone has an opportunity to do anything about it.

If a persons pets have caused a problem and they have been asked to leave a property by a landlord or letting agent, they do not tend to move to a new tenancy where a previous landlords reference is required. It would be too easy to discover the cause of their ‘move’. Could they even claim it was a different pet when they apply to take a new tenancy? How could you check?

I’m all for changes that do something to improve quality of life – but not at the expense of existing common sense rules that have legitimate reasons to be in place.

Shelter acknowledged that it is difficult for landlords to enforce conditions relating to pets, and added that it’s another thing that could be a risk to your tenancy.

The CEO of the NLA Richard Lambert said “tenants who keep pets do tend to stay for longer periods of time, and there are a few simple steps that landlords can take in order to mitigate the perceived increased risks” – including insisting on larger deposits.

But soon, the larger deposit may not be an option if they fall outside deposit rules limiting deposits to 1 months rent.

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