If you are in the process of buying a flat and keeping a pet is going to be important for you, make sure you understand what the lease terms are.

In 2023, over half of UK households are keeping a pet. Dogs and cats remain overwhelmingly the most popular, but there’s been an increase in smaller animals like rabbits and hamsters. So, it’s inevitable that there are many flat owners who are also animal lovers.

If the lease forbids animals, there is little the managing agent or freeholder can do to allow you to keep a pet. On the other hand, if the lease states that they may be kept with consent, then you can seek permission and there will probably be administration fees for that.

A typical clause in the lease may read along the lines of: “not to keep any bird, dog or other animal in the Demised Premises without the previous consent in writing of the Lessor…such consent to be revocable by notice in writing at any time on complaint of any nuisance or annoyance being caused to any owner tenant or occupier of any other flat in the building.”

If you keep a pet contrary to the lease or without the right consent, the landlord could take action against you to obtain an injunction requiring removal of the pet from the property as well as obtaining an order for you to pay any legal costs.

If you secure consent, remember that it can be withdrawn at any time – for example, if there are problems with the way the pet behaves. It’s also likely that there will be a covenant in the lease against noise nuisance, and a dog barking frequently might be in breach of that.

Even if the lease says nothing about pets, the freeholder may rely on general nuisance clauses to protect their and other leaseholders’ interests if there’s evidence of actual nuisance being caused.

Of course, if you own a share of the freehold and the others agree, you may wish to consider changing the lease to allow pets.

The law on keeping pets in general

The law states that you must provide proper care to any animal you keep as a pet. If you don’t look after an animal properly you could face an unlimited fine, imprisonment and a ban from owning animals in future. More guidance can be found on the government website.

You don’t need a licence for many common domestic pets but it has been mandatory to make sure your dog is microchipped since 2016. In March 2023, the government announced compulsory microchipping for cats too, due to come into effect in June 2024.

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The sole purpose of this article is to provide guidance on the issues covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited accepts no liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.