Moving to a flat and giving up your pet can be a big wrench. Equally distressing would be moving in to a building and finding that the neighbours are keeping animals that are a nuisance to you because of noise and smells.
You may also think they are being treated cruelly by being confined in a flat in the first place. These problems are usually addressed in the lease: most leases will either ban the keeping of pets altogether or allow it only with the landlord’s consent.
Nearly half of UK households keep a pet, with dogs and cats overwhelmingly the most popular, so it is not surprising that there are animals kept in many flats. The simple fact is this: 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.”
So, if you are in the process of buying a flat and keeping a pet is going to be important for you, do make sure you understand what the lease terms are.
If there is a complete ban on pets, do you pull out from the purchase all together, leave your pet behind or do nothing and see what would happen if you get caught? Clearly the last option is unwise as the landlord might take action against you to obtain an injunction requiring removal of the pet from the property as well as an order for you to pay any legal costs.
If you secure consent, remember that it can be withdrawn at any time if, for example, there are problems with the way the pet behaves. It is 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.
So, 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 here.
You don’t need a licence for most common domestic pets but you must make sure your dog is microchipped . The fine for not doing so is £500, and there are several charities that will ‘chip’ for free. The Cats Protection League, among others, recommends microchipping for cats, too.
Concerned about an animal’s welfare?
If you suspect animal cruelty or neglect, you should contact the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in England or Wales. In Scotland, you can get in touch with the Scottish SPCA’s animal helpline.
RSPCA 24-hour cruelty and advice line: 0300 1234 999
SSPCA Animal Helpline 7am- 9pm: 03000 999 999
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 trading as Deacon 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.