Ask the Expert – Pets and Social Housing
1. How do I know if a tenant is allowed to keep pets at their property?
The first place to look to see if a tenant is allowed to keep a pet is their tenancy agreement. This will say if there is a general acceptance of pets, or not, and if tenants need to obtain permission before keeping pets.
In addition to the tenancy you should also check your pet policy as this will give further details of what type of pets can be kept, the procedure tenants need to comply with when requesting permission, if necessary, and the landlord’s rights and responsibilities.
If a tenant is required to obtain permission and this is given then a clear record of this should be kept on the file for future reference.
2. What are the options available to a landlord if a resident is keeping a nuisance pet without their landlord’s permission?
There are a number of options available to a landlord in this scenario. The first step should always be to contact the tenant to inform them that you are aware of the pet that they are keeping, in breach of their tenancy agreement, and that it is causing nuisance. This will allow the tenant to give their side of the story, take steps to remove the pet and prevent any further nuisance without the landlord having to take any action.
However, if the nuisance does not stop, the landlord must decide whether they simply want the pet removed, or just prevent any further nuisance by the pet. It may be that the tenant retrospectively requests permission to keep the pet which the landlord will have to consider. Conditional consent could be given in the event of a nuisance pet to prevent the nuisance from being caused. For example, the landlord could give consent on the basis that a dog is kept on a lead at all times when it outside of the property.
If the landlord simply wants the pet removed, the landlord should advise the tenant of this and give a deadline by which the animal is required to be rehoused. If the tenant fails to comply with this, the landlord has two options.
The first option is to apply for an Injunction requiring the tenant to remove all animals, or specific animals from their property, and prohibiting any further animals from being kept at the property.
It is worth noting here that with the new Injunction under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014, a landlord can request a positive requirement in the injunction which may be appropriate here. For example, the tenant could be required to attend dog training classes to improve the pet’s behaviour.
The second option open to landlords if the nuisance is sufficiently serious, is a Claim for Possession. This is the most severe option and would only be used in the most serious cases, perhaps where a tenant has persistently refused to comply with the landlord’s requests to remove a pet and the nuisance caused by it is significant. The basis of the claim for possession would be breach of tenancy and anti-social behaviour.
A further option landlords may want to consider, is the Community Protection Notice if the nuisance is affecting the local area. This would result in the tenant receiving a written warning and, if they continue to breach, a fixed penalty notice being issued or a prosecution started. If convicted, the tenant could be forced to forfeit the animal.
Landlords should approach the Local Authority and Police unless they already have delegated authority to serve a CPN.
3. A tenant has a friend who regularly visits and brings her dog with her to the property. The dog is aggressive to other residents and leaves dog faeces in the courtyard – what are the options for dealing with this?
Tenants are responsible for the behaviour of their household members and visitors. As such, even though it is the visitor’s dog which is causing nuisance, the tenant would still be responsible for preventing such nuisance.
The landlord should notify the tenant of the nuisance being caused by their visitor’s dog, remind the tenant of their responsibilities and request that the dog is not allowed to cause nuisance again. This may be by advising the tenant that they should not allow the dog to return to the property.
If the nuisance continues, the landlord could ask the tenant to sign an anti-social behaviour contract dealing with the dog, seek injunctions against both the tenant and the visitor, or if the breaches are severe serve a Notice Seeking Possession to end the tenancy.
Landlords should be aware that The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 has extended the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to include private property, meaning that a landlord can involve the police in cases where a dog attacks another animal or a person in the owner’s home or garden.
4. A tenant owns a cat who is well behaved and does not cause a nuisance to other residents however at a recent inspection it was noted that the Property was littered with cat faeces which has made the property a health hazard. How should I deal with this?
Most tenancy agreements require the tenant to keep their property in good condition, which would clearly be breached by leaving faeces throughout the property. Furthermore, the mess may have wider implications of nuisance by creating a foul smell and associated health risks.
The tenant should be given an opportunity to remedy this breach by cleaning the property first, so the landlord should notify the tenant before any legal remedies are sought. There are often underlying issues which lead tenants to allow the condition of their properties to deteriorate so landlords should enquire whether the tenant is in receipt of help from social services or has any mental health problems.
If the problem is not resolved, the landlord could seek an injunction requiring the tenant to clean the property and keep it in a clean and habitable condition in the future.
For more information please contact:
020 7880 4307
Luke Bevis, Paralegal
020 7880 4286