This is a question to the blog clinic from Sian who is a tenant.
I have a three year old German Shepherd who is fully trained and one of the most docile and lovable dogs there is. We knew there would be issues finding a house that would accept pets and we have been nothing but open with all agencies when looking for rental properties.
A couple of weeks ago we found a place, huge garden, allowed pets and the rooms were exactly what we needed. We queried if dogs were allowed and I advised the breed, age and weight of my dog over the phone.
They advised pets were accepted. We paid holding deposit and after a couple of weeks, with a few drama’s relating to someone else putting a holding deposit down on the property with another agency, we were told we could rent.
Before signing the agreement, the landlord asked the agency who manage the property for him, if we could look after his cat that lives there, I said no as I have my dog and I am allergic to cats. We were told the cat would be re-homed.
When we did our references I again advised my dogs breed and age. Was advised no extra deposit was needed I just needed to ensure the carpets were treated when our tenancy was up.
We are one week moved into the property and the LL has contacted the management agency to say he no longer wants to accept our dog into the house and wants him to leave. There has been no altercation, no incident, my dog is not the only dog on the street but is the quietest, he is in the house before 10pm never later and only barks if someone knocks on the door but he’s a dog. They all do this.
What are my rights here? I haven’t even lived here long enough to sign up to my local doctors or get internet here! What can I do? Please help me, any advice will do.
The first thing you need to do is to check your tenancy agreement. Has it been amended to confirm that you may keep the dog?
If it has, then there is nothing the landlord can do. He cannot unilaterally change the tenancy agreement without your consent.
If the tenancy agreement has a clause forbidding pets (most tenancy agreements do by default), then the next thing is – do you have evidence to show that you advised the agents of the dog in advance and that they confirmed that the dog was permitted?
Evidence would be emails or letters. A dated telephone attendance note might do but is obviously less satisfactory than a letter or email.
If you are able to prove disclosure about the dog and agreement by the agents in advance of you signing your tenancy agreement, then again I do not think the landlord can do anything. This confirmation is almost certainly going to be treated as a variation of the contract, even if the contract itself states no pets.
There is also a legal rule, known as an estoppel, saying that a party to a contract cannot stand by knowingly allow someone to ‘act to their detriment’ and then seek to end the contract on that basis. They will be ‘estopped’ from doing this.
Finally, under the consumer legislation, if you are induced to enter into a contract due to a misrepresentation (ie that you could keep a dog) this will entitle you to end the tenancy and reclaim all payments made by you provided you give notice within 30 days. This is under the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Regulations 2014.
These new consumer rules are not well known however and I am not aware of any cases where tenants have successfully unwound their tenancy. The other points though should suffice.
Your right to stay in the property
When you sign a contract for a tenancy, you acquire a legal right or interest in the property. This means that you are entitled to live there until such time as you are evicted by the courts.
I think it most unlikely that in these circumstances your landlord could succeed in a claim to evict you because of your dog, for the reasons given above. You would have a good defence to such a claim. For this reason, I think it is unlikely that your landlord would start any proceedings, particularly if you have made all rent and any other payments promptly.
The problem is after the fixed term has ended. Your landlord can serve a section 21 notice on you which, if you do not vacate during the notice period, will entitle him to bring a claim for possession through the courts, based on that notice.
Section 21 proceedings do not have to give a reason, other than the fact that a valid section 21 notice has been served and the tenant has not moved out. So if your landlord did this, you would have to move out or face eviction.
However hopefully, during your fixed term, you can convince your landlord to re-consider his decision. If he sees that you are good tenants, the dog is not destructive, and that if he requires you to get rid of the dog, you will move out leaving him with all the expenses of finding a new tenant, he may change his mind.