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Lease restrictions: are your pets in peril?

A recent case is drawing attention to leasing regulations that could effectively part occupants from their pets, even with the freeholder's prior consent, writes Edward Burton

We are often told that the British love their pets and particularly their dogs.  An ongoing case reminds us that landlords are seemingly not so keen.

Regulations in leases are usually extensive and deal with mundane matters such as not putting a barbeque on the balcony or not making excessive noise. However, it is essential that the provisions of these regulations are checked carefully as otherwise a purchaser can find themselves with a property that is effectively not fit for purpose.  One of the most important matters can often be a restriction on keeping pets. A recent case has highlighted the extent to which a failure to realise that pets are banned from a building can result in costly litigation.

Mr and Mrs Kuehn purchased a penthouse flat in 2015 and received consent from the freeholder at that time by way of a revocable licence to keep a pet in the building, notwithstanding that the lease presumably contained a restriction on keeping pets in the apartment. On moving in, the management company informed them that the building had a ‘no-pets’ policy and following complaints from neighbours regarding barking and growling. They were told that Vinnie, their terrier, had to go.

The Kuehns have not taken this lying down and are currently engaged in litigation with the management company claiming that Vinnie is a ‘therapeutic dog’ and therefore should be allowed to stay.   Mrs Kuehn has also apparently claimed that the barking complained of may have come from dogs in a nearby park and not Vinnie.

The Kuehns are fighting their case and the hearing continues.

This case illustrates an important point – awareness of restrictions on use is essential in ensuring that purchasers and tenants can enjoy the properties that they have purchased.

There are often restrictions in leases on playing musical instruments outside certain times, and very commonly, in respect of the installation of wooden floors.  The latter restriction is often not complied with and this can become a real issue when a property is sold and the purchaser’s solicitor picks up on this or the neighbours complain. A purchaser should aware that these regulations are very often actively enforced by landlords and can limit the use of the apartment.

Whether the Kuehns will be able to keep Vinnie with them remains to be seen.  However, if the case does not go their way it may well be a case of choosing between the apartment and Vinnie.

Edward Burton specialises in prime real estate at boutique private wealth law firm Maurice Turnor Gardner LLP.  https://www.mauriceturnorgardner.com/people/edward-burton/



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