Dogs/Landlord/Leasehold Issue

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    Dogs/Landlord/Leasehold Issue

    Hiya...

    I was wondering if anyone has any advice for this situation.

    I found a flat online that was advertised as pet friendly and pets welcome. I was open about my dog when I first enquired about the flat, and the estate agent presented this to the landlord and it was part of my offer. The landlord accepted my offer - with the dog clause included - and I moved in on the 31st of July. The flat itself has a private patio, and there is a communal garden with swimming pool. Since I moved in, I knew I wouldn't allow my dog into the communal garden because of the pool as it has a plastic cover over it and no safety barrier etc.

    When I moved into the flat I found a folder with a rule book, one of the rules say no dogs on the property. Two days after I moved in, the landlord came over and told me that a few people had moaned about the dog so she asked if we could make sure there wasn't any barking etc. She said that neighbours had concerns around barking. I was clear that if barking reached unreasonable levels then I would sympathise and take action, as I certainly don't want to be a nuisance. Since then, I've installed a dog camera which records the dog whilst I am out, and there is no barking when I am at work. I also have a dog walker that takes him out of a few hours every afternoon so the maximum he is alone is 3 hours. There has been no official noise complaints and no neighbour has mentioned this to me directly and everyone has been polite when I've met them and enthusiastic about the dog.

    The landlord claims that the estate agent, from a reputable nationwide company, told her the dog was a breed of dog that doesn't bark - which I'm not sure if I believe - because I clearly outlined his breed and weight/size etc in my offer, so she was aware (he is a small pug cross)

    In the few weeks I have lived here, there was one issue where a neighbour, who is also a director of the management company, came to me while I was on the patio and told me the dog must go as dogs were not allowed. He was fairly aggressive, and accused me of lying and not mentioning the dogs existence, and also accused the estate agent of lying. He said that since my landlord has owned the flat for 10+ years, he is confident she knows the dog rule. I have since received a message from his wife apologising for his behaviour and telling me the dog is welcome and that her husband won't be an issue any more. I've also received messages from my landlord saying that we 'should be okay with the dog' - which is obviously unnerving. She also said that should there be any issues with the dog being here, the dog could 'live' at her house and visit me here at my flat - she lives across the road - because there are no rules regarding dogs visiting.

    Last Saturday, friends of mine came to check on the dog as I was out for a few hours - they brought their dog along. While on the patio, one of the boards my landlord provided to keep the dog contained on the patio fell down, and the dogs ran into the garden. As I was not here, I can only take my friends word, but she assures me that they were in the garden for no more than two minutes while she chased them down and got them back onto the patio.

    The following day I received a call from my landlord telling me she wants me out of the property as she thinks this incident was unacceptable. She says I shouldn't have allowed my friends or their dog over to visit, and the dogs should never have been allowed on the patio. She said that the dogs were playing in the garden, and hadn't just escaped, and that people had sent pictures and videos of this. Although I agreed to making sure the dog doesn't bark on the patio, which aside from the odd bark at a squirrel, has never happened - she is saying I agreed to keep the dog inside the flat at all times.
    I've asked to see these pictures and videos sent to her by neighbours but she doesn't acknowledge this point when replying. She has said that the dog living here was 'an understanding' and she has no choice now but to evict me. The 'notice' was a phone call to tell me to leave which was followed up with WhatsApp messages.

    My questions really are

    - Does my landlord have grounds to evict me on this basis?
    - I have concerns that it is potentially a breach of the head lease having pets - I have asked her this and got an angry response saying that this is not relevant as the lease was under review and that she would contest any claims that the lease was the problem. Am I within my rights to request a copy of the head lease, or can I retrieve this from any public domain? If it is in breach of the head lease, what are my entitlements considering she has given me a 2 year lease which grants permission for a dog to live here?

    I've not received any EPC, I've requested in writing that a smoke alarm be fitted as there isn't currently one and this has been ignored - does this mean she cannot serve me notice under section 21?

    Thank you in advance for any and all help!!

    #2
    Q1 – Where is the rented property located (England / Wales / Scotland / N Ireland)? England

    Q2 – What type of Tenancy Agreement (TA) is this e.g. sole tenant / multiple tenant / room only? Sole tenant

    Q3 – What date did current TA start dd/mm/ - 31/07/18

    Q4 – How long was initial fixed term (6/12/24 months / other)? 24 months

    Q5 – Does the TA state that rent is due weekly? / 4-weekly? / per calendar month (if so, on what same date each month)? Monthly on the 31st

    Q6 – Did the TA require a tenant damage deposit to be paid? If so, on what date was this paid (dd/mm/yy)? 30/07/18

    Q7 – If your query relates to a notice for repossession from the landlord (a Section 8 or Section 21 notice) or a tenants's notice to quit to the landlord, please provide the exact date the notice was sent/received (dd/mm/yy). Not revived in writing yet.

    Q8 – Does the landlord live in the same property as the tenant? No

    Comment


      #3
      Your landlord could be forced to issue 21 at the earliest opportunity, but, if you can prove that your lease allows the dog, they cannot evict you before then. The earliest opportunity doesn't appear to be until 2020.

      From a strictly legal point of view the freeholder should be talking to your landlord not to you. They have no authority over you unless you signed a covenant directly with them.

      In the real world, few leaseholders actually read their leases, so, whilst the freeholder can assume your landlord read the lease for the purposes of talking to you they should assume your landlord id not. Absentee landlords, in the real world, are particularly unlikely to be aware of rules.

      Unfortunately, if you want to retain a reasonable working relationship with your landlord and the neighbours, it would probably be best to get rid of the dog, or offer to surrender the lease.

      Landlords should, but rarely do, either included on the restrictions of their lease in the tenancy agreement, or get you to sign a covenant, with the freeholder and other leaseholders, to obey those covenants (which they should provide to you).

      The freeholder may be prepared to give you a copy of the lease, although they may charge for it.

      You can also obtain a copy from the Land Registry for a total of about £12 (£3 for the title register entry, to find the title number and how the lease is described, and the rest for a copy of the lease.

      Comment


        #4
        A dog that doesn't bark-must be a Sherlock Holmes story.
        Most TA's should state 'No pets,without prior written permission of LL,to avoid any verbal agreement confusion.
        Your Lease should include any Clause relevant to T. If you can show no EPC was available to you prior to start of T, that may make any s21 invalid, but lack of requisite smoke alarms is a matter for TS.
        What is your aim?

        Comment


          #5
          If your offer including the dog and the landlord's acceptance are in writing then you have a strong position.

          But why have a dog and abandon it every day? It's a social animal bred to be a constant companion.

          Comment


            #6
            Thank you everyone for your replies, it is greatly appreciated!

            Originally posted by mariner View Post
            A dog that doesn't bark-must be a Sherlock Holmes story.
            Most TA's should state 'No pets,without prior written permission of LL,to avoid any verbal agreement confusion.
            Your Lease should include any Clause relevant to T. If you can show no EPC was available to you prior to start of T, that may make any s21 invalid, but lack of requisite smoke alarms is a matter for TS.
            What is your aim?
            Our agreement that included the dog is in writing, she is now just claiming it was an understanding. The estate agents have supported this and have everything in writing.
            My aim is to not be forced out onto the streets - i.e she says I have 14 days to vacate. Honestly, my preference is to be gone by the end of this month as she is quite erratic and she worries me but as I only just moved in, I am significantly out of pocket with agency fees etc. And as it is evidently clear she knew dogs were against the rules/lease, I would like my agency fees refunded by here (circa £500) because she shouldn't have accepted my offer knowing my dog would breach the rules/lease. Would this be unfair?
            My LL plays a very active role in the management of the building and therefore would have been well aware.


            Originally posted by mariner View Post
            A dog that doesn't bark-must be a Sherlock Holmes story.
            Most TA's should state 'No pets,without prior written permission of LL,to avoid any verbal agreement confusion.
            Your Lease should include any Clause relevant to T. If you can show no EPC was available to you prior to start of T, that may make any s21 invalid, but lack of requisite smoke alarms is a matter for TS.
            What is your aim?
            Thanks for your advice - not that it is any way relevant to my question, I got the dog when my ex partner worked from home all day. So it was abandon him at Battersea Dog Home when our circumstances changed, or leave him at home for a few hours every morning. Considering he is fat and lazy and spends the 3 hours lying on his back snoring away, he doesn't seem too bothered by this. He then spends the rest of the day at doggy day care playing in a muddy field with about 10 other dogs, so it could be argued he has a better social life than most humans!
            ​​​​​​​Extensive research into his breed would also show they enjoy being their own company for several hours at a time. That being said, find me a dog owner who is with the dog 24/7 and never dines out, pops to the super market, doctors etc and I'll stand corrected

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by cls View Post
              Our agreement that included the dog is in writing, she is now just claiming it was an understanding. The estate agents have supported this and have everything in writing.
              My aim is to not be forced out onto the streets - i.e she says I have 14 days to vacate. Honestly, my preference is to be gone by the end of this month as she is quite erratic and she worries me but as I only just moved in, I am significantly out of pocket with agency fees etc. And as it is evidently clear she knew dogs were against the rules/lease, I would like my agency fees refunded by here (circa £500) because she shouldn't have accepted my offer knowing my dog would breach the rules/lease. Would this be unfair?
              My LL plays a very active role in the management of the building and therefore would have been well aware.
              The landlord cannot give you 14 days notice to leave (well, they can, but it's not valid).

              There are only four routes that the landlord can follow to take back possession of the property.

              If the tenancy agreement has a break clause, that could be used - although they are usually limited about when they can be used.

              Secondly, the landlord could use a fault free notice (section 21 notice), which isn't available during the fixed term of the property. So not for nearly two years. And without an EPC isn't possible at all (although they only have to give you an EPC to fix that).

              Thirdly, they could try a notice based on your being in breach of a tenancy agreement term. Given the situation, that's unlikely to succeed - because you're not in breach of anything.

              The only other option is to come to an agreement with you to leave. As they want you to leave and you don't particularly want to go (and might find it difficult to find a dog friendly property) you are in a reasonable position to dictate the terms of your leaving. Which might include compensation for the wasted agency fees (and the new ones you will incur) and something for the inconvenience and general poor management of the issue.

              If your tenancy breaches the landlord's lease that's their problem not yours. It's academic whether the dog barks or not. It's a dog, it will do doggy stuff - which the landlord has agreed to by allowing a dog.

              If what you rent includes the patio or access to it, that includes the dog.

              14 days "notice" via phone and whatsapp is a non-starter.

              When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
              Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

              Comment


                #8
                It sounds to me that there may well be a no pets clause in the head lease, and your LL has ignored it and given you permission to keep a pet.

                Which means that the LL has a legal problem, not you.
                You are not in breach of your lease with her, she is in breach of her lease with the FH.

                The FH can't legally evict you, you are not their tenant.
                The LL can't legally evict you, you have a valid lease with her.

                The FH could evict the LL for breach of lease, and then get bailffs to remove you from the property.
                But you would still have a valid lease with the LL, she would have to rehome you or she would be in breach of your lease with her.

                Of course the legal and practical positions are different things.

                The practical position is the the LL is now pressuring you to get rid of the dog or face eviction to try and solve her problem.
                Her problem is that she has no grounds to evict you, it's an empty threat.
                If she tries to force you out, changes the locks or anything like that, then it's illegal eviction which is a serious offence for a landlord.
                https://www.gov.uk/private-renting-e...egal-evictions

                If she keeps 'hounding' you about this matter then she will be guilty of harrassment.
                Ask/tell her to back off or you will take legal action for harrassment.
                https://england.shelter.org.uk/housi...ivate_landlord

                The friends dog getting into the garden is just a red herring (Red Setter?).
                It's nothing to do with your lease and just more harassment.

                So you could stick by your guns that the terms of your lease gives you a right to keep the dog there.

                Or you could offer to surrender the tenancy early, - for a 'consideration'.
                I would think it would be reasonable for the 'consideration' to include the return of your fees already paid, the cost of searching for and finding a new place to live, and maybe some compensation for leaving early and solving your LL's problem for her.

                A dog that doesn't bark-must be a Sherlock Holmes story.
                The Basenji is a 'barkless' dog - they howl/yodel when excited but don't bark.
                https://www.smalldogplace.com/basenji.html

                Comment


                  #9
                  I missed the part about the smoke alarm. Your landlord is in breach of statutory legislation, although it is not a criminal offence and the enforcement regime is somewhat weird.

                  If you inform the council, they will issue a notice to the landlord requiring them to fit the alarm. If they fail to comply, they can be fined several thousand pounds, although I think that is a civil penalty. Although a civil penalty won't result in a criminal record, it will mean that, if the council introduces landlord licensing, the landlord may be unable to obtain a licence, or only able to obtain one on special terms, e.g. one year, rather than five.

                  Also my bit about knowing the lease got a bit garbled. The freeholder can assume the landlord read the lease in terms of taking action against them, but it is unrealistic to actually believe that they read the lease, so shouldn't be using that argument with you, as it is not your fault that they did not read the lease.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    nukecad,

                    Amazing -- thank you so much!

                    Personally I don't want to go down legal routes etc, I just don't want to be left out of pocket financially because of her mistake.

                    I looked on youtube at videos of a basenji, and that yodelling seems more annoying that barking

                    One last question.. When I moved in, the flat was very dirty. I had to clean every surface. Thankfully the inventory documented everything - who ever completed it took pictures of EVERYTHING, even down to the rogue leaf on the window ledge. My AST doesn't stipulate a professional clean when I leave, am I obliged to clean before I leave?

                    I have no intention of leaving it filthy, I just don't want to leave it immaculate and pay for the pleasure of cleaning it when I wasn't given this when I took possession of the flat.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Your landlord is not entitled to betterment - so the flat can be returned in the condition it was in at the time. It's arguable if you sign up to a professional clean as part of the lease but even that could be argued to be an unfair contract term and in any case a "professional clean" is difficult to define. Your landlord could argue that a deep clean is necessary when you leave because you had a dog in there. If you dispute the cost of a clean it's up to the deposit scheme to decide.

                      Personally I'd suggest a full return of deposit forms part of your negotiation about compensation for leaving -but that you give it a decent clean and take photos to show future landlords you were not the one at fault.

                      Comment

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