16 Mar PETS AND TENANCIES
One of the more delicate and contentious issues in leases in South Africa is the debate surrounding pets in tenanted properties and the restriction of keeping pets within a lease and how reasonable this is. The debate is a sensitive one as many of us see our pets as we do any family member and being restricted from keeping pets gets many very heated and flustered.
As a Residential Rental Specialist, I deal with the matter almost monthly says Grant Rea at Remax Living. Many Landlords simply disallow pets entirely eliminating many potential tenants from the potential pool of tenants. Capetonians are notoriously ‘pet obsessed’. Many owners in Sectional Title Blocks are restricted in terms of the Conduct Rules of a scheme from keeping any pets or this may on occasion be allowed with explicit permission from Trustees. This is becoming less prevalent as blocks simply clamp down on pets being kept in blocks at all. Often the conflict arises where existing pets are witnessed in a block and many folks assuming the precedent has been set decide to acquire a pet or rent a property without checking on House rules beforehand.
As a Landlord, if and when you do allow pets in either a ‘pet friendly’ block of flats or allow a pet in a free standing home, you should clearly highlight the conditions for such permission to your tenant. If you are a tenant, do not keep quiet about your pet. Get clear permission upfront. Our standard agreements are clear on the pet owner (tenant’s) responsibility in keeping the pet under control at all times and ensure this does not cause a nuisance or cause damage, failing which the tenancy may be terminated or the pet needs to be re homed.
As a tenant with pets, you may also need to consider whether a property is in fact suitable for your pet as many smaller apartment spaces are simply inadequate for most dogs but may be suitable for smaller caged animals or cats if they are house trained. Be clear and upfront with your Landlord and let them have as much information about the animal with possibly even a picture and confirmation of sterilisation and inoculation info, breed and temperament. Ideally as a tenant with a pet, simply avoid the ads and properties offered saying ‘NO PETS’.
Many argue that if a pet is not a nuisance or is not hindering the enjoyment of other residents that the permission cannot reasonably be withheld. This argument may be correct however the property owner still maintains the right to withhold this permission. Where a lease is silent on the matter it becomes more complicated especially at the commencement of lease where a tenant did not at first have pets but acquired one later. The Landlord in my opinion would have to demonstrate how the ownership of the pet may be prejudicial to him as Landlord or the property. However there currently is no law that covers any rights to pet ownership in the tenancy scenario. If your Landlord agrees to you keeping the pet, it would not be unreasonable for a Landlord to ask for an addition to the lease pertaining to the behavior of the pet and potential damages or to request a higher deposit. So naturally a clause regarding pet ownership is essential in the lease.
Generally pets can result in much conflict at the end of leases with dogs being the cause of various damage to gardens and wood floors etc. Flea infestations and the remnants of pet hair or foul smells and damage to carpets often crop up too. It is highly advised that Landlords request and hold a larger deposit when pets are allowed.