Understandably the ‘no pets’ policy is a sensitive and sometimes contentious issue between landlords and tenants; especially since the majority of pet owners consider them to be a part of the family. Disputes arise when landlords will not allow pets on their property regardless of how well-behaved or well-trained the pets are. It goes without saying that pets are a big responsibility and not one all individuals choose to adopt! For whatever reason some landlords may just not like animals. More commonly, from a home owner’s perspective pets are a potential damage risk to the condition of the property – particularly carpets and flooring, furniture and the garden – and can be a nuisance to neighbours if they are noisy, aggressive or have a tendency to roam. Bear in mind that the landlord wants to make the highest return on investment possible, and a property in poor condition will affect how quickly the unit is filled by future tenants. This is why landlords will sometimes charge a slightly higher rental for pet friendly units – to account for potential damages, accelerated wear and tear and cleaning.
There has been a notable rise in pet ownership among young, working individuals and couples without children. As these individuals form a large part of South African renters, pet friendly properties are in high demand and few-and-far-between!
What does the Etchells & Young lease agreement stipulate in terms of pet ownership?
Our lease agreement, like most others established by reputable estate agents, clearly states that tenants are not permitted to keep household pets of any nature (animal, reptile or bird) without prior written permission from the landlord. If the property is a sectional title unit, this permission is still subject to the body corporate’s rules and regulations, as well as restrictions imposed by local bylaws. Some tenants are not aware that it is fully within the landlord’s rights to refuse pets in his property even if the complex is pet friendly. The home owner may also pose reasonable limitations on the number of pets and type of pet or breed allowed. For example, the landlord may only allow one cat or small pets below knee-height. A clause is then added to the lease agreement clearly outlining the landlord’s conditions regarding potential damage to the property and acceptable behaviour.
Many sectional title schemes have amended the Prescribed Conduct Rule 1 (PCR 1) of the ST Act to ban pets from the scheme altogether because of the noise-related disturbances and general inconvenience posed to other tenants and owners in the complex. In retrospect, small apartments or complexes with little to no communal gardens are not always the most ideal living spaces for pets. A confined, bored dog can wreak havoc in an apartment when left alone for long periods of time and may bark incessantly or destroy furniture in frustration or loneliness.
For those sectional title schemes that do permit pets, the lease agreement stipulates that the tenant will be held responsible for any conduct that may disturb their neighbours or disrupt their lifestyle. If a pet is continually noisy, aggressive towards neighbours and their pets, or is deemed a nuisance by frequently entering other units or the common property unleashed; the landlord or trustees may withdraw their approval, giving the tenant reasonable notice to find a new home for their pet or alternative accommodation for themselves.
It cannot be stressed enough that tenants familiarise themselves with the lease agreement before signing it and ensure that they fully understand their obligations and what they will be liable for in terms of pet ownership during the lease period. The tenant is responsible for maintaining the interior of the unit, fixtures and fittings and commits to returning the property to the landlord in a clean condition and good working order. Regular cleaning and minor interior maintenance is essential during the lease period, and should ensure that there are no penalties to the tenant when they move out!
Once the lease agreement is signed, the tenant agrees to fully comply with the house/complex rules to which they are then lawfully bound.
Rather than challenging the ‘no pets’ rule, tenants should find a property that already allows the type of pet they own. When searching on online property websites, tenants should refine their search criteria to only show pet friendly properties. Having all relevant FICA documentation and personal information in order before the application process begins will ensure valuable time isn’t lost once a pet friendly property that meets your requirements is found. Especially as this could mean losing the property to another aspirant tenant.
Tenants and landlords can avoid disputes over pet ownership so long as the lease agreement clearly and comprehensibly outlines the landlord’s terms and conditions on pet ownership, as well as the tenant’s obligations during the lease period.