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I'm currently renting a house in the UK and have been for 6 months now. The tenancy agreement states, you may: 'Not keep any cats or dogs on the property. Not keep any other pet, animal, bird, reptile, fish, insects or the like on the Property, without the Landlord’s consent, which will not be unreasonably withheld.'

From my brief bit of research I understand this is technically an invalid clause anyway as cats and dogs shouldn't be excluded from the request for permission?

Anyway I politely requested permission, via the estate agents, to own a green-cheeked conure parrot, with the obvious caveat that I pay for any (unlikely) damage repairs and/or cleaning at the end of the tenancy. They responded simply saying the landlord said 'no'.

I of course replied asking for a reason why and the estate agent responded with 'The tenancy state no pets and they want to adhere to this.'. This was blatantly false and so I again pressed for a reason, this time quoting the clause in the contract itself, but they've conveniently not responded to that request.

What are my rights in this situation? What would be the consequences to purchasing the parrot anyway?

  • On a minor tangent, your tenancy agreement is likely to include a clause such that any illegitimate clause is modified to the extent it is legitimate, and does not impact on legitimacy of any other clause except so far as that clause is independently illegitimate (i.e. the "no pets" bit is read without the inclusion of cats or dogs, and this does not change anything else about the agreement). – Nij Jul 18 '17 at 9:47
  • @Nij - (New edited answer) I just searched through the contract for every occurrence of the word 'clause', I also read the start and beginning of the contract for anything that suggests what you said and wasn't able to find anything. If this is indeed the case would the entire clause be invalid and therefore buying the bird would not be in breach of the contract? – Jason Jul 18 '17 at 10:16
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    Well, what would be the most reasonable way of fixing the broken clause - removing the bit that shouldn't be there but leave the bit that conveys the intent you were agreeable to, or scrapping the entire thing on a small technicality? Such a protection may be afforded even if not explicitly made part of the agreement. – Nij Jul 18 '17 at 11:17
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    @AndyT it seems to me that because the consent was withheld without giving a reason, it was "unreasonably withheld." – phoog Nov 10 '17 at 4:58
  • @AndyT I'm not trying to be droll. I suppose a court might find that a good but undisclosed reason meets the requirements of the lease, but I don't expect that it would be likely. I don't know whether there is precedent for that. I did once manage to get out of a lease in New York on that line of thinking, however, because of a statutory clause forbidding the unreasonable withholding of consent to assignment and a refusal, without a stated reason, to consider any application for assignment. – phoog Nov 10 '17 at 13:58
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Legal answer

A blanket "no pets" clause is unenforceable, and would remove even the requirement for you to ask before keeping pets (ref:landlordlawblog). This is why the clause contract has the phrase "the Landlord’s consent [...] will not be unreasonably withheld". You shouldn't take this phrasing to mean that the landlord is happy for pets given certain conditions; rather the landlord doesn't want pets, but has used the letting agent's standard contract which has been written with advice from lawyers.

Withholding consent with no explanation is unreasonable (see landlordlawblog ref above). The landlord simply wanting no pets, in and of itself, is almost certainly unreasonable. Given that you proposed damage repairs and cleaning, I am personally convinced that the rejection is unreasonable.

That said, the landlord might be able to reasonably withhold consent on noise grounds (parrots can annoy neighbours!), but can only do so by stating that to you (which he hasn't done).

(Im)practical answer 1

You can try fighting it out in the courts if you like. You could well win, but this will cost you money (and probably a lot of stress) and antagonise your landlord.

The landlord will then want to get rid of you (both because you're doing something he doesn't want to the property, and because you took him to court). He'll want to get rid of you with the minimum notice possible; if you're in a fixed term, that's the end of the fixed term; if you're in a periodic tenancy it's probably 2 months.

In theory landlords can't carry out retaliatory evictions. But your only chance of fighting a retaliatory eviction is... the courts! Cue more cost and stress. And it's very possible that the landlord might successfully come up with another reason to justify the eviction, e.g. "I want to sell the property", "I want to provide my nephew with a home", or if he tries putting the rent up and you refuse "I can get more rental income by re-letting the property".

(Im)practical answer 2

You could just get the parrot anyway. The landlord won't find out until his next inspection, and even then will find it difficult to evict you in the middle of a fixed term for such a minor breach of contract... but that doesn't stop him evicting you at the earliest possible "no reason" eviction date. This would again be either the end of the fixed term or 2 months if you're on a periodic tenancy. And you wouldn't be able to fight this as a "retaliatory eviction", as there will be no registered disagreement between you.

Practical answer

Your legal rights and your practical options aren't the same thing, unfortunately. Your best option is probably to give up on the idea of getting a parrot.

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