Many consider their pets another family member. It is no surprise then that being restricted from keeping pets in a rental property will get pet lovers heated and flustered.
The debate surrounding pets in rental property and the restriction of keeping the pets on a lease, and how reasonable this is, is one of the more contentious issues in South African lease agreements.
Grant Rea, residential rental specialist for Remax Living says that this is an issue he deals with on a monthly basis. “Many landlords simply disallow pets entirely,” says Rea. “This eliminates a large percentage of people from their potential pool of tenants.” He adds that, in his experience, this is a particular issue in Cape Town where many people are ardent pet owners.
It may be argued that if a pet is not a nuisance or not impacting on the enjoyment of other residents, permission to keep the pet on the property cannot reasonably be withheld. Rea says that although this is a valid argument, the property owner still maintains the right to withhold the required permission, explaining that the matter gets even more complicated if the lease does not contain any stipulation on this matter.
In this case, should a tenant acquire a pet after the signing of the lease it is Rea’s opinion that the onus lies on the landlord to show how ownership of the pet may be prejudicial to him or his property. That being said, there is currently no law protecting the rights to pet ownership in the tenancy scenario. If the landlord agrees to the tenant keeping the pet, it would not be unreasonable for a landlord to ask for an addition to the lease pertaining to the behaviour of the pet and potential damages. So naturally a clause regarding pet ownership is essential in the lease.
Should a landlord decide to allow pets (either in a pet friendly sectional title unit or freestanding home)the conditions related to such permission must be clearly highlighted. It is vital that tenants not keep pets a secret from the landlord. A tenant should get clear written permission before moving in.
Rea says that it is important for tenants to be upfront with their landlords. “Let your landlord have as much information as possible,” he explains. “This information could include a picture, confirmation of sterilisation and inoculation details, breed and temperament.”
To protect the landlord, a standard rental contract should always include a clear description of the pet owner’s responsibility in keeping the pet under control at all times. Contravention of this agreement may be grounds for the tenancy being terminated or the pet having to be rehomed.
Rea advises that landlords request and hold a larger deposit when pets are allowed. Pets can result in much conflict at the end of a lease, with damage to the garden and property often a concern.
In many cases owners are restricted from keeping pets in sectional title units, however, this may be overturned with permission from the trustees. Rea says that often conflicta rises when new tenants see existing pets and just assume that pets are allowed, renting a property before checking conduct rules on pets.
The best advice is for tenants to consider whether a specific property is really suitable for their pets, and to just simply avoid properties that are not advertised as pet friendly.