Ruff-ruff justice…why Vinnie the terrier got evicted
'No pets allowed' is a familiar restriction in many leases - and the High Court recently held that a management company was perfectly entitled to categorically refuse permission for the owners of a flat to keep their beloved dog, Vinnie, on the premises.
The issue revolved around the question of consent. Some leases prohibit the keeping of any pets at all whereas others, as in the case of Victory Place Management Company Limited v Kuehn & Anor, allowed pets to be kept with the written consent of another party, usually the landlord or a management company.
Facts of the case
Mr Florian Kuehn and his wife, Gabby, bought a £1 million apartment in Limehouse, East London under a long lease which contained the covenant: "No dog, bird, cat or other animal or reptile shall be kept in the (property) without the written consent of the (management company)".
The Kuehns, who were made aware of the restriction before moving into the flat, then requested formal consent from Victory Place Management to bring Vinnie, a Yorkshire cross Maltese Terrier, along too.
Victory Place Management initially refused on the basis that it operated a strict no pets policy which had been formed following consultation with other flat occupants in the building, the majority of whom did not want pets allowed.
It did, the Kuehns were told, make exceptions in special circumstances, for instance guide dogs and for medical needs. Mr and Mrs Kuehn were given the opportunity to provide evidence of special circumstances, but they failed to do so arguing only that Vinnie was 'part of the family unit.'
As a result, Victoria Place Management obtained an injunction in the County Court to remove Vinnie from the flat despite Mrs Kuehn claiming he had a 'therapeutic effect' on her and she had bought him at a stressful period of her life.
Cat among the pigeons
Mr and Mrs Kuehn, understandably upset, appealed to the High Court on the basis that their request to have Vinnie live with them had been effectively decided in advance or in legal speak, had been 'illegitimately predetermined'.
The High Court ruled against them on a number of points including:
- The management company's 'no pets' policy was not irrational or unreasonable and had been drawn up fairly by consulting with the other flat tenants and going along with the majority view, i.e. not to allow pets on the premises;
- The management company had shown it was happy to look at special circumstances such as medical evidence which might have justified the Kuehns' keeping Vinnie in the flat but it had not been provided.
What does it mean?
This case sets an important precedent for management companies when it comes to interpreting tenants' covenants in long leases. The court held that the management company's interpretation of the lease was subject to a reasonableness test and that the company had satisfied this.
It also serves as warning to buyers of long lease flats to make sure they check the management rules and regulations before buying a long lease property.