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Can They Evict Us?

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77 views 1 replies latest reply: 07 November 2016
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Tenant

I work for a University and rent a 3 bed detached farmhouse with no neighbours in some woodland from them.   Our tenancy agreement is nothing to do with the work that I do, i.e. I do not require accommodation as part of my job, but I am able to rent the property because I am a member of staff.  I live with my husband and small dog and we have lived here for 14 months, having signed a second tenancy agreement in july 2016 which runs to the 1st of August 2017.  The previous tenant (who was also a member of staff) was told they could only be released from their contract if they found someone new to move in, and were asked to find someone suitable.  When we viewed the property we asked the previous tenant whether we were allowed pets.  They said that they had a cat which had lived at the property for two years and had been in the house every time they had had an inspection with no repurcussions.  The tenancy contract did state no pets but the tenancy contract is the standard contract that students are given when they move into halls of residence, and the no pets clause does not apply to staff. He recommended us to the accommodation office who emailed us a contract and asked us to email it back.  They asked how long of a tenancy agreement we wanted, I stated that we were looking for a long term let and had no immediate plans to move on to which they replied that they could only offer contracts of 12 months at a time. We never met with anyone just picked up the keys from a reception desk and moved in.

Any correspondence we have had has been through email.  Since we moved in we have had fire safety checks and boiler checks, and have called the plumber and electrician out.  We have never hidden the dog from anyone coming to the house.  Last week was our first scheduled inspection and the manager told us that she could see that there was a dog living in the house because there was some hair on the front doormat. I told her that yes we had had a dog at the property since the day we moved in, the conversation that we’d had with the previous tenant and the fact that we had never hidden or lied about having the dog.  She said she would have to speak with her superiours and let us know.  

Now a week later I am asked to meet with her where she tells us that either we remove the dog from the property or we will be evicted.  She said I have signed a document stating I will not keep animals and the previous tenant had no right to agree to us having a dog.  She said that they had the right to ask us to remove the dog from the property immediately and that they had been lenient in letting us stay with her in the house with us for the past week.  If we were in student accommodation we would have been told that we had the weekend to remove the animal. She has given us four days to get back to her with a decision as to if we rehome the dog or move out.  

My questions are:  do they have the right to do this?  It does state in my agreement that the tenant agrees ” not to keep or feed any animal or bird (including fish or reptiles) on the premises”, but there is also a declaration that “The Landlord is a specified educational institution within the meaning of the Housing Act 1988, and the Tenant is pursuing or intend to pursue a course of study provide by the Landlord”. I.e. that we are students of the university, which is not true. There is multiple reference to us being students in the tenancy agreement, and when I questioned it by email I was told that they knew I am staff but to sign it anyway.  

Also, if they tasked the previous tenant to find a suitable replacement, then would he not have been acting on their behalf, and should they not honor the verbal agreement we made?  They have admitted that they can see no damage to the property or furnishings, we have not hidden or lied about having the dog, that there have been no complaints, and we have lived here for 14 months without them noticing.  She wouldn’t commit to giving us a time frame of when we would have to move out, as she said she acknowledged that the property was our home rather than student digs and it could take time to find another place to live.

Any advice would be welcome.  Is it resonable to ask them to allow us to stay until the end of our contract? If I argue the point that the contract refers to us as students will it make my case worse?  The contract also says that we should be allowed to “peaceably hold and enjoy the Premises during the tenancy without any interruption by the Landlord or any person claiming under or in trust for him”, but there have been several instances whereby work men have done work to the outside of the house and garden, and have more than once walked in to the house to service the boiler or test equipment without us being given any notice that they had been asked to come.  I don’t want to cause trouble for them but it is our home, we are very settled here and love the house and look after it well.

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Tenant

Okay let’s take things one at a time: 

You signed a contract that declares you as a student and your landlord as your tuition institution. Both of these are not true as you are employee and employer and your work is not related to your accommodation, like in a mission or a business trip accommodation. 

I think it’s safe to assume that this contract can be invalidated, so any clause included that is not part of the default conditions of an Assured shorthold tenancy (which yours is), may not be legally enforced. 

However, you signed a contract that says “no pets”. Did you not ask the landlord / letting agent about it, since you were considering moving in with your dog ? Even if you know the paper can not be legal, as you understood that the regarded parties are not you and your landlord, did you not think it was a good idea ? 

I don’t mean to be condescending, but it would have been a good idea and you would not be in this place right now. 

The law is somewhat vague about pets and it’s largely left to the landlord’s discretion. Of course, assistance dogs cannot be unreasonably banned, as it’s discrimination against disabled people who cannot live without. 

Since your dog is a pet, not an assistant, this doesn’t apply to you. As such, your landlord CAN forbid you to keep pets in, especially, if they have not been officially declared. You did not hide them, but you also did not tell your landlord / agent about them either. 

Any agreement with the past tenant is not valid, as they have no authority to strike agreements with you. Even if they did, in the case of subletting, the agreement cannot override their original agreement with the landlord, where it says “no pets”. 

You may have a claim approved by the Office of Fair Trading, where it’s considered that an outright ban to animals in an unfair clause. However, in the ultimate legal standoff, your landlord will probably prevail. This means that if they want, they may get you evicted. 

An eviction case takes at least a couple of months until the county bailiffs can walk you out. Considering the minority of the offence, you can probably delay that by a month or two, maybe more. Fortunately, this will be as much of a hassle for your landlord as it is for you, so it’s likely that you can negotiate something.

I suggest though you start looking for another property, as it’s unlikely that you would be allowed to stay there after the fixed term ends, if not sooner. 

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