Breach of Lease Covenants

Reasonableness of a decision which concluded that dogs were not permitted in a residential block

Breach of Lease Covenants

The background

In Victory Place Management Company Ltd v Kuehn [2018], the leaseholders occupied an apartment at the development under a long lease, which contained a covenant stating that ‘No dog bird cat or other animal or reptile shall be kept in the [Property] without the written consent of [VPMC]’. The Kuehns made an application to the lessor for consent to keep their dog at the property, and consent was granted.

However, VPMC as the management company of the property refused consent, stating that a blanket ‘no pets’ policy existed at the development and that the Kuehns demonstrated no special circumstances which would allow them to keep Vinnie. The Kuehns argued that, by not considering the request on its merits and adopting an inflexible policy approach, the request had not been handled reasonably by VPMC and took the case to the County Court, which held that VPMC had not acted unreasonably.    

 

The decision

The High Court referenced key authorities, including that of ‘Wednesbury reasonableness’, in reaching its decision.

The Kuehns’ appeal was dismissed; VPMC had adopted a policy of denying requests for pets to be kept at the development other than in special circumstances, and this policy was not unreasonable or irrational as it was set and agreed by a majority of leaseholders at the property. VPMC had made it clear to the Kuehns that special circumstances would be considered (for example, where Vinnie was needed for medical reasons), but at no point did the Kuehns demonstrate any special circumstances other than the fact that they felt Vinnie formed an integral part of their family.

 

Advice and action for landlords

Where landlords and management companies employ a ‘blanket’ policy, this case is a reminder that due process should still be employed when reaching a decision, even where the blanket policy is reasonable in itself.

Where a policy is adopted pursuant to the wishes of the majority of leaseholders, a landlord or management company behaves reasonably in enforcing that policy across a development; in this case, VPMC had acted reasonably by offering the Kuehns the opportunity to demonstrate special circumstances. 

The Kuehns’ appeal was dismissed. VPMC had adopted a policy of denying requests for pets to be kept at the development other than in special circumstances, and this policy was not unreasonable.

 

Author

Andrew Bailey
Andrew Bailey
Associate

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