A dog may be man’s best friend, but the Court of Appeal recently ruled that the positive effect on the mental health of a woman disabled by bipolar disorder of keeping a dog did not engage the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) and so allow a prohibition in the lease on keeping pets to be overridden.
The woman, who had been homeless, obtained a flat that was leased to her by a social landlord. The social landlord itself leased the building from the owner and the head lease contained a clause prohibiting the landlord from allowing its tenants to keep pets.
When she first moved into the flat, the woman did not have the dog. She only took it in when her ex-husband could no longer look after it, and it became her ‘reason for getting up in the morning’. However, its barking caused complaints by other tenants.
She was ordered to remove the dog and the case ended up in the Court of Appeal, which agreed that the head lease on the building prohibited the landlord from allowing her to keep the dog. She had not had it when she moved in and the ban on keeping animals did not make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for her to enjoy the premises. Her disability was not such as to make it essential for her to have the animal with her in order to carry out normal day-to-day activities (as would be the case with a guide dog) and the DDA was therefore not applicable in the circumstances. Had her landlord allowed her to keep the dog, it would have been in breach of its lease.
There are still many challenges being brought by social housing tenants based on the DDA and Human Rights legislation, but few are proving to provide relief for the claimants. Contact Bill Duncan for advice on any social housing matter.