The High Court has indicated that Wednesbury principles of unreasonableness may apply to covenants against keeping pets in properties.
In Victory Place Management Company v Kuehn the management company applied its policy of not allowing pets. The High Court in this particular case – and on the facts specific to this case – determined that the Management Company was entitled to refuse permission for the flat owners to keep a dog in their flat.
The Defendants bought a flat in a gated development. The long lease prohibited them from keeping pets without the written consent of the tenants’ management company Victory Place Management Company. Victory Place had a strict “no pets” policy, reflecting the other tenants’ wishes. The Defendants were advised of this policy at a meeting before they moved into the flat. The Defendants requested formal consent from Victory, which it refused. Victory later informed the Defendants that it would consider special circumstances, such as a need for a guide dog. The Defendants provided no such evidence.
The Defendants moved into the flat with the dog and Victory obtained an injunction for its removal. On appeal, the issue was whether Victory had complied with its implied obligation to deal reasonably with the Defendant’s request. The Defendants claimed the “no pets” policy amounted to an illegitimate predetermination to reach a particular decision and was Wednesbury unreasonable ie. that it was a decision so unreasonable that no reasonable person acting reasonably could have made it.
The High Court held that Victory’s policy was not unreasonable or irrational and Victory had not adopted an unfair process. It was reasonable, when considering the Defendant’s request, to take into account the policy preferred by the majority of tenants. This was a legitimate predisposition towards a particular point of view. However, it was not the only consideration, as Victory would have taken into account medical evidence if provided.
This decision is interesting as pet issues often arise in practice. It may also have a wider application to similar covenants and regulations that have no express qualification on how the landlord or management company is to exercise its discretion. The court did not have to decide if the Wednesbury test applies to such covenants, but its inclination was that it does.