Tenant Spotted Keeping Goat in Flat

Landlords and tenants often clash over keeping pets without permission in a privately rented home, but sometimes bigger beasts (such as a goat) are at the root of the conflict. 

The Property Ombudsman is often called in to rule on disputes concerning animals but thought the landlord was kidding when investigating a complaint about how letting agents failed to react to a sighting of goats by the porter at an apartment block. The unnamed landlord was concerned the agent failed to tell him a goat was suspected as living at the property and complained the agent had failed to visit the tenant to follow up on the sighting. 

The agent countered the contract with the landlord did not oblige them to carry out extra visits to the home and that the landlord had not asked them to check out the sighting. When the agent called the tenant to ask if they were keeping a goat, the tenant said the goat was no longer there. The agent arranged a property inspection, but the tenants refused to let them in.

Seeking compensation

Two days later, a Section 21 eviction notice was issued due to rent arrears, but there was no evidence that the agent told the landlord about the visit or that another visit was arranged. The TPO decided this was a failing by the agent, particularly after the report of a goat on the property. 

The landlord was seeking £700 compensation from the agent to cover the costs of repairing damage to the home. The TPO ruled the agent acted properly when the matter was reported to them but failed to communicate with the landlord over the refused property inspection. The agent was ordered to make a goodwill compensation payment of £150. 

If tenants decide to keep farm animals like goats at a rental property, they must follow several strict laws and abide by the terms of any lease agreement. Any premises where goats are kept are classed as agricultural buildings and should be registered with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

What the law says about keeping goats

Goats must be identified and have a licence to move between premises, while the owner must keep up-to-date medical records for each animal. Their welfare needs include adequate outdoor space, dry housing and keeping at least two goats together as herd animals. Paddocks should be securely fenced to stop goats from escaping. 

Recently, the TPO had to investigate an estate agent who failed to tell homebuyers about a badger sett in their new garden. The buyer complained that the agent had withheld material information about the sale that influenced their decision to buy the property.

Buyer foxed over garden holes

The home had an extensive garden, and the buyers noticed holes dug by animals at the bottom end. They asked about the holes and were told foxes dug them, and because they had lived in a garden with fox holes before, they were not concerned. However, they discovered the holes were a badger set on moving in. 

When asked, the previous owner explained a report was supplied to the agent to give to the buyer, but the agent had failed to pass the paperwork on. The report confirmed the holes were the entrance to a badger sett and that a network of tunnels ran under a shed and lawn, extending over half the garden, meaning the buyers had limited use of the property as the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 makes disturbing, blocking or destroying access to a sett a criminal offence.

Badgering agent finally paid off

The report laid out remedial works that could be undertaken to comply with the law, which was priced at £12,500 to complete.

The buyer wanted to claim compensation for the works, but the agent refused, arguing the buyer was told about the badger sett during viewing, and the report was sent to them by email. However, the TPO could find no evidence to support the agent’s claims. 

The TPO ruled the agent’s lack of action stopped the buyer from making critical financial decisions about the property purchase. The TPO also ruled the agent should pay £12,500 compensation and apologise to the buyer for causing avoidable distress and inconvenience.

Property Ombudsman FAQ

Few landlords know about the work of The Property Ombudsman until they need to make a claim for compensation from a property agent. But the service handles thousands of complaints – and the number rises yearly. Here are some answers to the most common questions about the TPO service:

What does the Property Ombudsman do?

The ombudsman is a free, independent adjudicator who resolves disputes between consumers and property agents. The government approves the Property Ombudsman as a redress scheme, and agents displaying the TPO logo have signed up to a code of practice.

How do I complain to the ombudsman?

Complaining to the TPO is a four-step process:

  • Write to the agent laying out the grounds for your complaint
  • The agent must acknowledge receipt within three working days
  • Within 15 working days, the agent must fully respond to your complaint in writing
  • If you feel the complaint is unresolved, you can then escalate your complaint to the TPO

Does the TPO take complaints from corporate landlords?

The TPO is unlikely to take on your complaint if you are a corporate landlord. Instead, you will have to consider redress through the courts.

How much compensation can the TPO order?

The TPO can make awards of up to £25,000 but cannot enforce them in law other than expelling an agent from the scheme. As an agent must belong to a redress scheme in England (and in most cases under licence conditions in Wales), expulsion probably means they must stop trading.

Should I complain through the TPO or the courts?

The TPO is cheaper and more effective for small claims than the courts.

View Related Handbook Page

Tenant Relations and Dealing With Complaints

One of the keys to successful property renting is having good tenant relations and quickly responding to complaints (including repair requests).