The law states in Article 1067-A of the Civil Code that “No one may be discriminated against in access to tenancy on grounds of sex, descent or ethnic origin, language, territory of origin, nationality, religion, belief, political or ideological convictions, gender, sexual orientation, age or disability”, specifying that adverts offering property for rent may not contain any form of restriction, specification or preference based on discriminatory categories.
It is well known that the legal protection of animals has been increasingly ensured by special laws regulating the matter namely, the legal status of animals is already in force, recognising them as “living beings endowed with sensitivity and object of legal protection under their nature”, see Article 201 – B of the Civil Code. The same law also enshrines a right to compensation for “grief or moral suffering” for the loss of an animal in the event of serious injury.
However, as the property owner is the landlord, can he decide whether or not to accept pets?
This question doesn’t have a clear answer, depending on factors such as: has a prohibition clause been established in the lease? Do the condominium regulations state that animals are forbidden? These answers aren’t the same.
The first situation to check is the tenancy agreement. The rental contract consists of a bilateral meeting of the minds of the landlord and the tenant, and the landlord can draw up the rental contract in any terms he likes, as long as he respects the limits of the law. The landlord – the property owner – may prefer someone who does not have pets and is free to rent the property to anyone who wishes to keep a pet. In other words, stipulating a prohibitive clause does not violate the law.
There is no rule in the law that prevents the landlord from including a clause in the lease prohibiting the keeping of pets in the property, so we recommend that all tenants who find themselves in this situation try to negotiate the removal of the clause, with the consequent authorisation from the landlord.
Although there is talk of freedom to stipulate a prohibitive clause when the rented property is in a building constituted as a horizontal property and a condominium regulation has been approved that prohibits the keeping of pets, and the same is included in the title deed of the horizontal property and is registered, the landlord is entitled to impose a clause of this nature, warning the tenant of the existence of the prohibition by the condominium.
It turns out that although the condominium regulations and the constitutive deed may regulate such limitations, the same cannot be said of the resolutions of the condominium meeting or the administrator, as they go beyond their sphere of competence since such “resolutions which have as their object matters which go beyond the sphere of competence of the condominium owners’ meeting, either because they concern the exclusive property of each condominium owner, or because they represent an interference in the exclusive domain or administration that any owner has over his own fraction, are ineffective” (cfr. Judgement of the Justice of the Peace of 29-08-2011, case no. 42/2011-JP).
Furthermore, an exception to the limitations imposed by the landlord can always be considered if the tenants, for example, have or have people in the household with a disability that leads to needing a pet, such as blindness or autism.
Even the Court of Appeal has already considered, in a 2016 ruling, that in some situations, the introduction of a prohibitive clause is unconstitutional and should be removed, and for this reason, there is no absolute guarantee that the existence of a prohibitive clause cannot be questioned and even removed by the Courts, citing “For this reason the tenant should not, despite the existence of a prohibitive contractual clause, be compelled to remove a canine from the lease when it is proven that, in addition to not being a source of any harm to the peace, health or safety of the other residents and the landlord, it is important within the family and in the proper development of a child who has anxiety disorders and, in these cases, the aforementioned clause should be considered unwritten.”
In conclusion, there may be two different situations: i) the contract does not have a prohibitive clause / is silent on the matter – in this case, the landlord cannot impose that the tenant removes an animal from the property; ii) the contract has a prohibitive clause – the tenant should not bring a pet into the property, since he signed a contract that limited his right to do so, but this will depend on the circumstances to be verified in the specific case. As we have already seen, the courts have ruled in both directions.
This issue takes on greater significance when the property is rented with contents since the presence of pets could cause damage to these contents. In this situation, you should remember that any damage caused by pets to furniture and other furnishings could lead to the deposit provided at the beginning of the contract not being returned.
Furthermore, the landlord’s permission is not enough to keep pets in a property, whether it is rented or not; it must also be verified that it meets the conditions for housing them, namely and as stated in Decree-Law no. 314/2003 of 17 December: “The housing of dogs and cats in urban, rustic or mixed buildings is always subject to the existence of good conditions and the absence of hygienic-sanitary risks in relation to environmental pollution and diseases transmissible to humans.”
To fulfil these conditions, the law stipulates that only three adult dogs or four cats may live together in an urban building, except in the cases expressly provided for. The law aims to protect the rights of animals and provide them with decent and suitable conditions for their survival.
Decree-Law no. 276/2001 of 17 October also imposes a special duty of care on animal keepers “so as not to jeopardise the welfare parameters, as well as to monitor the animal to prevent it from endangering the life or physical integrity of other people and animals.” In this way, the law aims to impose a catalogue of basic principles for animal welfare.
However, the law doesn’t just protect the rights of animals, there is also a legal framework that aims to safeguard the basic rules of hygiene, quiet and good neighbourliness, which is why all tenants with pets must ensure good living practices.
In this sense, the General Noise Regulation adds to the definition of neighbourhood noise: “… a thing in their care or an animal placed under their responsibility”, dictating that between 11 pm and 7 am, the authorities can take measures to order the cessation of neighbourhood noise, under penalty of an environmental administrative offence, punishable by a fine.
In conclusion, if you want to rent a property, you have to make sure that there is no prohibitive clause in the contract, otherwise, your landlord is entitled to impose the removal of the animal, except in special situations.
The content of this information does not constitute any specific legal advice; the latter can only be given when faced with a specific case. Please contact us for any further clarification or information deemed necessary in what concerns the application of the law.