Friday 5 August 2022

Can you ban domestic cats from a housing estate?

Yes, in new homes in new build housing estates. Housing estates are those groups of houses built by a single developer at one time and there are many of them in the UK and I'm sure in other countries. They are basically developments of new homes. The title deeds will be the same for every home. If you want to ban cats from the estate, the title deeds will be drawn up with a restrictive covenant within them. You can't ban cats from existing housing estates built some time ago. The covenants need to be entered in the title deeds at the time of creation of the homes.

Nightingale. Photo: RSPB

In the UK, provided the covenant (a promise) is unambiguous, not prohibited by competition law, not contrary to public policy and not assigned to a party, it will be enforceable by the builder or a management company. 

That may present a problem because about 35 years down the line the builder might have gone bust or they might not be interested in enforcing a restrictive covenant. And in my experience, many years after the creation of a restrictive covenant in a new build property, they become redundant and defunct and gradually people break the covenant and then a dozen years later the it is worthless.

And this is what I expect to happen in respect of a restrictive covenant in the title deeds of new homes built by Esquire Developments which places a 'no cat policy' within the estate. The developers could not build the estate without this policy because the RSPB and Natural England objected to the building of the houses because it is adjacent to a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Chattenden Woods and Lodge Hill, the most important in the country for nightingales.

And therefore, the policy is designed to protect the nightingales which populate the woods nearby. The RSPB said "Nightingales will be highly vulnerable to the indirect long-term impacts arising from the proposed housing, including disturbance from noise and artificial lighting, recreational disturbance (where access allows) and predation by domestic cats."

RELATED: Attitude shift in Australia to confining domestic cats 24/7. This started years ago as this article was published in 2014.

I can understand the policy but it probably won't work both for the reason mentioned above and secondly because there are other homes nearby with residents who have cats. These people live in homes that are not subject to the same restrictive covenants and rules. And therefore, their cats can and probably have entered those words from time to time.

I don't expect that the development company is that concerned because all they want to do is get the estate built and make their money. They do say that they're going to set up a management company to monitor the "no cat policy".

In Australia, this sort of policy is probably fairly commonplace nowadays. For example, two weeks ago, Bass Coast Shire Council, south-east of Melbourne, announced a total ban on cats outdoors which caused outrage among pet owners. There is a growing policy in Australia to confine domestic cats to their homes one way and another or perhaps to compromise by allowing them outside the home on a lead. The purpose as always is to stop predation on wildlife.

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