Handling Unauthorized Pet Lease Violations: A Landlord's Guide

Handling Unauthorized Pet Lease Violations: A Landlord's Guide

America is a nation of animal lovers, with over 70% of households owning different types of pets. So, if you own a rental property, you can attract more tenants with a pet-friendly policy.

Often, these pet families take good care of your home and are likely to renew their lease at the end of the initial agreement. Allowing pets in a rental unit presents risks too, but you can charge a pet deposit to cover them.

What if a tenant brings an animal into your home without permission, though? Read on for guidance on managing an unauthorized pet lease violation in your rental home.

Creating an Effective Pet Policy

Allowing pets in your rental property can cause havoc with neighbors, other tenants, and the general public. It can also result in costly repairs for damage to your property.

Unruly pets may cause several issues for landlords, as follows:

  • Creating a disturbance by barking or roaming
  • Damaging flooring and furniture
  • Digging up landscaping
  • Creating unpleasant, lingering odors in your rental unit

An aggressive dog may even bite an innocent person, potentially causing you to become embroiled in a lawsuit.

If the benefits of renting to a pet-owning family pale in comparison to the risks for you, it's best to set up a strict no-pet policy for your rental homes.

You must clearly outline everything relevant to your rental property in the lease agreement, from backyard rules to pet policies and rent due dates. The more detail you provide, the fewer the chances of misunderstandings between you and your tenants.

Clearly outline the fact that pets are not allowed anywhere on your rental property and describe the penalties for a rental agreement breach in detail. It's a good idea to highlight that you will carry out property inspections regularly as part of your pet policy enforcement.

If you decide to allow pets on your rental property, you must detail every aspect involving these animals in the lease. You should specify any breeds or species that aren't allowed, describe the owner's responsibilities, and agree on a pet deposit.

Always discuss the lease conditions in detail with your tenant to ensure they understand them, and keep a signed copy of the lease agreement in a safe place.

Managing Assistance Animals

Assistance animals don't fall into the same category as pets do. So, your pet policy does not apply to them.

Service animals enjoy widespread protections under U.S. law, and tenant rights regarding support animals may vary slightly from state to state. It's vital to check which local regulations apply to your rental units.

In most cases, you must waive your no-pet policy for assistance animals, and you may not charge a pet deposit for them either.

Service animals and support animals do not require any paperwork or registration. You may only ask the tenant why they require a service animal and ask them to describe what tasks the animal performs for them.

People who own service and support animals are still responsible for any damages caused by their assistance animals and must ensure that their veterinary records are up-to-date.

What to Do When You Discover an Unauthorized Pet?

Despite your best efforts, you might discover that a tenant keeps a pet in your rental home and tries to conceal it from you. If you discover a pet during a routine inspection, inform your tenant that you will be taking a photograph, and do so.

You might need this evidence if they deny the presence of a pet afterward. Similarly, if you discover evidence that a pet has been on the property at any time, take photographs so you can follow up with the tenant if necessary.

Managing an Unauthorized Pet Lease Violation

The next step after discovering an unauthorized pet is to send a lease violation notice to the tenant. Avoid informal types of notices, like an email or telephone conversation.

Rather, speak to a property manager or lawyer about the correct procedure in your state. Depending on where you live, the tenant may be allowed up to seven days to rectify the lease violation before you take any further action.

You must outline everything in this formal communication, such as any fines for violating the no-pet policy, charges for damages caused by the pet, and your intention to evict the tenant if they don't remove the pet from the premises.

You must consider all the factors that can make a notice to quit invalid before issuing this document to your tenants. It's imperative to follow the letter of the law when it comes to serious offenses.

Pet lease violations aren't only applicable to tenants who bring animals into a unit with a no-pet policy. They can't introduce a pet into your investment property without complying with your pet policy either.

Infringements on these policies might include:

  • Harboring an unauthorized pet
  • Introducing a breed that's forbidden under your pet policy
  • Failure to pay a pet deposit
  • Keeping unvaccinated pets

These infringements are highly specialized, depending on what you've stated in your pet policy. That's why it's important to list these specifics at the outset.

How to Prevent Future Violations

One of the most effective ways to avoid lease infringements of all kinds is through careful tenant screening. These background checks will help you identify problem tenants based on previous landlord references.

If you decide to allow pets, it's sometimes useful to interview the tenant with the pet present. This can help you gauge its level of training and obedience.

Hire a Property Manager to Avoid Pet Problems

An unauthorized pet lease violation requires prompt, effective, and legally compliant action to avoid frustrating landlord-tenant disputes. All lease infringements can lead to costly, drawn-out eviction proceedings.

Hiring a property manager is one way to ensure you can manage any tenant problems quickly and efficiently and avoid unpleasant evictions.

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