Eviction for Pets

Author: Todd Christiansen | Category: Eviction

I find that every landlord has a different opinion on pets in their rentals.  Some have none, some only want cats, some only dogs.  I generally allow cats everywhere, despite many people claim they are worse on a house (peeing) than dogs.  I allow dogs only in single family houses, not in multi-family.

Plus, then when I allow dogs, I write it into the lease that I only allow the exact size and number that they are claiming.  Also, I prohibit new puppies.  This is all so they don’t do a switch once the tenants are in the property with different types or sizes of dogs, but still be within the terms of the lease.  For example, if you wrote “1 dog” into the lease as they came in with a chihuahua, what if that died and they replaced it with a Rottweiler.  Speaking of Rottweilers, I don’t allow “aggressive dogs”.  I also don’t allow other reptiles or birds.

So, what happens if you do all your up front work to protect yourself, but the tenant decides to go and get an unauthorized pet once they move in?  What can you do?  This is probably one of the most difficult tenant issues.  First, document both in writing and with pictures this new animal.  Immediately send a letter (that you keep a copy of) to the tenant explaining that they are in violation of the lease with this unauthorized pet.

If they claim they never got the message, you can send the message via process server, but that may just escalate the problem.  I would send a 2nd letter a week later possibly including the notice to quit language threatening eviction.

If this doesn’t work, you now have a decision to make.  Do you feel that you want to spend $450 or so on an eviction to get this tenant and/or pet out?  The risk is that the judge says “remove the dog”, the tenant says “I did yesterday”, judge says “great, case dismissed”.  You show up next day and dog is back.  You are at square 1!

It is a quagmire.  You can try to negotiate with the tenant to make them pay a pet deposit, but even that doesn’t always work.  One other round about option is to immediately file an eviction if they are late on a rent payment.  Maybe you can get them out on an easier path.

No matter what you try, this is a very difficult problem to fix.

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