Evicting Tenants With Pets: Advice For Landlords

3 March 2015
 Categories: Business, Articles

In the United States, most standard leases have a no-pet clause, which stops tenants keeping animals inside the property. While Americans generally love their pets, animals can cause a nuisance to other tenants and may also damage property. Even if you do allow somebody to have a pet in your rental property, you can still evict them if something goes wrong. Whether you lease has a no-pet clause or not, find out what you need to do to evict tenants with pets.

What tenants must do to keep pets in a rented property

As a landlord, you normally have a legal right to ban pets in your rented property. If a tenant wants to keep a pet, and the lease includes a no-pet clause, your tenant must get your permission to keep an animal. You will normally give permission in writing, but you may rely on a verbal agreement.

It's important to remember that you can assess each request on its own merits. If you allow one tenant to keep a pet, you do not automatically have to allow all your other tenants the same right. In fact, you can adapt the lease according to the type, breed, number or size of pets that each tenant may legally keep in the property.

When you can evict a tenant who breaks a no-pet clause

The courts will normally allow a landlord to evict a tenant who breaks a no-pet clause, with a few exceptions. You cannot evict a tenant with a pet:

  • If you knew the tenant had an animal on the property and you did nothing about this for a significant period
  • If you agreed that the tenant could keep the animal, even if you did not give permission in writing
  • If you do not have a no-pet clause
  • If the tenant needs the animal for security or health reasons

It's important to remember that these exceptions can also apply if you use a building manager. For example, if the building manager turns a blind eye to a tenant keeping a dog, you may later struggle to legally evict the tenant.

In some states or cities, you may have a limited amount of time to act. For example, in New York, you can issue an eviction notice up to three months after you first find out that a tenant has a pet. As such, it's important to act quickly.

Evicting tenants whose pets become a nuisance

Even if you allow a tenant to keep a pet, you can still progress with an eviction if the animal becomes a nuisance. Examples of this include:

  • Noisy pets disturbing other residents
  • Tenants who allow pets to roam around the property
  • Pets that create messes or damage other tenants' property
  • Dangerous animals

If you fail to act on a complaint from one of your tenants, you could fall foul of the law. For example, the local health department may order you to take action if one of your tenants fails to clean up after his or her pet, as the waste may cause a health hazard.

Tips for landlords evicting people with pets

Before you issue an eviction notice or hire an eviction service, you need to gather evidence that shows why you are evicting the tenant.

Although you cannot legally evict a disabled tenant with a service animal, you can ask for medical evidence that the person needs the animal. A doctor's letter must confirm that the tenant has a disability (although you cannot ask what it is). The doctor must also confirm that the tenant needs the animal to cope with the disability. Without this evidence, you may have grounds to evict the tenant.

Check the tenant's application carefully. Before you allow a tenant to keep a pet, you can ask for references from a vet, obedience trainer or previous landlord. You can also ask the tenant to confirm how he or she will keep the pet (for example, the size of the cage), and you can also ask the tenant to confirm that he or she has vaccinated the pet. If any of these details are untrue or the tenant breaks any of these conditions, you may find it easier to issue an eviction notice.

Additionally, keep detailed records of any damage that the pet causes. You can charge tenants with pets a separate pet deposit. In this case, make sure you only deduct money from this fund, and keep all receipts and invoices. This evidence can help you show that the animal has caused an unacceptable level of damage.

Finally, talk to other tenants to gather evidence that an animal causes a nuisance. For example, a tenant with an allergy may suffer health problems because your tenant allows his or her cat to enter the property. A letter from the sick tenant's doctor could prove useful when you issue an eviction notice.

Pets can become a problem in rented properties, and you may need to evict a tenant who keeps an unauthorized or problematic animal. Nonetheless, before you issue an eviction notice, make sure you have all the information you need to act legally.