unauthorized pet

Unauthorized Pet In Rental: How To Deal With This Situation?

Dealing with an unauthorized pet can be a huge headache for property owners and landlords. After all, pets can wreak havoc on rental property and even disturb the peace within the community. Here are some steps to take when a tenant has an unauthorized pet in a rental property.


Review the Rental Pet Policy

Every lease agreement should clearly outline the landlord’s policies and rules for the tenant to follow. This includes whether or not the landlord is accepting renters with pets or has a pet policy against it. Some landlords that allow pets may also have a policy outlining the expectations regarding pet ownership.

The lease is a legally binding agreement, so tenants must follow its guidelines. Here are some examples of lease agreement pet policies:

  • Types of Pets. The pet policy may allow only certain types of pets. For example, they may allow fish and dogs but not cats.
  • Number of Pets. Pet policies may include how many pets the landlord allows on the property. Some may allow only one to four, while others allow a limitless number of pets.
  • Breed Limitations. Pet policies may contain restrictions regarding certain dangerous or noisy breeds. For instance, many landlords do not allow rottweilers or pit bulls as they may be dangerous.
  • Weight Restrictions. Landlords may prohibit pets that exceed a certain weight class. This limits potential damage or injuries. It’s especially common in rental units that are smaller in size.
  • Additional Charges. Certain pet policies only allow pets if the tenant agrees to pay a pet deposit or monthly fee. This helps the landlord cover the expenses in case of damages.
  • No Pets Allowed. Some landlords disallow pets to protect the property and maintain order in the community.

Revisiting the lease agreement before having the tenant remove their unauthorized pet or charging them with a pet violation fee. If the tenant is technically following the rules, the landlord does not have the right to charge an unauthorized pet fee. They also cannot make the tenant remove the pet from the premises.


Check for Protected Assistance Animals

Before landlords charge tenants with unauthorized pet penalties, it’s important to consider whether or not the pet is an assistance animal. That’s because these animals are protected under the Fair Housing Act.

What are assistance animals? Simply put, they’re animals that work, perform tasks, and assist someone with a disability. Emotional support animals are also considered assistance animals as they alleviate the effects of a person’s disability. They are not considered pets.

Housing providers, including landlords, cannot refuse to allow assistance animals as they are part of providing reasonable accommodation. They must provide these people with equal opportunity to enjoy a dwelling space. Otherwise, the person denied reasonable accommodations may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.


What Happens If a Tenant Has an Unauthorized Pet?

If the tenant violates the pet policy and the animal is not protected, it is considered an unauthorized pet lease violation. In this case, the landlord can do a few things to correct the tenant or resolve the issue.


1. Send an Unauthorized Pet Lease Violation Letter

Unauthorized Pet Lease Violation LetterLandlords should first send an official unauthorized pet notice to the tenant to remove pets. Remember to give the tenant a timeline to rectify the issue. However, remember to review state laws and the lease agreement. While some may allow landlords to give tenants 24 hours, others may require them to provide a 7-day window.

In addition, make sure to document the issue and take photographic evidence if possible. This way, the tenant cannot contest and play innocent. Moreover, tell them that an eviction will follow if they cannot meet the timeline to remove the pet.

Apart from these, include any fines that the tenant may have incurred. Also, remind them that they will need to pay for any damages due to the unauthorized pet.


2. Begin the Eviction Process

A lease violation notice for unauthorized pet possession is often enough to correct the problem. However, some tenants may be hard-headed and refuse to comply. It’s best to begin the eviction process and find a new tenant in these cases.

Take note that the process will differ from state to state. Some may have more stringent rules that require landlords to provide tenants with an opportunity to cure the violation. Meanwhile, others allow landlords to begin the eviction process immediately.


What Are the Signs of Unauthorized Pets?

An unauthorized pet can be hard to catch, especially if the tenant is good at hiding it. In that case, how can property owners or landlords make sure the tenant isn’t bringing in any unauthorized pets? Here are some ways to tell.


1. Information from a Neighbor

Neighbors often know about the ins and outs of what goes on in the community more than landlords. Those who notice unauthorized pets may bring it to the landlord’s attention. If they do, consider scheduling a maintenance check to inspect the rental unit.


2. Pet Odors

If a neighbor has tipped you off, it’s time to investigate. Schedule an inspection and investigate the home for any signs of pets. One of the biggest tell-tale signs is when the home smells like dogs, cats, or other animals. Landlords can call this into question and ask the tenant.


Fur and Signs of Pet Damage3. Fur and Signs of Pet Damage

Fur is another dead giveaway; a tenant has been hiding an unauthorized pet in the rental property. Keep an eye out for stray fur on the floors and furniture. Landlords should also look for clear signs of pet-related damage. For example, threads may be pulled from carpets, rugs, or couches. The furniture, doors, walls, and floor may also have bite, chew, or scratch marks.


Handle Unauthorized Pet Violations Gracefully

It may be tempting to slap a tenant with a fine or evict them immediately when you find an unauthorized pet. However, it’s important to handle the situation gracefully. Doing so can protect the landlord-tenant relationship and encourage the tenant to comply. The goal isn’t to be punishing but to reach an understanding while still enforcing the rules.

Are you having trouble managing tenants with pets? If so, you may need the help of a reliable property manager. Find one today through our online directory!