You Found an Unauthorized Pet in your Property – Now What?
Almost everyone loves animals, but not everyone wants to pay the additional fees required by most landlords or Atlanta property management companies as part of a pet security deposit. Some landlords may not allow animals at all! It is in this very instance that your tenant may sneak in a pet – just to avoid your fee. While it happens quite often, it most definitely violates the lease agreement.
So, what do you do? How do you handle when your tenants have an unauthorized pet living in your rental property?
“I am just pet sitting…”
When confronted about a newly discovered, unauthorized pet, tenants may likely state something along the lines of “I am just pet sitting for my uncle who is away on vacation for a few weeks,” or, “I found the dog roaming the streets. He is just here temporarily while I am trying to find him a good home since I know I cannot keep him here.”
As the landlord, there are a few signs you can look for to confirm the temporary status – assuming you are ok with the pet situation.
- Look to see it the animal’s belongings are scattered about or if they look like they have a permanent place in the home, i.e. food being stored on shelf in pantry, dog toy bin, etc.
- Does the tenant have a 40lb bag of food or a small container? Those temporarily keeping a pet are not likely to have so much food.
- Has the rental home been modified to accommodate the pet? i.e. has furniture been moved or protected?
- Is a pet carrier visible? If the pet is to be returned to its real owner soon, there should be some form of a carrier for transporting.
Some landlords or Atlanta property managers have a no tolerance policy when it comes to pets so even a pet on a temporary basis must be removed immediately. If that is not the case with you and you decide to believe your tenants and allow them to temporarily keep the animal, make sure to do follow up visits to confirm that the unauthorized pet has been returned to its owner and removed from the rental property.
Be detailed in your lease
Lay out specific details in your lease agreement. Some tenants will look for loopholes to keep a pet. Instead of using the words “no pets,” try using, “no animals,” as this is a broader term. If there are no exceptions to this rule, specifically state in the lease that there are no exceptions. A written agreement signed by both parties creates a legally-binding document that can favor your rights should the tenant violate the policy.
What do I do with the animal and the tenant?
Just as your lease should clearly state your pet or animal policy, it should also state the consequences should your tenant fail to abide.
If you are willing to allow pets, then state in the lease how much the pet security deposit is and any other fees associated with the pet ownership, as well as the rules for housing the animal.
If you don’t allow pets at all, make sure to clearly state what will happen if you discover a hidden pet. For instance, will you charge a temporary pet fee and give the tenant 30 days to find it a new home? Or will you require immediate removal of the animal? Will you give your tenant a 30 day notice to remove the pet or face eviction due to the violation? The consequences are up to you and depend on how serious you are about not allowing pets.
The key is to make sure that this is in writing. If you have multiple units, make sure your policy is uniform. Be careful making an additional, temporary agreement for a tenant to have an animal, as this could potentially disrupt the effectiveness of your lease.
Your Atlanta rental property is part of your investment and you need to protect it. As much as you may love furry animals, they may cause damage to your home that may cost you in the future. For example – scratching wood, staining carpets, bringing fleas or other pests, not to mention they may cause noise disturbances with other tenants. Property managers who are familiar with Atlanta property management will confirm that if you keep your policies in writing, you should have no problem enforcing them. Be clear, be specific, and make the policies known.