As a landlord, you don't inherently know everything about what your tenants do or even who they are. The only information you really have is what they provide to you on their lease application. You expect tenants to be truthful about their identity and to disclose information about who will stay in your unit while they rent it.
Unfortunately, tenants don't always tell the whole truth. They might apply for a unit openly advertised as pet-free knowing that they intend to bring their cat. They might just assume they won't get caught. Other times, your tenant may not have started off intending to violate the lease but will eventually decide that their personal wishes are more important than the terms of the contract they executed with you.
Once you discover that a tenant has brought an animal into a unit without your knowledge or consent, what steps should you take?
Your initial response will depend on how you learn about the issue
Perhaps you spotted a tenant's pet looking out into the sunshine when you came by to collect rent. Maybe a maintenance worker advised you that they saw or heard the animal while doing their job.
If you or one of your employees discovers a pet-related infraction, the wisest approach is typically to immediately document the issue. Snapping a photo with your phone that shows a cat resting on the windowsill can serve as important evidence if your tenant doesn't agree to quickly comply with the terms of your lease.
On the other hand, if the issue comes to your attention because of a complaint by another tenant, you are in a position to take quick action. Instead of a mere technical infraction, the animal has become a nuisance that affects the quiet enjoyment other tenants have of the space. You may need to go in person to speak with the tenant or send them a letter advising them that they have breached the lease and asking them to correct the issue.
People often won't get rid of companion animals for a landlord
It does not take long for people to develop a strong bond with a companion animal, and as a result, many people are unwilling to re-home an animal that lives with them in violation of their lease. You may need to consider negotiating terms to allow your tenant to keep the animal.
Many landlords charge an extra security deposit, a cleaning fee and a monthly rental fee for animals. If the animal has already caused damage to the unit or if you believe that the tenant will not maintain the animal or the space properly, the best approach may be to initiate eviction proceedings to get rid of the problem tenant and the animal they brought into your unit.
Documenting the issue and communicating with your tenant will usually be the first steps to resolve an issue with a lease violation related to a pet.
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