Tenant has a Pet when the Lease Clearly says they Cannot, what is my Recourse?

Yes, it is a cruel world when you have been a great tenant based on the definition that you have paid on time, the house is reasonably clean and organized, and the yard is mowed.  You as a tenant have not reported any problems or done anything to draw attention to yourself.  As a landlord we love to get good tenants and it really is tough to evict a tenant who has displayed all of the characteristics of good tenancy except one, they have a cat!

Clearly landlords are often faced with having to make a decision that is not comfortable for them.  Step away from the unit and take a more objective role by considering the liability to yourself and the premeditated decision that was clearly made by the tenant.  You’ll have to set aside the obvious emotional side and look at this situation from a business point of view.

Many times you will find yourself forced to serve an eviction notice to a tenant that was almost a good tenant.  The love me love my dog (or cat in this case) is not applicable in real life.  It just doesn’t work that way.  When you as a tenant sign a lease that has an immediate eviction clause for violating the no pets rule you need to understand that the landlord can and will evict you for breaking that rule.  Yes the landlord has the ability to waive the rule, but at what cost?  This is why being a landlord is not for the faint at heart.  If you let this tenant slide on the no pets rule, what rule will you have to let them slide on next month?   If they stop mowing the yard or having trash service, than what?  What about the cost that is associated with having a pet inside the home? The carpets now have to all be shampooed, trim work may have to be replaced and blinds may be damaged.  Where do you draw the line?

Well, you draw the line with the lease.  Having a good clear lease is important and it establishes your business operation and the rules that are to be followed by both you and the tenant.  Being a landlord is a business and you have to make your decisions based on the business of the unit not the fact that you have empathy for the tenant’s situation.  Take photos of the pet in question and the various pet products clearly evident.  Document the damage, follow the process for eviction and get an immediate estimate for repair of all damages.  You may get a favorable judgment to help offset some of the costs associated with the violation.

So at the end of the day the answer to the title question is yes, you evict.  You as a landlord have put your time, money, and energy into providing a nice home for someone to enjoy as they go thru life.  The rules are simple and clearly stated.

Keep in mind though that there are instances when you must accept animals such a service or therapy dogs.  Of course, tenants should have this preapproved through their landlord and an animal on the property should never be a surprise to the landlord.  In order to avoid abuse of the system, landlords are generally permitted to require a letter from the tenant’s doctor explaining the tenant is disabled by mental illness and how the emotional support animal is expected to mitigate this disability.

Under federal law, you do not have to permit emotional support animals for anyone with a mental illness, only those who are disabled.  This might vary with state laws, so check with your attorney. According to the NIMH, 26.2% of adults in the U.S. suffer from a mental illness in any given year, but only 6% are severely mentally ill.  So more than three quarters of those with a diagnosed mental illness are not disabled by that illness and would not qualify to use a service animal even if they would benefit from one.

If the tenant has not yet gotten an emotional support animal, the landlord may be entitled to place restrictions on the size and breed of the animal.  The landlord may be entitled to require the animal be spayed or neutered.  Check with your state’s Human Rights Commission or Attorney General for information on your state’s laws concerning this.

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