I have written several articles about whether or not to allow pets in your rental property. It’s an age old discussion, and as you probably remember there are clearly two schools of thought on the subject.
Some folks just say “NO”.
They just don't want the hassle, the liability and the extra damage that usually occurs when cats and dogs become “residents”. I have to admit that used to be me. But what I found over time was that tenants sneaked them in anyway. You had all of the problems, but what you didn't have was that upfront damage deposit and the additional monthly pet fee that almost all landlords charge.
When tenants had unauthorized pets before, you mainly had to be concerned about damage to your property. Now landlords have much bigger worries.
What Has Changed?
With new laws cropping up all over the country which have increased every landlord’s liability for those pets that fall into the “dangerous breed” category most notably pit bulls and Rottweiler’s, the landscape has changed once again. Tenants have found a new way to try to “get their way”.
“My Pit Bull is My Service Animal”
I just had two investors tell me their tenants came up with this exact reason to try to keep the dogs. Since service dogs have special exemptions, they wanted to know what they could do since they both were sure the tenants weren’t being truthful.
I was pretty sure of the answer, but I checked with my friend and real estate expert AKA my closing attorney to see what he thought about this problem. Here is what you need to do if one of your tenants tries to sell this statement to you:
Tell the tenant that you will need signed paperwork from their physician or medical provider on their letterhead certifying that this is a service animal. Do not accept anything the tenant hands you. This paperwork must come in the mail. Once you have received it, look up the phone number online, pick up the phone and call the medical provider to verify that this is information is accurate. Assuming that by some miracle that this animal is actually a service animal, the next step is to call your insurance company. They must agree to provide coverage for this animal. If they won’t, that’s a deal breaker.
Update Your Lease
The final step you should take is to update your lease to say that “all animals must be able to be property insured by your current insurance company to be allowed on the property”. Do all of this verification before signing any leases.
New, Scary Laws
This is really a serious matter since two things have come to pass:
-A new law passed in the State of Kentucky this year has also been passed in many other states across the country. The new law states: “The owner of the property is ALSO considered to be the owner of the dog in addition to the actual owner”. This makes you personally liable for this animal.
-Most insurance companies won’t cover any animal that is now on the “dangerous breed” list. If they are living at your property and they hurt someone, you can expect to be sued and you will have no insurance coverage for this incident.
If you want to read more about these discussions can click on the links below.
- Your Increased Liability for Allowing Pets in Your Property
- Should You Allow Pets In Your Rental Property?
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In Maryland it’s the law now via a court case precedent – Landlords are responsible for the tenants dogs. I just don’t understand the thinking from either the courts or the legislature. I guess it’s my fault for actually believing they “think”
Thanks for the tips about service animals. I haven’t run across it yet but I am sure it’s coming.
Ned – It’s just crazy.
The law was passed here last June. I talked to my closing attorney recently. He really keeps on top of the laws and “trends” both here and around the country. He is of the opinion that if they can’t pass the insurnace test so long as it is in your lease, you can legally turn them down. I think all landlords should have an attorney add the appropriate language in their leases with regards to pets and service animals.
Ugh. So many reasons people don’t want to be landlords.
And, as you said, even when pets are allowed, tenants so often have ones we know nothing about. What does that mean? That we may in up in court to, once again, defend our innocence.
Too many lawyers. Too much unnecessary liability.
Thanks for sharing this Sharon. Better to be aware than to be surprised.
I wish I knew the answer Karen. I finally allowed pets in my rentals and charged for them. They always brought them in anyway. And I never once didn’t have some type of pet damage when they left. Even the best pets have problems from time to time. I really think it is more of an owner problem in a lot of cases.
This new law passed in June in here in KY has been also been passed in many other states. It is downright frightening to say the least. One lady from Miami emailed me on Bigger Pockets. She had just been fined $5000 each for two dangerous dogs (So 10K total) her tenants had that weren’t allowed in the lease. She wanted to know what to do. The only thing I could tell her was “get a good attorney”.
The landlord has no protection. Putting all your property in a trust can only protect you so much. Thanks for stopping by.