Maintaining a safe, family friendly property is important to a landlord as it reduces the legal risks he could be found liable for in the case of an accident. In the case of pets, the chance of damage to a rental property and injury to neighbors is an added consideration that landlords have to face; many ultimately decide to disallow pets altogether from their properties. A landlord often must retain the right to disallow dogs from a property in the lease in order to have the right to remove the pet.
The possible legal liabilities that can arise from a pet-owning tenant through property damage or assault often cause landlords to think about removing pets from their rental properties. Typically, in a case where a tenant's dog causes damage or injury to a third party, a landlord can only be held liable if he knew the dog was dangerous and took an active part in controlling the dog, such as if the landlord played with the dog on a regular basis. Landlords will also not be held liable if they have no power to remove the dog, although this may not be the case if the dog is a breed which is restricted from rental properties by local municipal regulation.
A landlord's power to remove a dog from his rental property comes down to whether the rental agreement or lease specifically states whether dogs or certain breeds are disallowed. If a property owner wants to remove a dog because of certain negative consequences, such as an increase or cancellation of landlord liability insurance, the landlord cannot do this unless the lease contains a pet clause disallowing any dog breeds. A pet agreement can specify which pets and breeds are allowed to stay at the rental property or proof of vaccinations and medical records. Have all tenants sign leases including a pet-agreement clause, otherwise nondog owners will not be covered by your pet rules if they buy a dog later.
Removing a Dog
If you discover a dog being kept at your rental property against the terms of the lease, you must follow the legal guidelines set forth in your state's rental and tenant laws. For instance, in Oregon, a landlord can post a notice ordering a tenant to get rid of his dog within 10 days, after which time the landlord can begin the legal eviction process. In Georgia, a landlord can order a tenant to remove a pet regardless of verbal consent at the beginning of the lease, as long as the lease contains a clause prohibiting that kind of pet.
Many landlords charge tenants keeping pets anywhere from $200 to $300 per year as a pet fee to pay for pet-related damage. Some courts may choose not to honor breach of a no-pet clause in a rental agreement as a reason for evicting a tenant if the landlord waits for an extended period of time before enforcing the rule. The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, requires landlords to accommodate guide dogs for tenants if they are blind.
- Dog Law: Landlord Liability for Tenants' Dogs
- NOLO; Smart Landlord Policies for Pet-Friendly Rentals; Ron Leshnower
- TenantNet: Landlord-Tenant Law in Oregon
- Georgia Department of Community Affairs; Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook; Feb. 2011
- Google Books; The California Landlord's Law Book: Rights & Responsibilities; David Wayne Brown, Ralph Warner & Janet Portman; March 2009
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images