One-third of all pet owners adopted during the pandemic and 78% of pet owners view their pet as a best friend or even a family member. Unfortunately, some people who adopted a pet may be living in a rental that does not allow pets.
A notice to the tenant to remove pets is used when a landlord discovers a tenant is violating a lease by having an illegal pet. In this article, we’ll discuss steps a landlord may wish to take before notifying a tenant that they have violated their lease, explain exceptions to a no-pet rule, and provide a free example of a notice to send to a tenant to remove pets.
- A landlord can require a tenant to remove a pet if having a pet violates the terms and conditions of the lease.
- Unauthorized pets are often discovered when a landlord conducts a routine maintenance inspection or periodic drive-by inspection of the rental property.
- Before notifying a tenant to remove pets, a landlord should review the lease to ensure that pets are prohibited and verify that a tenant actually has a pet, versus pet sitting for a friend or neighbor.
- Exceptions to a no-pet rule may be made for service animals or emotional support animals.
- A landlord may be able to evict a tenant for refusing to remove a pet, or compromise by allowing a tenant to keep a pet in exchange for paying additional pet rent.
Can a landlord require a tenant to remove a pet?
A landlord who doesn’t allow pets may eventually be confronted with a tenant who has an unauthorized pet. A pet can be discovered during a routine interior inspection or drive-by of the home, or a complaint from a neighbor about a dog that’s constantly barking or a cat that visits in the middle of the night.
If a rental property has a no-pet policy a landlord may wish to act sooner rather than later. That’s because the longer it takes to discover and remove an unauthorized pet, the deeper the emotional bond could become between a tenant and a pet.
Here are some questions for a landlord to consider when asking a tenant to remove a pet.
Does the lease specifically prohibit pets?
The first step is to review the terms and conditions of the lease. The lease agreement should specifically state that a rental property has a no-pet policy. In addition, the lease should clearly state the consequences of a tenant having an illegal pet, such as a fine and subsequent eviction for violating a lease if a tenant does not remove a pet.
If the lease agreement is vague or does not include a no-pet policy, a landlord may still request a tenant to remove a pet. However, a tenant may be able to argue that because the lease does not explicitly prohibit a pet, that one is allowed.
Does the tenant really have an unauthorized pet?
After a landlord reviews the lease, the next step is to ask if a tenant really does have an unauthorized pet. For example, a tenant may have someone visiting with a pet, or a tenant may be pet sitting for a short period of time while a friend or family member is on vacation.
Wrongly accusing a tenant of having an unauthorized pet may lead to resentment, with a tenant moving to a new home instead of renewing the lease.
One way to set the right expectations with a tenant is when they first move in. Let the tenant know that periodic inspections are conducted every 3-6 months to check the property condition and identify items in need of replacement or repair.
If a tenant knows a landlord will see the inside of the home every few months, the tenant may be less likely to have an unauthorized pet.
Is the tenant aware that pets are not allowed?
The pandemic launched what has been described as a “fur baby boom,” with more tenants working from home and adopting a pet for companionship. In some instances, a tenant may honestly be unaware that having a pet is not allowed, even if the restriction is included in a lease.
That doesn’t necessarily mean a landlord should allow a tenant to have a pet. However, a landlord with a tenant who made an honest mistake may wish to revisit the no-pets policy, or stick to the position that the lease does not allow pets.
Are there exceptions to a no-pet rule?
There are a couple of circumstances when a tenant may be allowed to have a pet, even if a rental property has a no-pet policy. If the pet is a service animal or an emotional support animal (ESA), a landlord may be required to make reasonable accommodations under the Fair Housing Act, according to The Humane Society.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently released revised guidance for landlords with tenants asking to have an animal as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act.
A service animal is:
“Any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability.”
Emotional support animal
An emotional support animal (ESA) may also be known as an assistance or support animal, according to HUD. Unlike a service animal, an ESA is not individually trained to do work or perform tasks. Instead, an emotional support animal may perform a variety of functions for persons with emotional, neurological, or cognitive disabilities such as:
- Interrupting impulsive or destructive behavior or self-harm.
- Reminding a person with psychiatric impairments to take their medication.
- Providing a reason to live for a person with major depressive disorder.
- Engaging in an action to calm a person with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack.
How to write a notice to tenant to remove pets
As a rule of thumb, a notice to a tenant to remove a pet is concise and to the point. Here’s an example of how to write a notice to remove pets:
Notice to Immediately Remove Pet
City, State, Zip: ______________________________________
The purpose of this Notice is to inform you that you are in violation of your Lease Agreement.
An unauthorized pet has been discovered in the property you are renting. Paragraph ________ of your Lease Agreement specifically prohibits pets. The pet must be removed from the premises immediately.
An inspection of the property will be conducted on ___________________________ (Date and Time) to verify the unauthorized pet is no longer in the property.
Failure to cooperate or comply with this demand may result in your being evicted from the property, and you may incur additional expenses such as attorney and court fees.
Your prompt cooperation in removing the pet is expected and appreciated.
Feel free to contact me if there are any questions.
Landlord signature: ________________________________________________
Landlord name printed: _____________________________________________
City, State, Zip: ____________________________________________________
Can a tenant be evicted for having an unauthorized pet?
Provided a pet is not a service animal or emotional support animal, a landlord may be able to evict a tenant for having an unauthorized pet. The eviction process varies based on the local and state landlord-tenant laws where the property is located, but generally follows these steps:
- Send a “Cure or Quit Notice” to the tenant for violation of the lease by having an unauthorized pet. The notice requires a tenant to cure the lease violation by removing the pet, or quit the premises by vacating with the pet.
- Court proceedings for an eviction are normally handled by a special housing court. A judge will hear the landlord’s complaint, provide a tenant with the opportunity to respond, then rule on the eviction. A landlord will receive a “Writ of Possession” if a judge rules in favor of a landlord, indicating that a landlord has the right to possess the property.
- Removal of a tenant is done by a law enforcement official, such as a local sheriff. A sheriff will post a notice, then physically remove a tenant and the pet after a specified waiting period. A landlord may be able to collect monetary damages from a tenant by requesting a money judgment which a collections agency will use to garnish a tenant’s bank accounts and wages until the money judgment is paid in full.
Benefits of renting to a tenant with pets
Evicting a tenant for having an unauthorized pet can be time consuming and expensive. In some cases, a landlord may wish to consider allowing a tenant to keep a pet. The Humane Society, eForms, and LegalTemplates are three websites that have a free pet addendum to modify an existing lease, or to add to a new lease. Before signing a pet addendum, a landlord may wish to consult with a real estate attorney or property management company to better understand how to create and use a pet addendum.
Potential benefits of having a pet-friendly rental include:
- Generating a higher rental income with a monthly pet fee.
- Reach a wider pool of prospective tenants by allowing pets.
- Increase lease renewals because in some markets pet-friendly rentals can be hard to find.
- Allowing a tenant to have a dog may help to keep a home safer and more secure.
Before allowing a tenant to have (or keep) a pet, a landlord may wish to speak with their insurance company concerning potential liability attributable to the pet. In addition, a landlord may wish to meet the pet, ask if a pet has had required vaccinations and any training, and require a tenant to obtain renters insurance with pet liability coverage.