Tenant lets dogs potty on floors! How to handle?

20 Replies

I'll try to make this not too crazy complicated. We recently bought an 11 unit complex. The aquired leases were handwritten, one page and very lacking.

We have been rehabbing the empty units and significantly raising the rents, getting them up to market.

The current residents love the new units and have been happily moving into the more expensive redone ones.

So here comes my dilemma. This past week one of the current residents asked to move into one we are finishing and I verbally said yes. My contractor and I walked her current unit this past Friday to see the scope of rehab needed for her apartment once vacant.

Well, the smell about dropped us both. She has 2 little dogs that she obviously allows to go potty on the floors, all. the. time. When we opened under the kitchen sink to inspect the disposal, we found a litter box of dog poop over filling the box and white fuzzy mold growing on it!!!

How would you handle this situation. I obviously do not want her moving into the newly remodeled unit. I want to tell her this and tell her she needs to clean her apartment. At the same time, I want to be delicate as possible. Thanks!!

IMHO you don't want this person as a tenant. They obviously don't care about the property so why would they suddenly care when they move into the nicer unit? What is your current agreement with them on the hand written lease? Are they month-to-month? Is there a pet policy? Is there a "living conditions" section... meaning the tenant must keep their unit in good living condition and must report things like leaks, mold, cracks in walls, etc... immediately or face X consequence up to and including eviction.

If this tenant is on a month to month lease, terminate it in accordance with your local laws.

If she's on a longer lease, does it address care of the property?  It should, but if its only one page it may not.  If it does then you can try a "cure or quit" notice to get her to clean it up.  If not, you may be stuck.

Has this gone downhill since your initial inspection?  I assume you thoroughly inspected each and every unit before closing.

On initial inspection, she had the stomach flu, and her dogs were not present. So we all guessed that's what the weird smell was. It's honestly a very strange odor. Sickly smelling.

We are going on our 3rd month of owing the property. 

Her lease does not address anything. It's basically worthless. 

This is the letter I was thinking of sending: What do you think?
 

Dear Ms. Smith,

On Friday April 24th, our contractor stopped by your apartment to determine the turn cost for that unit. After his visit we were contacted about the condition of your apartment. Specifically the unsanitary smell and amount of animal waste improperly disposed of and on the floors.

Please be aware that the condition of your apartment is unacceptable and unsanitary for not only you but your animals as well. It is also a violation of your lease contract for failure to maintain the cleanliness and condition of our unit. This is causing permanent damage the flooring and subflooring, which you are responsible for, but can be a health issue for other residents in the building as well.

Effective immediately, your apartment must be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized and maintained. Another inspection will take place on May 8th to verify that steps have been taken to remedy the situation.

Items to be addressed are listed below:

During the inspection the following items were found:

  1. Litter box under kitchen sink over filled with animal waste.
  2. Mold growing on the animal waste in the litter box.
  3. Kitchen sink drains extremely dirty and filled with a thick layer of grim.
  4. Pet waste found on floors.
  5. Strong unsanitary smell.

After discovering the condition of your unit, the decision has been made to rescind the transfer offer.

Failure to comply with the above request will result in termination of your right of occupancy and you will have to move from the premises.

Please make every effort to remedy this serious situation. Please contact to confirm receipt of this notice by Friday May 1st.

You may reach me at --------


Inquire with animal control. Would you sit down to take a poop on a toilet already overflowing with it? Same goes for dogs' litter/paper area, what unsanitary conditions to keep dogs in let alone live in. 

Check animal limits. Most towns/cities' animal limit is 3-4 cats OR dogs total but wouldnt be surprised if some have started limiting it to 2 cats or dogs, total!

Most small dog owners actually let their dog poop indoors cuz walking them is time consuming and so after potty training the owners never move onto walking training.

Well, worthless or not her lease is what's in effect.  You say you will write:

It is also a violation of your lease contract for failure to maintain the cleanliness and condition of our unit.

But you say her lease doesn't address anything.  If your lease doesn't address this then you cannot make this claim.

Is this a month to month lease?

Given these crummy existing leases have you had a chat with your landlord/tenant attorney about what you can and cannot do?  If not, this is a conversation I would have before doing anything w.r.t. this tenant.  You can easily make a bad situation much worse if you fail to follow applicable laws.  Texas is pretty landlord friendly, but you still need to comply with all laws.  If you don't have a landlord/tenant attorney, get one.

Thanks everyone! I will definitely check with my attorney.  Seems that if I take that part out about the violation of lease and just ask her to clean for health reasons, and just rescind the moving offer, I'll probably be good. But I will def. check.

Her current lease is up in June.  As leases have come up, we've put them on a standard TAA lease.  Besides this weird hiccup, everything else has been going smoothly.

If her lease is up in June I just would not renew it. She will be out of the apt and you can do your rehab. I think that is the strongest thing to stand on is just not renew. 

If vacancies linger in your area, I'd go with the letter and give her a (misguided) chance to change.

If you are confident you can update and rent the apartment to a new tenant very quickly, I'd just inform her no that her lease will not be renewed when it expires.  She's been doing this for years, and I don't see any circumstance that would cause her to become a responsible pet owner.   Because her lease is expiring in June, you don't need to provide any written reason (unless the state of Texas requires you to do so.)  However, I'd tell her verbally why it wasn't be renewed.  

If you feel uneasy about asking her to move without "giving her a chance" to clean up her act (no pun intended, okay, maybe a small pun intended,) just include a new pet specific clause in the new lease she would have to sign to remain in the apartment beyond the current lease.  Add a non-refundable pet deposit of $200-$300, and a monthly pet fee of $25 per pet per month.  Be aware that to be fair, you'd have to add the same clause to the other apartments in that building, but I think having a pet clause is a smart thing to do anyway.

If she balks at those charges, she may move on her own.  If she pays those charges, you mitigate some of the financial burden of the situation.

Good luck.

Originally posted by @Karen P. :

On initial inspection, she had the stomach flu, and her dogs were not present. So we all guessed that's what the weird smell was. It's honestly a very strange odor. Sickly smelling.

We are going on our 3rd month of owing the property. 

Her lease does not address anything. It's basically worthless. 

This is the letter I was thinking of sending: What do you think?
 

Dear Ms. Smith,

On Friday April 24th, our contractor stopped by your apartment to determine the turn cost for that unit. After his visit we were contacted about the condition of your apartment. Specifically the unsanitary smell and amount of animal waste improperly disposed of and on the floors.

Please be aware that the condition of your apartment is unacceptable and unsanitary for not only you but your animals as well. It is also a violation of your lease contract for failure to maintain the cleanliness and condition of our unit. This is causing permanent damage the flooring and subflooring, which you are responsible for, but can be a health issue for other residents in the building as well.

Effective immediately, your apartment must be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized and maintained. Another inspection will take place on May 8th to verify that steps have been taken to remedy the situation.

Items to be addressed are listed below:

During the inspection the following items were found:

  1. Litter box under kitchen sink over filled with animal waste.
  2. Mold growing on the animal waste in the litter box.
  3. Kitchen sink drains extremely dirty and filled with a thick layer of grim.
  4. Pet waste found on floors.
  5. Strong unsanitary smell.

After discovering the condition of your unit, the decision has been made to rescind the transfer offer.

Failure to comply with the above request will result in termination of your right of occupancy and you will have to move from the premises.

Please make every effort to remedy this serious situation. Please contact to confirm receipt of this notice by Friday May 1st.

You may reach me at --------

 Perfect!  Except - take out the part of rescinding your offer, in my opinion.  If you tell her she has no chance of getting a new apartment, imagine what she might do?  Plus, why give her anything in writing that says you offered her a different apartment, then backed out of that offer?  Right now there is no evidence of this.  I'd leave it that way.  

Before you send the letter, can you take some photos?  Then hand her the letter?  If not, just go with the letter.  

Even if every little thing isn't in a contract, the court will assume certain things to be part of the contract.  This would include keeping a place in sanitary condition, and undamaged.  For instance, you don't have to put in your contract the specific wording saying it's not okay to light bonfires in the living room.  No judge will say, "Well, too bad  you didn't put in your contract that your tenants' dogs couldn't defacate all over the floors..."

I think your approach is perfect, and that you would have grounds to evict her if she doesn't clean up.  And then get rid of her as soon as possible.  Keeping her will cost you money.

Totally unacceptable.  Sorry you're dealing with it.

Oh, and send the letter with proof of delivery (USPS priority mail letter with proof of delivery is perfect - they don't have to sign for it, and you have proof she got it).

Also, make sure you give the proper amount of notice to not renew the lease - in CA if they've been in the unit over a year it's 60 days - just check and do it right.

Originally posted by @Sue K. :

 Perfect!  Except - take out the part of rescinding your offer, in my opinion.  If you tell her she has no chance of getting a new apartment, imagine what she might do?  Plus, why give her anything in writing that says you offered her a different apartment, then backed out of that offer?  Right now there is no evidence of this.  I'd leave it that way.  


I wouldn't be afraid of retaliation by a tenant.  You don't want them to have you over a barrel.  They will do what they will do with or without it.  It's better to stick to your lease (what you can get out of it) and indicate that her unit badly needs to be remodeled and that you will not be renewing her lease.  Make sure you give her adequate notice per your state/local laws.

Oh, one more thing, instead of asking her to confirm receipt of the letter, which she may stubbornly refuse to do, just say she should contact you to work out a mutually acceptable appointment for when you go back in to inspect.  If you don't hear from her, you'll just give her 24 hours (or whatever is required by your law) notice of when you will be entering.

Remember that her behavior is unacceptable.  Time to be fair but firm.  No asking. 
"I WILL be entering to inspect, but I hope we can work out a time that works for both of us."  That's the tone needed now.  

In my ever so humble opinion :-)

Originally posted by @Karen P. :

Thanks everyone! I will definitely check with my attorney.  Seems that if I take that part out about the violation of lease and just ask her to clean for health reasons, and just rescind the moving offer, I'll probably be good. But I will def. check.

Her current lease is up in June.  As leases have come up, we've put them on a standard TAA lease.  Besides this weird hiccup, everything else has been going smoothly.

Why be so wordy in the letter?

Just say that you find the condition of the apartment unacceptable, you won't be transferring them to the new apartment, and your lease is up June 1. Goodbye.

You don't need to provoke anything by detailing your disgust about the condition of the property.

Never ever say more than you need to. Keep it short, sweet and to the point.

Originally posted by @James DeRoest :
Originally posted by @Karen P.:

Thanks everyone! I will definitely check with my attorney.  Seems that if I take that part out about the violation of lease and just ask her to clean for health reasons, and just rescind the moving offer, I'll probably be good. But I will def. check.

Her current lease is up in June.  As leases have come up, we've put them on a standard TAA lease.  Besides this weird hiccup, everything else has been going smoothly.

Why be so wordy in the letter?

Just say that you find the condition of the apartment unacceptable, you won't be transferring them to the new apartment, and your lease is up June 1. Goodbye.

You don't need to provoke anything by detailing your disgust about the condition of the property.

Never ever say more than you need to. Keep it short, sweet and to the point.

 Much of the time I'd agree with this, but in this case I think the point is to be making a case for court, if need be.  If she ends up owing money for damages beyond the security deposit, he may have to sue her to get it.  All documents will be seen by a judge, and this is a pretty damning document.  Sets up his case well, and sometimes tenants don't see their own dirt.  Best to be specific about what the problem is and what needs to be done, in this case.  In my opinion :-)

Update on the apartment horror story:  She got the letter and called. I have to admit I was a bit nervous on this one! Besides all the dog waste, her apartment is like a Little Shop of Horrors. No joke. Very creepy. There was a doll head with pins sticking in its eyes on the coffee table....gulp.

Anyway, needless to say she was very upset. I stayed to the facts and tried to keep her calm.  She of course tried to explain the situation. We offered to help her in finding a service to clean, but she declined.  She said she would get it cleaned up.  I'll believe it when I see it.  Right now it's a matter of weighing the cost of having to rehab that unit to get it rented. 

It's kind of an interesting issue. We bought the building 100% occupied. Within the first weeks two people left. So we rehabbed those units. They needed major electrical and plumbing work. We then raised the rents on those two units by $115. The current tenants loved them so much they moved in. So then we had two more to rehab and so on and so forth. It's been musical apartments! So the rehabs having been coming faster than we had anticipated in our original plan. But in the end, it's all good, since we are able to get the rents up to market rate.

Thanks for all of the great input!! I really appreciated it.

Originally posted by @Karen P. :

I'll try to make this not too crazy complicated. We recently bought an 11 unit complex. The aquired leases were handwritten, one page and very lacking.

We have been rehabbing the empty units and significantly raising the rents, getting them up to market.

The current residents love the new units and have been happily moving into the more expensive redone ones.

So here comes my dilemma. This past week one of the current residents asked to move into one we are finishing and I verbally said yes. My contractor and I walked her current unit this past Friday to see the scope of rehab needed for her apartment once vacant.

Well, the smell about dropped us both. She has 2 little dogs that she obviously allows to go potty on the floors, all. the. time. When we opened under the kitchen sink to inspect the disposal, we found a litter box of dog poop over filling the box and white fuzzy mold growing on it!!!

How would you handle this situation. I obviously do not want her moving into the newly remodeled unit. I want to tell her this and tell her she needs to clean her apartment. At the same time, I want to be delicate as possible. Thanks!!

Do not allow pets unless prospective tenants prove that they are responsible first.  If tenants are responsible in one area of their life (ex. financial/credit), it is extremely likely that they will be responsible in most/all areas of their life.  I personally allow pets in all my rentals, but all my tenants are responsible and have credit scores of 600+.

If you're having to lease to tenants who are not responsible, DO NOT ALLOW PETS.  They will not be responsible pet owners.  This will prevent the types of issues you are currently managing from ever occurring.

@Karen P.

Thank you for sharing your story, sorry to hear about your troubles. Some good advice in here. 

If her lease in effect, and if she is on any type of government assisted living it would behoove you to tread lightly. Now, on the other hand if these obstacles don't apply you could apply a myriad strategic ways to either have her removed or clean up her act, literally.

I'm thinking public nuisance, you've already stated that after your taking ownership, renters left, we imagine it was because of her. Also, Municipal code/Ordinance violations, public health. Animal waste are the chief contributor to infestations and progenitors of disease. Good luck keep us posted.

Originally posted by @Karen P. :

On initial inspection, she had the stomach flu, and her dogs were not present. So we all guessed that's what the weird smell was. It's honestly a very strange odor. Sickly smelling.

We are going on our 3rd month of owing the property. 

Her lease does not address anything. It's basically worthless. 

This is the letter I was thinking of sending: What do you think?
 

Dear Ms. Smith,

On Friday April 24th, our contractor stopped by your apartment to determine the turn cost for that unit I would just say "entered your apartment for a scheduled inspection."  Some leases have language to dictate that there are only certain reasons you an enter the apartment, and determining the "turn cost" may not only be one of those, and it's jargon and not relevant to the conversation. After his visit we were contacted about the condition of your apartment. Specifically the unsanitary smell and amount of animal waste improperly disposed of and on the floors.

Please be aware that the condition of your apartment is unacceptable and unsanitary for not only you but your animals as well Just focus on the consequences to the apartment.  You're likely not in a position to determine the health consequences to the tenant or their pets, and the unit is your only real responsibility. It is also a violation of your lease contract for failure to maintain the cleanliness and condition of our unit. This is causing permanent damage the flooring and subflooring, which you are responsible for, but can be a health issue for other residents in the building as well. I would also delete the last cause here after the comma, you don't want to comment about consequences outside your prevue.

Effective immediately, your apartment must be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized and maintained. Another inspection will take place on May 8th to verify that steps have been taken to remedy the situation.

Items to be addressed are listed below:

During the inspection the following items were found:

  1. Litter box under kitchen sink over filled with animal waste.
  2. Mold growing on the animal waste in the litter box.
  3. Kitchen sink drains extremely dirty and filled with a thick layer of grim.
  4. Pet waste found on floors.
  5. Strong unsanitary smell.

After discovering the condition of your unit, the decision has been made to rescind the transfer offer I would address this issue in a separate letter, just focus on the point of this letter and trying to get the situation resolved as best you can.  You probably made no promise in writing that you're renting to them again so you can deal with that at another time.  You also don't want to run into: well they're not transferring me so I'm going to be difficult.

Failure to comply with the above request will result in termination of your right of occupancy and you will have to move from the premises I would just reference the legal action you're going to take: If I don't see X Y and Z improvements at the next schedule inspection dates, I will excessive legal action X .

Please make every effort to remedy this serious situation. Please contact to confirm receipt of this notice by Friday May 1st.

You may reach me at --------

 Your letter was probably fully effective and garnered the result you wanted .  I've had to contact lawyers about similar problems in the past and have updated your letter to reflect what I learned

(see print in bold)

.  Just my opinion.

ha! people are weird.

if i had no lease with her, i'd give her a month notice to vacate the property A.S.A.P. no questions asked. no reason given.

she'd have that notice LAST NIGHT.

Another update: I ended up evicting the scary tenant. She was so offended about being asked to clean up the animal filth, she decided she would not pay rent. That didn't work out so good for her....

So now we are in rehab "hades!" My contractor and his crew wouldn't even step foot into the apartment until I got someone to clean it! Well after multiple attempts of every cleaner known to mankind, it still smells like a giant litter box.  The floors are linoleum and tile with grout.

She housed her overflowing litter box under the kitchen sink. Umm gross. The contractor is basically talking about completely gutting the unit and starting over. After 6 rehabs in a row, my budget is begging for another alternative.

I'm going to the unit tonight and trying out one more enzyme cleaner called Terminator by Bubba's Rowdy Friends., using a high powered steamer. Praying this works.

If anyone else has any miracle helps, please let me know. :)

doing it yourself never sounded so good 

Join the Largest Real Estate Investing Community

Basic membership is free, forever.

By signing up, you indicate that you agree to the BiggerPockets Terms & Conditions.