Tenant refuses to pay pet rabbit damages.

9 Replies

My last tenant had three pet rabbits that she let run free through out the house.  It wasn't until we had hired a house inspector to do a routine evaluation that we realized how much damage her pets had done.  The base molding was chewed on in every room and the tile flooring and laminate flooring were damaged by rabbit urine.  The carpet in the bedrooms were so bad we had to immediately pull it out along with the padding and floor tacks.  We also had to replace the fireplace tile and grout because we couldn't get the urine stains off.  I only asked her to pay for the replacement of the flooring in the bedrooms and the tile in the bathroom but she refused saying I should replace the flooring anyways because of the age.  I understand if it was just normal wear and tear but this was beyond nasty and the carpet was in excellent condition before she moved in 5 years ago.  I'm ready to take her to small claims court but I'm worried the judge might side with her.

@Angelique Kelly

What exactly is your inspector telling is is the damage done to tile flooring by rabbits and what is the fix proposed? I can understand how some kinds of porous decorative tile, perhaps around the fireplace, could be theoretically stained by rabbit urine, but glazed bathroom tile? Was the grout stained by rabbit urine? I could see that, too, but you can dig out and replace grout in most installations.

I'll leave the 5-year-old carpet you're replacing, the porous laminate flooring, and the damaged base molding for others to comment on. I just really want to know what the rabbits did to the tile. Do you have pics?

I used limeaway which helped a little but ended up spray painting the metal part of the fireplace and replacing the tile.

Urine exposure can actually "burn" the dyes in grout, it was obvious she let the urine sit there for awhile.

How long did she have the rabbits in the home. If they are a resent addition then you should have a good case in court. If she has had them for a long time and you did nothing about the situation found during regular inspections then you are likely out of luck since you did not give her any prior warnings. If you did not do regular inspections and did not know about the damage you have no grounds to claim now after 5 years. Hold on to her entire deposit and let the rest go.

Bottom line is it depends on how diligent you were with inspecting your property.

@Thomas S. Yeah that’s a good question . So How diligent were the inspections ? You can’t go long periods of time especially in low income areas . 6 months is plenty long enough to destroy the inside of a house if left unchecked . Did you have any idea she had bunnies in the property as pets at any time before this dilemma ?

@Angelique Kelly

Thanks for the shots, Angelique.

Those are calcium deposits in rabbit urine. Common enough. The fix there is going to be a steam cleaning followed by steel brush with some TSP or oxalic acid (Bar Keeper's Friend) and digging out the top layer of the grout with an oscillating tool.

There was no need to replace the tile around the fireplace to deal with that stain. We are talking about cleaning a fired glaze surface. Now, I'm just a stupid tile guy who installs the stuff, but my wife is a potter and actually makes all kinds of ceramics, including tile. In order to get that glaze on, that tile was heated to about 2000 degrees Fahrenheit so that the glaze could melt on it, fuse with the refired clay underneath, and turn to glass. That surface will survive practically any cleaning technique and, undisturbed, there are of course examples that have lasted millennia.

As far as I can tell, grout removal and replacement was not really given to you as an option to deal with the problem. This is a real shame, because with the new pre-mixed urethane grouts like Fusion Pro, the difficulty of fixing an issue like this has turned into little more than a craft project.

If she can find a tile guy who knows his stuff even moderately well, you're not going to do well with this in court. It really was a simple steam/solvent cleaning and grout replacement fix. How much were you charged for replacing the tile?

Again, the laminate flooring, the baseboard, and the carpet are completely separate matters, but really, as the other commentators above are explaining here (and they are also both experienced self-managed landlords with multiple holdings) this is probably not something you're going to collect on pretty much anywhere.

I'm sorry, Angelique, but my recommendation is to eat the expense. Fix the baseboard molding with Bondo, get rid of the laminate flooring and replace with luxury vinyl plank flooring or sealed-in-place triple-polyurethane-coated solid hardwood if you're going to allow pets. I am a hardwood and tile enthusiast for rentals because I do my own flooring work and tile and hardwood are the smartest floorings I can have for tax purposes, but most people like the LVP these days.

Unfortunately I live out of town and every time I would schedule someone to do maintenance, bug service or any type of inspection she would find some excuse not to be available or wouldn't  be present because she "forgot".   As far as I know she only had the rabbits the last year (that's around the time she was avoiding anyone entering the house) and the one time I saw them they were in a cage.   I have defiantly learned my lesson, going forward I will not make the mistake of trusting another person to take care of my house as well as I would.  I should probably just let it go but I hate the thought of her getting away with it.

The first thing I would consider before suing a former tenant is what is the likelihood that I can get the tenant to pay a judgment against them if I win?  Are you prepared to investigate where your tenant works and/or holds bank accounts so you can start a garnishment?  Do you know how that process works in your jurisdiction or will you have to hire someone else to do it for you?  Beyond that, your tenant is somewhat correct on the issue of carpeting, the most you could expect to recover would be the depreciated value based on the expected life of the carpet.