Tenants with fleas, end of lease, any advice would be appreciated

7 Replies

We are big fans of the forums and we love to absorb as much as we can but we are in a situation that we feel needs a post.

We own a duplex and live in one side with our dog. The tenants on the other side are inherited from when we bought the property. We have had issues with them since we took over. They have been difficult when it comes to scheduling repairs. They act like they are the ones in charge and running the show and are very disrespectful of our requests for maintenance and cleanliness of the property. They have indoor/outdoor cats, which we do not allow in our rentals, but since they were inherited and this was previously allowed, we didn’t want to ask them to stop allowing their cats to go outside. They aren’t destructive to the property, they just wander all over our side of the property and all around other neighbors properties, which we do not like. They leave their garage door cracked open at night and for days at a time when they are away. We have asked them to keep it closed at night, due to rodents and other pests being seen around the property (we are surrounded by wooded areas), and due to the recommendation of our pest control guy. They gave us a run around answer about how they would not keep the garage door closed if their cats were out because they needed a place to go, and that they “would let us know if they do begin to see any pests, but in the 2+ years they’ve lived here, they never have”. Now, we just found out that they have fleas on their side of the duplex. Their lease is up for renewal at the end of the month. We were going to renew it, and we have their intent to renew form, just to allow us more time to complete the renovations on our side before having them move out and renovating their side. We do not have a new lease signed yet, and our current lease states that it ends and does NOT go month to month automatically on July 31. Also, the state of Washington does not require us to give notice to not renew. However, now that we know they have fleas, we do not want to renew their lease. We want to have them move out at the end of the month and be able to rip out all of the carpet and renovate their side, and rent it to new and more respectful tenants. We also would like to ask them to make the cats stay inside for the remainder of their lease, so they do not carry the fleas over to our side of the property and to our dog. Are we bad landlords or bad people for making them keep their cats inside and for not wanting to renew their lease due to this issue?! What would you do in this situation?

Sorry for the long and choppy post.

You probably won't be able to make them keep their cats inside for the remainder of the lease. I would let them know tomorrow that you do not plan to offer them a new lease and that they should begin looking for another place; if they don't have time to find a place they'll stay and you'll have to evict them. Spray for fleas outside the building and make sure your dog is treated for fleas (we like Seresto collars). At least you don't have long to wait and since you are planning to reno you don't have to worry too much.  Usually if a tenant is staying, I would charge them for the flea treatment but since they now have less than a month, I'd probably just wait and take it out of their security when they are gone. (I wouldn't tell them in advance they won't be getting the full deposit back-- they SHOULD know but...)

@Kylynne Kennedy Frankly, the fact that you were going to renew their lease in the first place is worrisome. I’m glad to read further down that you aren’t but the problem that caused it sounds terrible. There are many easy ways to wash fleas from your dog and I would look up setting a defense for fleas for the remainder of their stay.

I really am curious what the lease says now about all the things you mention in your post and also I am curious what it says about pest.

Hopefully you can bill them to get rid of them.

If you were to renew the lease, I would hope you would put a clause about a fee for missing service appointments because then being difficult is unacceptable.

Regardless, firm but far is the most important thing to do as landlord. The minute you let any violation go, your asking for trouble. I’m honestly like the last guy to listen to that advice when it came to my last three jobs in two different industries but in this industry, I stick to it very much so. You just have to!

Sorry you have to deal with such bad tenants. Give them a heads up so they can be prepared to move!

Good luck, hope it goes well!

@Jill F. thank you for your input! We do plan to take the cost of getting rid of the fleas out of their security deposit. We have treated our dog, our side and will be treating the yard in the next couple of days.

@Jonathan W. thank you for your input! We were only going to renew because we were hoping to be able to finish renovating our side before we had a vacancy and renewing with them would buy us more time. We were planning to go month to month though, in order to be able to have them vacate when we were ready. In light of the new scenario, we think we are ready to have them move out now. We do not want to take the chance at the fleas getting worse on their side and having an even harder time eradicating them, or worse, for them to spread to our side. Flea infestations can be impossible to get rid of, having dealt with them before. Their lease states that they are held responsible for any damage above normal wear and tear, which fleas would fall into that category, so getting rid of them will come out of their deposit. After dealing with them and the issues mentioned, we have since edited our lease to put in place more rules preventing this type of behavior. We had no idea they were like this until shortly after we had them sign a lease back in February after we bought the place. 

@Kylynne Kennedy what a hassle! I feel fortunate to have never dealt with an issue like this before.

If I was in your position I absolutely would not offer them the option to renew. Considering the tension between you two, I'd imagine that this will not be a surprise to them. You may want to consider inspecting the unit prior to notifying them that you will not be renewing their lease. This will give you an idea of the state prior to them vacating, and you'll be able to tell what damage they've done during move out.

Inherited tenants can be quite a hassle and it sounds like you've experienced that to a greater extent than many of us do.

Good luck!

@Kylynne Kennedy , @Jill F. @Joel Thompson , @Jonathan W.

Fleas do not have to be a big problem. 

There is a product called Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth.

Just sprinkle it in the carpets, beds, lawn (anywhere there are fleas).

You can even (pet it) it on the pets. It's non-toxic to pets and humans, and it works within a few days.

Leave it in the carpets and make a perimeter outside with it during flea season. It works!

You can read about how to use it for fleas on the internet.

Just be sure to get the food grade type, because the other types are toxic.

https://www.amazon.com/Harris-Diatomaceous-Powder-Duster-Included/dp/B0728JL9SQ

And you might be able to solve the garage door problem by installing a cat door.

Cat doors are less than $15 and can be installed in places other than the door (such as a garage wall).

(They also have temporary ones you can put in a window then close the window on them, but they are about $100)

That's about $30 for everything.

Good Luck!

@Kylynne Kennedy . You are not going to be able to force them to keep their cats inside. I would simply inform them that you are not renewing their lease. Then treat it for fleas after they leave.

For your dog I would give him or her nexguard from your vet. It is packaged like a treat and you give it to your dog monthly. We don’t have fleas but we use it with our dog since dogs can pick up fleas outside and we don’t want our dog to have fleas. Out dog loves it because he thinks he is getting a treat.

@scottmac thank you for your suggestions! we do not want to install a cat door. We do not want indoor outdoor pets in our properties. The only reason they are allowed to currently have the cats outdoors is because they were already doing this when we took over the property and we knew there would be no way we could force them to stop allowing their cats to go outside. We do not appreciate how cats that are outdoors wander around other people’s property and do not want anything to do with our tenants animals being in someone else’s yard other than the tenants, thus, this is not allowed in any of our other units. We have dealt with flea infestations before and they can get out of hand very quickly. We have tried all methods, and nothing has worked to completely eliminate them without having to months and months of continuous treatment. Our dog is treated, we do not want them spreading to our side, or our neighbors animals since the tenants cats go outside and wander everywhere. Continuous treatment is also not an option because when they move out, we want to be able to re-rent the place as soon as possible.

@amybeth thank you for your input! Our dog is treated, we are just concerned that the fleas will spread to our brand new carpet and then begin to spread to her. We have had dogs before that were treated, but still had fleas. We are also worried about the problem worsening and becoming a problem for future tenants. To mitigate this becoming a huge issue, I think we are just not going to renew their lease and then have our pest guy spray for the fleas. We may even replace the carpet, just to be sure that future tenants do not have any issues with fleas upon moving in.