Anxiety over rental increase

11 Replies

I'm having some anxiety over an issue I'm having with my tenant. I own a two family house. I live on the first floor and I have a tenant on the 2nd floor. In June 2018 a retired cop moved in. During the interview we talked about no pets and it was written on the one year lease. A few months goes by and he asked me, if for one night, his girlfriend can bring her dog over. He was having a rough patch and said if not he'll figure something else out but wanted to ask anyway. I said no problem. Since then the dog has been back once every week sometimes once in two weeks without him asking. I've never said anything and figured I could have much worse problems and I let it go. Besides, I've got a 2 year old and we're not the perfect neighbors as it is.

I had a new lease, same terms, same everything that I dropped off in his mailbox one year later and I never got it back. Partly because I’ve neglected to ask for it back. Technically he’s on month to month now unless he’s going to claim that he signed the lease but just forgot to return it.

Fast forward to just a couple weeks ago. We're outside and he says that we gotta talk. He's got a puppy with him. He says that because of 9/11, PTSD, his psychiatrist recommended he get a dog. He's got a doctors note. Caught off guard I told him that it's okay as long as he keeps the place clean and takes extra care that nothing gets damaged.

Next week I close on my second house. In less than three weeks I’ll be moved out and I’m currently trying to find a tent for my 1st floor. The other day the girlfriend’s dog was back along with this dog and now some days I have two dogs when originally I didn’t want any.

I spoke with my attorney and he suggests I write up a new lease for March 1st and increase his rent $150. I would be okay with the dog if that happened even if the girlfriends dog was here sometimes. I mean for the right price he could have an animal sanctuary up there. I'm just not happy with the current situation. His 2 bedroom apartment with a finished attic would go for 2000-2300 around here and he's paying 1800. I'm not looking to evict him and have two vacancies to deal with. So far we've had a good tenant/landlord relationship. He pays on time, I've fixed anything that he's asked me to and neither one of us has ever complained about anything.

What would you do? Thanks.

@Ray Hill   If he has a doctor's note for the dog, it is not considered a pet and you can't charge him for it.  That isn't to say you can't increase the rent because he's been there for 2 years just do not mention the emotional support dog.

Tell him you are moving out and want both units under an annual lease.  As he's been there 2 years and the market has changed, the rent will reflect that.  In the new lease, keep the no pets and state that the one documented emotional support dog is permitted, but no other animals are allowed without written permission.

Check your local laws to see how much you can increase the rent (is $150/month allowed) and how much notice you have to give him.

Going forward, you need to follow up on things like the lease signing and don't be afraid to politely tell him that if his girlfriend's dog stays it is a one night, one time deal.

This is a case of the tenant being in charge instead of the land lord.  Happens a lot.  I suggest you immediately reverse that trend.

Theresa is correct about the tenant's dog.  If he is claiming it as an Emotional Support Animal, you are required by law to accept it regardless of breed and you cannot charge any deposits, fees, or extra rents.  ESAs are defined under the law as a reasonable accommodation.  Period.

But girlfriend's dog .... nope.  It needs to be gone and if it appears again I would immediately file notice to Cure or Quit.

Here's the thing about this guy.... he's probably an okay guy.  But just like a child will push the limits a parent sets down, some tenants will push the boundaries of a lease agreement, and every time you respond like you did with the girlfriend's dog (lease says no, then land lord says okay) you're muddying the waters.

Maybe your lease says he's not supposed to allow anyone not on the lease to move in either.  But then next month his Ex-convict uncle gets out of jail and just needs a place "for a little while....to get back on his feet."  Well, Ray's lease said no dogs, but then he let me have a dog....so it's probably okay for my uncle to move in.

This is how people think: "He said no X, then he let me do X.  That probably means Y is okay too."

Land lords need to be clear, fair, firm, and consistent.  The next lease violation results in a Cure or Quit.  If not cured, you file eviction.  If he keeps testing you in other ways, I would simply issue 30 days notice of non-renewal....no reason given unless your local laws require a reason.  The only other option is to allow the tail to continue wagging the dog in this relationship.

At this point, I would probably give him notice that you are not renewing his lease. Do it in writing, keep it short and professional, and do not give a reason. Once he is out, you can reset, get your head on straight, and try again.

in the future, a no-pet property should include visitations. If visiting pet is just as likely to cause damage as a long-term pet so either you allow them or you don't. I think it's in your interest to allow at least one pet and charge additional rent for it but they definitely have to clean up after it and keep it from annoying The neighbors.

@Ray Hill be aggressive at getting market rents. You are just getting started so you are probably over valuing all of your tenants a bit. New Jersey is a lot like the market here in Chicago. If you have to lease up the apartment it will take no more than a few weeks as long as you price it right. If you raise his rent, the worst thing that can happen is that he moves out. Market his apartment while he is there and you may even have someone move in the same day he leaves. 

You're sweating small things.  That's based on assumptions: tenant pays rent, tenant is keeping property in good condition.  

Suggest handling the puppy situation different.  Properly document pet if you allow it.  Raise rent separately. 

Yes, you should be firm and ensure you have signed leases and not be afraid to increase rent.  If he leaves he leaves, but if he stays at a higher rent good.  One month vacancy between tenants will cost you as much as not raising rent.  

Increase the rent by $100 and let it play out. Give him proper notice though. If market rent is $100-$200 than your $100 increase then why would he leave? It is a win-win, you don't have to turn the unit over and he get to stay while still paying below market rent. 

The tenant pet issue is a completely separate thing and I am not sure there is much you can do if it is a legit ESA dog. The girlfriends dog issue you sort of let happen by your own admission and you just know for the future where to draw the line. 

Originally posted by @Nathan G. :

At this point, I would probably give him notice that you are not renewing his lease. Do it in writing, keep it short and professional, and do not give a reason. Once he is out, you can reset, get your head on straight, and try again.

in the future, a no-pet property should include visitations. If visiting pet is just as likely to cause damage as a long-term pet so either you allow them or you don't. I think it's in your interest to allow at least one pet and charge additional rent for it but they definitely have to clean up after it and keep it from annoying The neighbors.

Unfortunately he's in NJ, he can't not renew the lease unless its for a number of reasons. It's called EVICTION FOR CAUSE. The first couple, and I imagine most common are as such. Not paying rent, disorderly conduct that disturbs other tenants, damage or destruction of landlords property, violation of landlords rules and regs, not paying a rent increase, etc. There are more. The one exception is if he still lived in the unit and its 3 or under units. He said he moved out so unfortunately that's no longer applicable. Here's the link to the info, it starts on page 56. https://www.lsnjlaw.org/Public...

 

@Nathan G. actually he said he was moving out in 3 weeks. He could give him 30 days minimum but I think he still might be SOL.

@Ray Hill a word of advice. He's a retired cop, I'm in that field. He is most likely an alpha male type and is not afraid to be direct, push the boundaries, and has no qualm with uncomfortable conversations. Stick to your guns and like the others said, be professional. 

Thank you all for the great advice! I am going to have a talk with him in a couple days. I was going to do it today because I had to fix something in the bathroom but he wasn’t feeling well so I told him I’ll come up in a couple days when he’s doing better. 

Everybody has given you spot on advice...pay attention to the specific laws of you state, count, city and raise the rent as much as possible. Even if he was a perfect tenant, he would be getting a rent raise to bring the unit closer FMV. New lease, with as much protection/compensation for the dogs as legally possible.

Don't forget to check your insurance policy for any breed restrictions etc.

Best of luck!

Be careful with that "emotional support animal" BS. Yes, if it is a valid thing from a real doctor you can't prevent him from having a dog. With that said, people are HEAVILY abusing this privilege. There are websites that will give you a "prescription" for a dog or whatever ridiculous animal you want without ever having seen or talked to you. Just pay them a fee. This is not real legal protection for the pet owner, just a scam. Many people who do this have no actual medical issue. Many people blindly accept this as a free pass for pets because they don't want to offend somebody.

People try this all the time on airplanes when they don't want to pay extra or put their dog in a different area of the plane. They want it on their lap, without a cage.

You really should verify this with the actual doctor.