Tenant dishonest about pets - what would you do?

25 Replies

Hi BP community,

I purchased a SFH in a Columbus, OH suburb. Got 2 tenants to rent the house for slightly above market.

Their credit is awful, but their income is solid so I went with it. I allowed one dog in the lease and they never mentioned other animals.

My handyman went to repair the shower today and reported back that there are in fact 2 dogs and possibly up to 3 cats.

The tenants have only been in the house for a month, but have paid their 2nd months rent on time and are otherwise low touch.

The property is older and not updated, but I’m obviously concerned about what the excess animals will do to the house’s condition.

I don’t want to sour the rapport I have, plus the rent is very solid, but this is a huge red flag. What else are they not telling me?

Thoughts on how to handle this? COVID times makes eviction nearly impossible so I’m treading lightly.

- Peter

If you're afraid of them potentially giving you problems and possibly ceasing paying on time then you can always wait until the eviction nonsense is over; at that time you can tell them to get rid of the additional pets or charge them a pet fee for their zoo. 

@Peter Ricca the credit was your first red flag, it is almost always more important than income, if it were one or even 2 more animals I'd try to collect additional pet deposit and amend the lease but 4 is too many, I'd wait until the moratoriums are a bit better and inquire about the pets. Do they actually have that many pets or is a down on their luck relative asking them to take care of pets for a while etc.?

@Peter Ricca just so I get this straight. The lease allows 1 dog. Multiple animals are residing there.Give them a notice to cure. If they don't cure then you will have to evict them.The tenants have crappy credit. So when you go to evict them and get a judgement that is going to affect the tenants how? With that many animals how much damage could your rental sustain. More than having a tenant that pays a months rent.

@Peter Ricca

Most people believe the credit score only shows the tenant's history of paying bills but it also is a resemblance of the tenant's history of following through on promises they make and contracts they sign. We will accept tenants with bad credit but they must put down a sizeable deposit. During COVID it is even more important to thoroughly vet your tenants since you cannot evict most of them for non-payment.

In your case, does the lease state how many animals they can have? If it says 1, they have violated it and I would call them immediately. If you are planning on updating the property after them, you can just add a premium to the rent for the animals. If you charge by animal they will lie and try to hid them so this gets tricky. If you are not planning on updating the unit; have them get rid of the other animals. You need to put your foot down right away with tenants or they will turn it into a pet shop within a couple months.

Originally posted by @Tim Herman :

@Peter Ricca just so I get this straight. The lease allows 1 dog. Multiple animals are residing there.Give them a notice to cure. If they don't cure then you will have to evict them.The tenants have crappy credit. So when you go to evict them and get a judgement that is going to affect the tenants how? With that many animals how much damage could your rental sustain. More than having a tenant that pays a months rent.

Thanks Tim -- so just to clarify, you vote for NOT allowing extra animals with increased rent? Basically you're saying the animals will cost me more in property damage than what on-time rental payments will bring in?

 

Originally posted by @Peter Ricca :

Hi BP community,

I purchased a SFH in a Columbus, OH suburb. Got 2 tenants to rent the house for slightly above market.

Their credit is awful, but their income is solid so I went with it. I allowed one dog in the lease and they never mentioned other animals.

My handyman went to repair the shower today and reported back that there are in fact 2 dogs and possibly up to 3 cats.

The tenants have only been in the house for a month, but have paid their 2nd months rent on time and are otherwise low touch.

The property is older and not updated, but I’m obviously concerned about what the excess animals will do to the house’s condition.

I don’t want to sour the rapport I have, plus the rent is very solid, but this is a huge red flag. What else are they not telling me?

Thoughts on how to handle this? COVID times makes eviction nearly impossible so I’m treading lightly.

- Peter

People who love their pets are usually willing to pay. Charge them for additional pets. If you charge $35 for 1 dog I would charge $105 for the three pets and let them know no additional pets are allowed.

 

Originally posted by @Charles Carillo :

@Peter Ricca

Most people believe the credit score only shows the tenant's history of paying bills but it also is a resemblance of the tenant's history of following through on promises they make and contracts they sign. We will accept tenants with bad credit but they must put down a sizeable deposit. During COVID it is even more important to thoroughly vet your tenants since you cannot evict most of them for non-payment.

In your case, does the lease state how many animals they can have? If it says 1, they have violated it and I would call them immediately. If you are planning on updating the property after them, you can just add a premium to the rent for the animals. If you charge by animal they will lie and try to hid them so this gets tricky. If you are not planning on updating the unit; have them get rid of the other animals. You need to put your foot down right away with tenants or they will turn it into a pet shop within a couple months.

Charles this is SUPER helpful and exactly what I was thinking. Yes, the lease states they can have a single dog and no other animals. I have 1.5 mo's security deposit I could easily keep and I also do plan on renovating the house after they leave. My gut here says to confront them professionally, have them come clean and force them to either get rid of the excess animals or pay a higher rent (or be evicted).

 

For me, cats are a deal breaker and would toss them out without thinking twice.     I had a tenant do this to me and I had some provisions in my lease this issue.   I give them 7 or 14 days to remove the extra animals or sign the lease addendum for the extra pets or move out. I charge a non refundable pet fee of $250  to just have animals in my place and then $35 monthly pet rent per pet.   I would charge the max you can or make it really painful.  You need to set the tone of who is boss / in-charge.  You waiver here then they will walk all over you.  This is a good way of making extra money.  

Originally posted by @Peter Ricca :

Hi BP community,

I purchased a SFH in a Columbus, OH suburb. Got 2 tenants to rent the house for slightly above market.

Their credit is awful, but their income is solid so I went with it. I allowed one dog in the lease and they never mentioned other animals.

My handyman went to repair the shower today and reported back that there are in fact 2 dogs and possibly up to 3 cats.

The tenants have only been in the house for a month, but have paid their 2nd months rent on time and are otherwise low touch.

The property is older and not updated, but I’m obviously concerned about what the excess animals will do to the house’s condition.

I don’t want to sour the rapport I have, plus the rent is very solid, but this is a huge red flag. What else are they not telling me?

Thoughts on how to handle this? COVID times makes eviction nearly impossible so I’m treading lightly.

- Peter

 The eviction courts are still open in Columbus, Ohio. @Donny Thompson can help you out with them. He is a great property manager here.

UPDATE:

Spoke with the tenant. He claims he is watching his Mother in-law's dog and cat while she is out of town until next week. Plan is to give him the benefit of the doubt and have someone drive by to check on the place (maybe see if both dogs are still in the yard). I reiterated that there's only 1 animal allowed per the lease. I don't have a good way of proving if they are keeping the cat(s) and dog long term or not. Either way, rent is on time so at least there's that...

What I would do in this situation is charge a $250 non refundable pet fee and $25 per month per pet. If they pay on time and you have 1.5 month rents deposit that’s a solid position to be In. May be a lot to evict but if you think they will cause 10k in damage then proceed. To touch on a point above you could give them the right to remedy. Also ask the handy man is the house destroyed? I allow 2 pets max, this is a good learning lesson for the future tho! 

Another thought would be check on Rover or any pet sitting site for that address. Your tenant could be using the house as a pet sitting business, or related. Also a thing to note on the houses with Cat. Cat piss are really hard to get out if tenant let it sit in the house carpet or in a low ventilation room, and could cost you few grand to try to remove it. Also there is another issue of Dog piss smell outside which if not rinse out can be quit troubling. Also I hope your insurance have pet damage cover in there, as if something happen it faults might fall on you.

Give them notice to cure immediately if that is within your lease.

They prob didn't want to pay the extra deposits, but if you don't want the animals, they need to fix this.

This is not a no-pay situation.

Originally posted by @Jaquetta Turner :

@Peter Ricca I agree with what the others said...charge for each pet or tell them to get rid of them. I think sometimes you can evict for things other than rent payments in some locations.

Thanks Jaquetta, that's exactly what I did. Basically let them know that they have a one time exception for "watching their mother in-law's pets," but they have one week to get them back to their Mom. Also gave them the option to pay additional rent for permanent pets. I didn't want to call them liars, so I basically told them "you can watch your mom's pet for the next 7 days, but any other pet visits over 24 hours need to approved in writing first." Appreciate the support advice!  

Originally posted by @Peter Ricca :
Originally posted by @Jaquetta Turner:

@Peter Ricca I agree with what the others said...charge for each pet or tell them to get rid of them. I think sometimes you can evict for things other than rent payments in some locations.

Thanks Jaquetta, that's exactly what I did. Basically let them know that they have a one time exception for "watching their mother in-law's pets," but they have one week to get them back to their Mom. Also gave them the option to pay additional rent for permanent pets. I didn't want to call them liars, so I basically told them "you can watch your mom's pet for the next 7 days, but any other pet visits over 24 hours need to approved in writing first." Appreciate the support advice!  


Sounds like you handled it perfectly...professional and stern. 

 

Peter, From an Insurance perspective, if you allow more pets you need to be clear on what breeds will give you a problem on your insurance. That is another potential cost that you need to account for depending on the breed. Also, if you are not requiring them to have Renters Insurance I would suggest that as well.

@Peter Ricca I get at least another $1,000 security deposit . that could cover the cost of changing out the carpets which is going to be absolutely necessary necessary when they move out dogs also like to scratch things.

Update for anyone following: 

Tenant said "we are bringing my Mother in law's pets back to her next week, however we would like to get a friend for our dog." Basically my interpretation is, they got a 2nd dog and got caught. I offered an addendum to the lease for an extra $50/mo, but no cats under any circumstances. 

They also offered to pay for and have a new fence built for their dog (old one is chain link and not in good shape). 

I think overall this is a fair compromise, I get some free improvement to the property, more monthly rent and they get to have 2 dogs. 

I'll update you on their response to the $50/mo. 





Watch them like a hawk and don't trust anything they say. They lied to you. And it sounds like the mother in law excuse was a lie too. When does it end? I would evict them simply based on the lack of trust. I can work with people, I don't work with liars.

In the future I would add wording to the lease to exclude temporary boarding of any animals for any reason without explicit permission and associated pet rent/deposit.

We allowed our tenants to have a Cat when they moved in. They paid a non refundable deposit for it. A month or so later we found out they got a dog without telling us. We made them pay a non refundable for the dog as well.(All together $400) They paid their rent on time, their credit scores were incredible and they had great income, so we figured the less "drama" the better. So we didn't make a huge scene about them not telling us. (Meanwhile we were renting a house ourselves hundreds of miles away and paying $200 every month on top of our rent for one dog) Long story short our kindness was more than taken advantage of. Paying their rent on time meant nothing after we saw the condition of our house when they moved out. It is going to cost us thousands of dollars to fix the damages their pets caused. If we decide to rent our property again there will absolutely be NO pets allowed..not even a fish!