Novice Landlord: Do you Evict a good tenant over a Cat?
All door knobs tore off
Eviction for having a Cat?
Yes, it is a cruel world when you have been a great tenant based on the definition that you have paid on time, the house is reasonably clean and organized, the yard is mowed. You as a tenant have not reported any problems or done anything to draw attention to yourself. As a landlord we love to get good tenants and it really is tough to evict a tenant who has displayed all of the characteristics of good tenancy except one.
Imagine my complete surprise recently when having been called to one of my rental units to check a vent pipe for the roofing crew, I entered the home to be greeted by one of the friendliest fluffiest gray and white cats I have ever seen. This guy was beautiful and he came complete with a litter box by the washer, food bowl, water bowl, and an assortment of cat toys. All I could think about as I verified the vent for the roofing crew on top of the house was "no pets," I was very clear on the tenant interview, no pets! I tell every tenant during the interview that I have a no tolerance no pet policy. No exceptions.
What makes this hard is that I as a landlord interviewed the tenant's mother with the tenant and her young daughter and remember how the mother assured me that her daughter would not break any rules, there was discussion about how hard it was to find a safe neighborhood for the little grand baby to play in the yard that was also close to work and most importantly close to mom. I liked the mother and I believed there was every intent to follow those rules by mom. When my new tenant initialed by lease rule #13 (yep the no pets policy is number 13 and all that it implies) I received not only a written confirmation that she understood that there was to be no pets but she re stated it back and said there would not be a problem with pets.
So here I am having to be the bad guy over a cat that even I would love. The problem is no matter how much I like this tenant or think her little girl is adorable or sympathize with her as a single working mom, she broke the rule. The first thought of every landlord in a situation where their objectivity has clearly been compromised by being overly sympathetic to the tenant's situation is that maybe you could overlook it this once, I mean how bad could it be? It can be BAD.
Do you make an exception or evict?
Clearly landlord's are often faced with having to make a decision that is not comfortable for them as this situation is clearly uncomfortable for me. I had to step away from the unit and take a more objective role by considering the liability to me the landlord and the premeditated decision that was clearly made by the tenant. I have to set aside my obvious emotional side and look at this situation from a business point of view.
Taking a purely business look at the situation I determined the following:
1. Rule 13 No Pets Allowed inside the rental unit was initialed and signed in agreement between the tenant and myself. This rule was clearly violated.
2. The tenant had previously been late one time on her rental payment and without any reminder from the landlord enclosed the late fee illustrating that she not only understood her lease but was familiar with other penalties in place within the lease.
3. The lease addendum clearly states immediate eviction will occur if the No Pets rule is violated. This addendum was signed and dated the same day as the lease and witnessed by her mother.
4. The cost of having a professional carpet cleaning company come in to this unit and replacing the trim work that had been used as a scratching post was going to be expensive.
5. This cat was not a kitten, the tenant had this cat before she moved in and was not truthful than nor now.
So, I left the property after leaving the proper notice that I the landlord had been inside the home for a repair issue associated with the replacement of the roof and I traveled to the local law enforcement office where I paid the $25.00 for the eviction notice to be served.
A pet will end a good relationship.
So here I am on a Sunday night waiting for Monday which will herald the arrival of an eviction notice to a tenant that was almost a good tenant. The love me love my dog (or cat in this case) is not applicable in real life. It just doesn't work that way. When you as a tenant sign a lease that has an immediate eviction clause for violating the no pets rule you need to understand that the landlord can and will evict you for breaking that rule. Yes the landlord has the ability to waive the rule, but at what cost? This is why being a landlord is not for the faint at heart. If I let this tenant slide on the no pets rule, what rule will I have to let her slide on next month? She stops mowing the yard or having trash service, than what? What about the cost that is associated with having a pet inside the home. The carpets now have to all be shampooed, trim work has to be replaced, two blinds are damaged in the living room. Where do you draw the line?
Well, you draw the line with the lease. Having a good clear lease is important and it establishes your business operation and the rules that are to be followed by both you and the tenant. Being a landlord is a business and you have to make your decisions based on the business of the unit not the fact that you have empathy for the tenant's situation. Take photos of the pet in question and the various pet products clearly evident. Document the damage, follow the process for eviction and get an immediate estimate for repair of all damages. You may get a favorable judgment to help offset some of the costs associated with the violation.
In this situation I not only have my photos but the presence of the roofing crew who also saw the cat inside the home and my immediate response with the eviction notice as soon as I became aware there was a violation. So now I have to wait and let the eviction process play out all because of a cat. The downfall of this relationship was not the infamous other woman it was a big friendly gray white long haired cat.
So at the end of the day the answer to the title question is Yes, you evict. You as a landlord have put your time, money, and energy into providing a nice home for someone to enjoy as they go thru life. The rules are simple and clearly stated. And it is not an accident that the "no Pets rule is number 13." Pets are bad luck for me the landlord because of the damage and cleanup. Pets are bad luck for the tenant because they will be evicted, immediately.
So, novice landlords, you are witnessing a moment that is very much currently going on for this landlord. Will it end well, I don't know. Evictions are always tough but they are a part of the process just like the cleanup. On a good note, I do have a very smashing new roof that should take this unit thru the next 25 years of its life. Good luck novice landlords.
Result from Cat Eviction
Having served eviction papers, the tenant decided to do a little revenge damage. About 1594.00 worth of revenge was reeked upon myself as I have had to replace every doorknob interior and exterior, they stole all of the blinds, curtains, curtain rods, took 5 of the screens out of the windows which now have to be custom ordered at 45.00 each, cut the linoleum and the hardwood floors, and crayoned all of the walls. So for all of those readers who had a moment of sympathy for the tenant, this tenant is not the angel of tenants. As a landlord I have completed the eviction process, working on repairing this unit back to a better status than it was left and going to go to small claims court. And as a side note, had to call a plumber in on this unit, apparently a washcloth was jammed down into the pipe soaked in some type of glue requiring the pipe to be cut out and replaced.
Heads up Novice Landlords look for the unexpected traps that are always left by an angry tenant. Good luck.
I usually don't respond to comments but I have to say that I respect the perspective of those who have been extremely upset that I evicted a single mom. As a writer, I did deliberately leave a few details out of this situation that would have cast a less than angelic shadow over the tenant. However, that is not the purpose of this series of articles. When you embark onto the journey of Land Lord- you will often find yourself extending deadlines, giving more time to catch up the rent, taking less of a deposit than you should and so much more to lend a helping hand as much as possible. We all do it. However, the purpose of the Novice Landlord articles is to focus on the Business of being a Landlord. Know that every repair has a cost associated with it and if you are going to have a nice home available for rent you have to focus on the Business of the rental. These articles are intended to help you learn to avoid some of the situations that myself and my friends who are landlords have already learned from. Every situation and tenant is a little different.
Nice rentals will attract nice tenants. As for the single mom in the above scenario, well she was a single mom by definition but daddy (while not married) was living in the home with her and his daughter, she signed four different places on the lease that she would not have any pets and stated her daughter was allergic to cats, and well, the animal control officer rounded up 6 cats from her stay....there is much more that goes into this but it doesn't negate the business of establish a policy and enforce it. Would I evict this tenant again, YES, only sooner.
So for those who are pinning my articles to the wall and target practicing with my photo, I say quite simply, become a Landlord and soon you will be evicting too. You will find that if you want to make it in the Landlord business and not go bankrupt, you will have to have a few rules for your tenants to follow. So come on, join the Landlord club. And keep writing comments, good or bad I welcome your perspective.