What do you do when your tenant adopts a Boa Constrictor as a pet?
What would you do if your tenant adopted pet like a Boa Constrictor, or an African Rock Python, or a White-headed Capuchin monkey or even a chihuahua without telling you?
Recently, someone asked me if they should ignore that their tenant got a pet and didn’t say anything to them.
In my early days as a landlord, I came to inspect one of my properties. I found that my tenant had a boa constrictor in a glass tank. I didn’t want to rock the boat, especially since he was a good tenant, and the rental market was soft. In hindsight, from one landlord to another, doing nothing and ignoring the situation is not a smart business decision. As a landlord, you have both a legal and ethical responsibility. You have a legal responsibility to protect yourself and reduce the risk of harm to the neighbours in the community. Additionally, you also have an ethical responsibility to protect and educate your tenant.
As a landlord you can be held liable for your tenant’s actions or negligence. By ignoring the fact that your tenant has an unapproved pet, you are condoning this behaviour and are being negligent yourself.
Landlords are real estate investors. Hence, as a real estate investor, you are running a business. If you are found liable, not only does this have a financial impact on you and your business, it also will impact your reputation in your community and as a landlord.
Imagine my tenant’s boa constrictor escaped through the ventilation system and attacked the newborn or the puppy next door. This can happen and it did happen in New Brunswick, Canada in 2013:
Police say the 45kg (100lb) African rock python snake escaped a glass tank through a vent and slithered through a ventilation pipe. Its weight caused the pipe to collapse, and it fell into the living room where the boys were sleeping. Autopsies concluded that the boys died from asphyxiation.” – The Guardian, March 31, 2015 (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/31/canada-criminal-negligence-python-kills-boys) –
Be proactive and take action. Doing nothing is a very risky option.
Whether you chose to evict the tenant or explore options with the tenant really depends on a number of factors.
Confirm if there is a no pet clause in the lease agreement.
A clause that every landlord should have in their lease is a no pet clause. The clause should state that pets are not allowed on the property without the written approval of the landlord. If a tenant wants to have a pet and you are comfortable with allowing pets on the property, draft up a separate pet agreement to include as an addendum to the lease agreement. This allows both you and the tenant to withdraw the pet agreement at any time, during the tenancy, without impacting the master lease agreement.
If my lease agreement states that pets are not allowed on the property without the landlord’s written approval, I can provide formal notice to the tenant. This would be an eviction notice for breach of the lease agreement. In some jurisdictions, the landlord and tenant act requires that you provide 14 days notice for a breach. Check your local landlord and tenant act to determine how much notice you are required to provide.
This notice would inform the tenant that they are in breach of the lease agreement and that if they do not permanently remove the pet off the property, within the required time period, they will have to move out by the deadline.
Familiarize yourself with your local landlord and tenant act. Focus on understanding the process for providing notice and evicting a tenant.
For pets that are banned or illegal you may have a greater duty of care in that you may need to educate the tenant on the laws and you may also have to speak to your local bylaw enforcement or human society for guidance.
If you do not have a no pet clause in your lease agreement, you will be limited in your options. If the pet is illegal or if the tenant does not have the proper permits for the pet, then you have a duty to educate your tenant and hope that they will take corrective action. Of course, as stated before, you may also have to speak to your local bylaw enforcement or human society for guidance.
If your property is in a condominium complex, review the condo bylaws. The bylaws will help you to determine if that type and size of pet is allowed in the building. If it isn’t, that may give you the leverage to provide notice of eviction to the tenant.
Now if these options are not relevant to your situation, then it may just be in your best interest to draft up a pet agreement with the tenants to set some ground rules and to define responsibilities of owning a pet on the property. You might not be able to force the tenant to sign the agreement. If they do, that’s great. If they don’t you may have to ride out the lease and then part ways or renegotiate the lease with a pet agreement at the time of renewal.
- 1. Familiarize yourself with your local laws, landlord and tenant act and your condo bylaws.
- 2. Include a no pet clause in your lease that prevents the tenant from bringing a pet onto the property without your written approval. You can always draft a pet agreement as an addendum to the lease later on.
- 3. It is good practice to prepare a tenant rules document that outlines the expectations, responsibilities and behaviours of the tenant while living at the property. Some of the rules can come from your condo bylaws (if applicable). You can provide this to the tenant when they sign the lease. Keep it to 1-2 pages and be reasonable with your rules.
- 4. Be proactive and take action. Don’t be apathetic because it may come back to haunt you in the future.
Ali AlidinaAli founded LandlordSimplified.com where he shares his learnings, experiences and his best practices to help rental property owners to overcome the learning curve in their rental property business.