Podcast 371: Unauthorized Pets & People in Rental

In this week’s episode, Podcast Host, Andrew Schultz, explores the topic of landlords stumbling across unauthorized pets in a rental property as well as guests!

Find out how to approach your tenant about the situation, when and how to send a notice to tenants to remove the pets and people and more.

We’ll also chat about the latest COVID-19 precautions to take when dealing with tenants including a tenant’s rights pertaining to COVID-19 and your rights as a landlord.

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Resources Mentioned on this Episode:

Show Transcription:

Andrew Schultz: (00:00)
Hey everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Rent Prep for Landlord’s podcast. This is episode number 371. And I’m your host, Andrew Schultz. On today’s episode, we’re gonna be talking about what to do about unauthorized people and pets. And COVID 19 precautions with tenants. We get to all that right after this

Voice Over: (00:19)
Welcome to the Rent Prep for Landlords podcast. Now your host, Andrew Schultz.

Andrew Schultz: (00:27)
Before we jump into today’s episode, don’t forget to check out the Rent Prep for Landlords Facebook group. It’s a great free resource for you to network with housing providers from around the country. And if you have a question or a situation that you’ve never dealt with over 12,500 members, chances are one in the group has been there before and can lend a helping hand we’re pushing for 13,000 members. So if you haven’t checked it out yet, do it today over at facebook.com/groups/rentprep. Don’t forget to mention the podcast when answering the questions. So we know how you found us.

Voice Over: (01:02)
Quorum forum, where we scour the internet for ridiculous posts from landlords and tenants.

Andrew Schultz: (01:09)
We’re gonna start this week with our forum quorum section. But before we jump into that, I wanted to mention that this is actually a user-submitted question that came in via the Rent Prep website. If you have a question that you’re looking for an answer to, and maybe you’re not comfortable bringing it to, or whatever the case may be, you can definitely drop that question on the contact page on the Rent Prep website, no guarantee that it’s going to be heard on the podcast, but we do actively watch four submissions that come in through the website for the podcast. So if you have a question, something you’re not so sure about something, you maybe getting some conflicting information about, feel free to shoot a over to rent prep.com, go to the contact page, and drop your question in the contact form. It’ll actually find its way over to us and we will take a look at it to see if it would make a good question for the podcast.

Andrew Schultz: (01:53)
All that being said, let’s go ahead and jump right in here. There is a lot to unpack on this one. So the situation is in Washington state, we have a new tenant, a single female with her mom that visits and is renting a four-bed, two-bath single family rental. She has two pit bulls and revolving on and off again, boyfriend we’ve given notice. And the tenant is asking for us to come out and finish some renovations. The tenant told me that she will be out of town for a few days, and mom is going to be house sitting and watching her two dogs. I walk into the property and found a third dog, a white pit bull. As I start working on the floors and doors as planned, the unknown dog walks out. He had broken out of his kennel and for the better part of an hour, we could not get him back in.

Andrew Schultz: (02:37)
We called the tenant and asked whose dog is this? And why is it here? Also, get this dog out of here. We can’t safely work on this apart. Uh, and we cannot have any aggressive unapproved dogs in the rental. Eventually, an unknown young woman came and took the dog who was very happy and friendly to see her. I told that person, we will have this aggressive dog that tried to bite me, picked up from animal, uh, picked up by animal control if I see it back here. So my question is, is this reasonable aside from the visiting mom and the boyfriend? How do I address these other people that are not on the lease and cannot live here? If they’re over 18 and here for more than four or seven days, does that create a residency situation? They have a bed baby supplies. Clearly, there are two or three other people living here.

Andrew Schultz: (03:21)
We don’t care. We just need them to be upfront and honest with us, but the dog cannot continue to be on the property. Right? So again, this one was, uh, brought to us via email. This was sent to us via the Rent Prep website. We’re gonna go ahead and unpack this one. There’s a lot to unpack here. Essentially. You have two main questions. What do you do about the extra occupants and what do you do about the unauthorized animal? I think the first question I would have to ask here is what type of lease do you have in place? It says that you have a lease at the bottom of the question here. So I’m assuming there is some sort of a lease in place but is this a month-to-month tendency? Is it a yearly tendency? What exactly are we dealing with here by the sounds of things, only the tenant who is listed on this lease and your lease is going to dictate a lot of things such as who can live in a unit, whether animals are allowed or not, et cetera, et cetera.

Andrew Schultz: (04:09)
So the first thing I would wanna do would be reference that lease to see who’s actually listed as an occupant and how many animals are allowed in the unit with regards to the extra occupants. This is a situation that needs to be, be addressed as soon as possible. Many states will have laws with regards to family members, moving into a unit in some states, an immediate family member can move into the unit. And there’s very little that the landlord can actually do about it. In some other states, there’s a timeframe that needs to be met, which would then establish that that person is a resident rather than a guest because they’ve lived there for so long. Some states even go so far as to say, you can simply establish residency by having a utility or a credit card. Bill sent to the property and living there for a period of time.

Andrew Schultz: (04:50)
Like that’s enough to establish residents in some states. So depending on where your property is located, you may have a tight timeline that you need to operate within to kind of prevent a guest from turn earning into an occupant without you having any control over the situation. Now, you mentioned in your question that you wouldn’t mind or don’t necessarily care that these people are living there, but currently, you have no information on them. So if they want to continue to reside in the unit and you’re willing to allow them to do so, they do need to go through some sort of a formal screening process, just the same way as your initial a tenant did, once they go through the screening process and you approve them, add them to the existing lease as responsible parties, anyone over the age of 18 should be screened and added to that lease.

Andrew Schultz: (05:32)
And assuming your leaseholds everyone jointly and separately, liable, adding more people really only serves to benefit you as the property owner in this instance, because having more people present on that lease means more people are responsible for that unit in the event that something goes wrong, considering things are already going wrong. This may not be a bad idea. So the way to approach this is talk to the tentative of record and explain that they’re in violation of their lease and why this is a good opportunity to hand them their written lease violation as well, which is going to explain the lease violation as well as the timeline that they have to correct that lease violation. So in this instance, correcting the lease violation could simply be getting these people added to the lease. Alternatively, you could say that you do not want these people living in the property and that they need to vacate by the end of the timeframe indicated in your violation.

Andrew Schultz: (06:22)
At that point, you would follow up after that date is passed to see if the people are still living in the property or not. If they’re gone great, the problem is already resolved itself. Um, if they are still living there, you still have the unauthorized occupants living in the property. At that point, I would proceed in an eviction against everyone living in the unit, the original tenant, and all other parties. You may need to consult an attorney for some assistance with the notice or with the eviction. I’d strongly recommend not delaying this because it could be truly detrimental to you. If you miss a timeframe and suddenly a guest becomes an occupant or whatever the case may be. Definitely don’t delay get on that one right away. Now let’s talk a little bit about this animal situation. You do have the ability to remove an unauthorized animal from the property based on what we’re being told here.

Andrew Schultz: (07:07)
It sounds as though two of these dogs were authorized and now there’s a third unauthorized dog, which is now living in the unit. So the third unauthorized dog is aggressive. And that’s obviously the main issue you here, uh, here at own Buffalo. We typically don’t do pet-friendly rentals historically. We’ve just never had good luck with it. We do have an animal addendum that we add into our lease in the event that we have a unit that we do allow an animal into, or if we have an emotional support animal or a service animal situation, we do have an animal addendum, um, that we use eat than for ESAs and service animals. It’s an animal addendum, not a pet addendum. At least the one that we use. It’s a pretty straightforward document. It’s only two pages and it records some basic information about the animal, such as, you know, name type breed, weight, color, you know, the basics.

Andrew Schultz: (07:55)
It breaks out simple rules for having animals on the property, such as cleaning up after the them noises smells, et cetera. We also require the tenant to submit a photo of the animal, and we keep that photo on file because that helps us determine if the tenant has swapped one animal for another, which is surprisingly common, or if there’s an unauthorized animal on the property. So it’s pretty basic, but it really shouldn’t need to be all that complicated. If people are actually gonna take responsibility for their animals. The problem is you have to assume that people are not necessarily going to take responsibility and you have to write everything as though, um, is going to be a headache. So you’re trying to prevent the headache on the front end. So the document also stipulates that we can request the tenant to remove an animal from the property.

Andrew Schultz: (08:40)
If it’s being aggressive or a nuisance, realistically speaking, I think most people would probably rather move their home than get rid of their pet. So if you’re at a point where you need to enforce the terms of an animal addendum, you may find yourself looking for a new tenant sooner rather than later. And that may be the BOS, the best possible scenario for you. If someone snuck into animal into the unit, that was not a pet-friendly unit. So as for how to handle this situation, you know, it’s very similar to how to handle the unauthorized occupant situation. First, I would address it with the tenant verbally and use that opportunity again, to hand them the written lease violation as well. I try to include a photo of the unauthorized animal along with the violation so that the tenant knows that we’re aware of the animal’s existence.

Andrew Schultz: (09:23)
And they can’t say, oh, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Well, we have a picture of it and it was in your unit. So it’s pretty clear that this animal exists and is on the property. So your lease violation again, is going to have some sort of a time frame in there in which the tenant has to remove the unauthorized animal. And then you have to follow up to make sure that the animal was actually removed from the property. You may find that the tenant tries to sneak the animal back into the property after you’ve inspected it. This may turn into a situation where you need to conduct regular inspections as part of your routine with this unit, while this tenant is in place, you know, the tenant has already broken the trust. So to speak by sneaking an animal in above and beyond the two that you’ve already allowed.

Andrew Schultz: (10:01)
So I would not hesitate to schedule regular inspections. If you feel that it’s warranted in this particular instance. One thing I did wanna touch on with regards to the violation letters is that some states will specify how much time you have to give to correctly lease violation. So you’re gonna wanna do a little bit of research into your local laws to see if there’s a certain amount of time that you have to give someone to correct their lease violation in reviewing this question. I honestly can’t help, but wonder if all of this was a bit premeditated, it just seems so odd to me that one person would rent a four-bedroom, two bathrooms, a family house, even if they did have two dogs like that just seems like a lot of room for one person. Yeah. People can choose to live, however, they want, but that just strikes me as odd. Um, I would be curious to know how many people were with the tenant when they actually came out to look at the unit originally versus how many people were actually listed as an occupant or as responsible parties on the lease. The very least this would be a red flag for us when we were doing the review of the application. And it may warrant a couple of additional questions, but either way, good luck to you. As you sort through this situation, it certainly sounds like you’ve got quite a situation on your hands,

Voice Over: (11:10)
Water, cooler wisdom, expert advice from real estate pros.

Andrew Schultz: (11:19)
What do you do when a staff member or a vendor winds up being exposed to an illness due to the negligence of one of your tenants? That’s what we’re dealing with in this segment of water-cooler wisdom. Let’s go ahead and jump right in. We just went into an apartment on a maintenance call. Our people were there for about 30 minutes evaluating the problem, and we’re going to have to come back the next day to complete the repair. As a required water shutoff notice was necessary. About an hour later, the tenant informs us that one of their family members was tested and came out positive for COVID. Our employees were to be polite. It wasn’t a random thing and the tenant should not have called us in. I was thinking that we should, for the safety of our employees, put a health questionnaire in place that the tenant has to check off on.

Andrew Schultz: (12:02)
If we are required to go into their apartment, have you been exposed to COVID or have you had symptoms of COVID in the last five days? Has anyone done something like this? We have tenants that have had COVID, but so careless that they would do this. And this one came to us via the Reddit, uh, via the landlord sub-Reddit. So I’m gonna preface this whole thing by saying I’m not even remotely qualified to talk about COVID, I’m limiting my comments here to how my company Owned Buffalo handled the situation. So very keep in mind, my company is from Rent Prep. They had a very different response to the COVID situation than what we did because we run very different businesses. We’re out in the field more. Um, they have no field operations. That alone creates two very, very different dynamics. When you’re talking about how COVID gets handled in a workplace, uh, or in a scenario such as this, there weren’t really a of out of the box.

Andrew Schultz: (12:54)
One size fits all solutions at the onset of the pandemic. And that’s where people were left. Everybody had to kind of build a parachute after jumping out of the airplane. So at the onset of the pandemic, at least here in the state of New York, we were very, very restricted as to what we could do in the world of real estate. For instance, we could not show properties in person for a period of time, and we were relying on virtual showings. And then we were able to do limited in person showings. Um, you know, the number of people was limited. And then there were, you know, compliance issues that we had to be compliant with various guidelines, including a questionnaire. It seemed like at the onset businesses were going to be part of the contact tracing process. And it sounded like the government was going to be looking for information from us in the event of exposures and things of that nature.

Andrew Schultz: (13:40)
So we were very early to the game in looking at ways to be compliant. Information was never really requested from us as time went on, but we kind of remained dedicated to doing what we needed to do so that we could continue to operate under the guidelines that were issued here in the state of New York. So what we did was we used the questionnaire provided to us by the state of New York. Um, it was actually provided by the state association of realtors. Nasar the New York state association of realtors. And I believe it was developed in conjunction with the New York state department of health. And it went through a couple of different iterations, but essentially the quite questions that we had to ask were, have you or anyone in the household knowingly been in close contact, uh, with, within the last 14 days with someone who had tested positive for COVID 19 or had symptoms thereof, have you or anyone in your household tested positive for COVID 19 in the past 14 days?

Andrew Schultz: (14:33)
And have you or anyone in your house experienced any symptoms of COVID 19 in the past 14 days? And I think that there was a question relating to travel early on that was eventually removed from the questionnaire as well. So essentially we had to record that information for anybody coming out, to look at a property, anybody coming into the office for a meeting, basically any sort of a face-to-face event that questionnaire needed to be on file. We also ran through the questionnaire when we were scheduling maintenance jobs with tenants and all of our vendors had to fill out a questionnaire prior to going to work at one of our properties. Eventually, we ended up developing a single-page website to make the entire process of lot easier for everyone and reduce the amount of time that we were spending on this task because it be quickly became overwhelming.

Andrew Schultz: (15:17)
It worked well for us, but looking back at that situation, um, you know, I think that there’s probably things that we could have changed to make it a little bit easier for everybody involved while still remaining compliant, the way that we needed to in order to be able to operate our, so in looking at the situation that you’re describing, no questionnaire is going to stop somebody from lying about being ill. And essentially that’s what happened here. Like the tenant knew that someone, or by the sounds of the question, knew that someone in the household was ill. Doesn’t matter if it’s COVID or another illness. They knew someone in the household was ill. By the way, the question was written, uh, at least that’s the way I’m reading it, how I’m interpreting it. So no questionnaire is ever gonna stop somebody from just flat out lying to you.

Andrew Schultz: (16:00)
You know, it doesn’t matter to them at that point, regardless, you still have to do what you can to safeguard your staff and safeguard your vendors. I’m not sure what the guidance will look like when this episode comes out, because we do record these a couple of weeks in advance, but I recommend doing what you need to do in terms of isolation or quarantine or whatever for your staff. And yeah, I would recommend implementing some sort of a questionnaire into your maintenance scheduling, even if it’s as simple as is anyone in the household sick or feeling unwell, it takes two seconds to ask. It could prevent an unnecessary exposure, not just a COVID, but at any illness. I mean, you really don’t know in today’s day and age, what people have in terms of, you know, colds or sickness or whatever. And I think everybody’s goal at the end of the day is to go home healthy.

Andrew Schultz: (16:43)
Um, so it’s a very simple question to ask, and I think that it could prevent some headaches for you in the future. Sometimes landlords come across employers who refuse to verify at tenants or income, find out what to do when this happens by reading the latest guide over on our blog. You could find that over at rentprep.com slash blog today, that pretty much wrap things up for this week’s episode of the Rent Prep for Landlord’s podcast. Thank you all so much for listening. We truly do appreciate it. So our goal with the podcast is always to help as many people as possible educated decisions when it comes to real estate, and you can help us to reach our goal. If you heard something in this week’s episode or any of our other episodes that will help someone, you know, please do us a favor and share it with them.

Andrew Schultz: (17:24)
If you’re looking to get in contact with me, I can be reached over at whatsdrewupto.com from there, you’ll find links to everything going on with me over at Own Buffalo, as well as other projects that working on, we just launched a free investment property deal analyzer, which is available over on that website. whatsdrewupto.com. It’s truly free. There’s no obligation whatsoever. And there’s also a companion video to teach you how I analyze deals and how we use our analyzer. If you’re looking for top-tier tenant screening services, head on over to rentprep.com, there are multiple products to choose from including a tenant-paid option. And if you’re over 50 doors, ask about the enterprise-level programs and pricing. I’ve been an enterprise user of Rent Prep for years now, and it’s definitely changed the way that we screen our tenants. Check that out today, over at rentprep.com. Again, thank you all so much for listening. We’ll be back in two weeks with an all-new episode you won’t wanna miss until then. I’m Andrew Schultz with ownbuffalo.com for rentprep.com and we’ll talk to you soon.