Why would a rational landlord do such a thing? Well, the tenant had recently inherited a number of prized cats and significant funds for their care from a deceased family member. The problem was that both the condominium house rules and the apartment lease prohibited tenants from housing pets on the premises.
Despite months of red tape, no fewer than four visits to court and tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, the D.C. Superior Court Landlord Tenant Division ordered the eviction and the marshal in the District scheduled the eviction. The judge ruled that the eviction was proper and legally justified since the tenant had breached the lease and house rules that specifically prohibited pets.
Since pet ownership was not a protected class under any local or federal law, the tenant had no right to remain on the premises. While all parties were sympathetic to the tenant’s desire to carry out his relative’s final wishes and care for the cats, he simply could not do so in this apartment.
There are several reasons landlords may be reluctant to allow pets. One obvious reason is the additional wear and tear that an animal can inflict on a home. That wear and tear can come from paws and claws on floors, doors, screens and furnishings.
Cats and certain dogs shed their fur and dander — thus, more floor and air duct cleaning is required. Accidental damage occurs from animal feces, urine or when a wagging tail knocks over and breaks the landlord’s art or furnishings. There is always the risk that animals will bring fleas, ticks or vermin into the unit, which can be difficult and expensive to eradicate.
Finally, landlords are regularly sued by their tenant’s dog bite victims. Most of the time, landlords are found not liable, but defending these cases — with all the hassles, costs and risks of losing — outweighs any possible benefit of allowing pets. Landlords have been held liable for tenant’s dog bites when they exercised dominion and control over the area where the dog bite occurred, such as a common area. Landlords have also been held liable when they actually knew that the tenant’s dog had dangerous propensities and took no steps to eliminate that dangerous animal.
So, if you’re an animal-loving landlord, how can you allow pets while still protecting your investment? You can:
●Increase the rent to cover the additional costs of allowing pets.
●Increase your security deposit to the maximum allowable under local law. The District and Maryland, for example, cap security deposits at amounts equal to one month’s rent.