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Question of Week: Dangerous Pet

A tenant has a pet or a disability animal that is allowed under the lease. But, the lease says that if the animal causes any injury or damage, the landlord can revoke the permission. According to the landlord who called me about this today, the tenant’s dog injured someone who tried to intervene when it attacked a much smaller neighborhood dog. The little dog was also severely injured, but survived.

Can the landlord give notice that the tenant’s dog will have to be removed?

Yes, the landlord can AND under its lease clause giving it that right, it almost MUST give notice. It makes no difference if it is a disability animal. The reasonable accommodation request for a disability animal is to allow the animal despite a rule against that. All other rules that protect property, people, and humane animal treatment, must be obeyed or the tenant will be in default.

If the landlord does not revoke permission, and the dog injures someone else, guess who will be sued? The landlord, of course! That is because the landlord could have prevented the second injury by invoking lease protections to remove the animal. When it had knowledge the dog was dangerous, but did nothing within its power to remove it, then the landlord could become liable, also. It would be different if the landlord had no power under its lease to do anything. In that case, it would be liable only if it renewed that tenant’s lease, with the dog.

Second issue, how should this be done? The landlord should give the tenant written notice to remove the dog. It should quote the relevant lease clause, and should include a narrative about the damage and injuries caused by the dog. Because it is a dangerous animal situation, the landlord should require the tenant to IMMEDIATELY remove the animal to a boarding facility or other location, and not allow it to return under any circumstances, even for short visits. The landlord should give a deadline of two business days from the date of the notice, giving the exact date. The landlord should notify the neighbors, so they will be extra cautious until the deadline.

If the tenant does not remove the dog by the deadline, then that is an event of default. The landlord should give a “7 Business Day Notice of Default and Opportunity to Cure.” It should describe failure to remove the animal as the default, and removal of the animal as the cure. Again, keep the neighbors informed, so they know to be careful. If the dog is not removed by the deadline, then the landlord must start eviction immediately. For its own protection, it cannot grant any extensions.

For more information, check our classes on Landlord/Tenant Law, and on Fair Housing.

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Tenant Repair Requests

You should have a good system for written requests for repairs or maintenance. You can create such a system easily, and FREE, using Google Docs. It solves the following problems:

  • Receiving info by text or phone call and then having to write it down.
  • Making mistakes when you write down the request.
  • A tenant CLAIMING you made a mistake and they asked for two things, but all you wrote down was one thing.
  • A tenant claiming you failed to respond to a repair request, but they never actually contacted you.
  • You having to call or write a repair person and relay the problem and instructions to them.
  • A tenant claiming you entered their dwelling illegally (where you discovered a pet that was not allowed) because “they certainly did NOT request any repairs.” The point is, if they requested repairs, you are automatically allowed to enter, even without giving notice or getting permission.

We have a free downloadable article with step-by-step instructions for creating an online repair request system using the free Google Forms section of Google Docs. You can even provide the ability for tenants to upload photos, as part of the same form.

Once the tenant completes the form, you receive an email notification with everything they entered. The info is also retained in your Google Forms account, online. You can print a copy to keep in the tenant paper file, save it as an image to save in their electronic file, and you can forward it to any required repair persons.

Your life is easier and your fanny is covered. That’s priceless, even though the instructions are free!!!!

Click HERE for the instructions. You will go through a checkout process, but will not be asked for any credit card information.

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Garnishment of Tenant’s Wages

The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals ruled today (January 10, 2020) that an employee’s wages CAN be claimed as exempt personal property if there is a garnishment.

In the case, Renter’s Realty sued Ieisha Smith for eviction and for damages. Renter’s obtained an order of possession and a judgment for $5,145. They garnished her wages. Ms. Smith filed a motion to stop the garnishment, under a claim of exemption. She said her bi-weekly wages were $900 or less and all of the money was used for current living expenses.

Renter’s argued she could not claim wages as exempt because Alabama Code Section 6-10-6.1 (which became law on June 11, 2015) specifically said that was not allowed.

The Court ruled the law was unconstitutional. It said Section 204 of the Alabama Constitution provided that personal property up to the value of $1,000 was exempt, and the courts had always interpreted “personal property” to include wages due from an employer. Because the Constitution gave debtors a specific protection, the Legislature was not allowed to take it way with just a statute. There would have to be a Constitutional Amendment, which had not happened.

More than likely, Renter’s will try to get a different opinion from the Alabama Supreme Court. Unless and until that happens, the Court of Civil Appeals decision is the law. Wages can be claimed as exempt from garnishment.