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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.