If Unauthorized Pet Discovered, Collect Fee, Deposit
Like many owners or managers of tax credit sites, you probably let residents keep a pet, as long they obtain your prior approval and sign an agreement about the pet. But what should you do when you discover that a resident is keeping an unauthorized pet? You may not want to evict the resident or require him to get rid of the pet. But you want to make sure that residents who have been keeping unauthorized pets know that you are serious about enforcing your pre-approval policy.
A smart way to do this is to make sure your lease requires residents with unauthorized pets to immediately seek your consent and to pay any pet fees and/or deposits your tax credit site ordinarily gets from residents with pets, says Cheryl McMillon, a 25-year veteran of affordable housing management. And she helped us draft a Model Lease Clause: Use Clause to Enforce Pet Policy, which you can adapt and use at your site.
Preapproval of Pets: Why It's Important
It's vital for management to approve every pet brought into the site. That's because you want residents to sign a pet agreement that lists size, weight, and breed requirements for pets, and that spells out the residents' rights and responsibilities as pet owners living at the site. If residents routinely bring in pets without getting approval and signing a pet agreement, you will lose control over the kinds of pets that are living at your site. Also, you want to ensure that you get any pet deposit and/or monthly pet fee (sometimes called “pet rent”) to cover any damage or additional wear and tear to the resident's unit that the pet may cause.
What Lease Clause Should Say
Your lease clause, like our Model Lease Clause, should say that:
No animals, birds, fish, or other pets will be permitted at your tax credit site without your authorization, which will be documented in a pet agreement to be signed by the resident [par. a];
Upon your discovery of an unauthorized pet, the resident must sign your site's pet agreement [par. b];
If you authorize the pet, you have the right to require the resident to immediately pay all pet fees or pet deposits owed. To give this requirement some bite, you can require owners of unauthorized pets to pay these amounts as if the pet were there at the beginning of the resident's lease term.
For example, if you charge a $20 monthly pet fee and you discover that a resident has an unauthorized pet six months into the lease term, you can charge the resident $120 [par. c].
But don't try to collect pet fees or a pet deposit if you are not planning to let the pet stay at your site or if you are planning to evict the resident. Acceptance of fees or deposits for an unauthorized pet can be viewed as a waiver of the owner's or manager's right to terminate the lease or to insist on removing the pet. Enforce this pet rent clause only after you have decided to give your consent to the pet and allow the resident and the pet to stay at your tax credit site.
The resident must pay the pet fees or deposit as additional rent at the time of the next scheduled rental payment. This way, you don't have to sue the resident separately for the amount if the resident fails to pay it [par. c]; and
You have the right to exercise all your rights under your lease and pet agreement, including eviction, if you don't authorize the pet to stay at the site and the resident keeps the pet [par. d].
Cheryl McMillon: Property Manager, Rampart Apts., 1700 Village East Blvd., Port Arthur, TX 77642; (409) 963-2185; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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