Landlord Tenant Q&A
LURLINE R. JOHNSON (R), ABR, CRB, CRS, GRI, RMP
Property Manager Property Profiles, Inc. Past President, Oahu Chapter National Association of Residential Property Managers
Q. My landlord gave us approval to bring in a puppy. He said we had to get “renter’s insurance” to cover any liability issues which we are okay with. He also said we have to give a non-refundable pet deposit. I am okay with the deposit but not with the “non-refundable” part of it. We have owned pets before and are very diligent with their care and the care of the home. We would be responsible for any damage the pet would make. Any suggestions?
A. Congratulations on being allowed to bring a pet into your rental property – you are definitely the exception to the rule here in Hawaii. The majority of landlords in this state – our company included – are hesitant to allow a pet because we are only allowed to accept a deposit equal to or less than the actual rental amount. The Landlord Tenant Code 521-44 (b) states that “the landlord may not require or receive from or on behalf of a tenant at the beginning of a rental agreement any money other than the money for the first month’s rent and security deposit.” Some states allow for an additional deposit – whether it is specifically for pets or not – but not Hawaii.
Also any deposit that is collected and held by a landlord for a rental property needs to be fully refundable. The deposit is held to remedy tenant defaults for accidental or intentional damages to the unit, failure to pay rent, failure to return all keys, cleaning, and compensation for damages caused by a tenant who wrongfully quits the dwelling unit. Within 14 days of a tenant vacating the unit, the landlord will notify the tenant in writing as to what portion of the security deposit is being held – along with documentation such as estimates or invoices for materials and services or for costs of cleaning.
The “renter’s insurance” the landlord is referring to is actually a HO-4 home-owner’s policy that protects a renter and their personal property. The liability insurance provides coverage for sums that you are legally obligated to pay as a result of a suit or claim by others that are injured by you or your belongings (excluding your automobile), family members or pet(s). The policy also has coverage for various other losses, but for this discussion it specifically insures the tenant in the event the pet should bite, hurt, or somehow injure someone on the property. Each company is a little different but the majority will not accept a pet that is considered a “notorious breed.” So when you are picking out that cute little pup you might want to think twice if it is a Pit Bull, Doberman Pinscher, or Rottweiler.
I can’t speak for other landlords but if you were to rent from us and we allowed a pet, you would be required to sign a pet addendum. The addendum specifies such things as the number and size of the pet(s) allowed, whether it will be allowed in the home, that the tenant is responsible for any damage caused by the pet and that the tenant purchase a “renter’s policy.” All these precautions are put in place because – once again – Hawaii law doesn’t allow for a pet deposit – refundable or not.
Answers to questions in Landlord Tenant Q&A are provided by members of the Oahu Chapter of the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM), an organization that supports the professional and ethical practices of rental home management through networking, education, and certification. The Oahu Chapter, founded in 2004, has become the largest in the nation with 166 registered members. Disclaimer: The answers provided in this column by Realtors address individual cases and should not be construed as interpretations of the law. For specific information on Hawaii State Law, go to http://hawaii.gov /dcca/areas/ocp/landlord_tenant or contact an attorney.