Landlord / Tenant Q&A: CATHERINE M. MATTHEWS (R), GRI

CATHERINE M. MATTHEWS (R), GRI
Broker-In Charge, Callahan Realty, Ltd.
Past President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers

Q. I have rented a property as pet friendly. I just checked the tenant out and there was no damage but there is an odor in the house. A few people that have looked at have asked if we had a cat in the property. We did. Is there someone I can call to try to get the smell removed and can I charge the tenant?

A. It is my opinion that a distinctive smell is damage. This damage can be corrected by withholding funds from the deposit or the pet deposit if you have one. Many carpet cleaning companies use enzymes to get pet odors out of carpets, including odors that are not urine. Hopefully, the cat did not “spray” the drywall as that can necessitate the need to cut out and replace it in serious instances.

Anytime you rent to someone with a pet, it is a good practice to have a pet addendum attached to your lease. The Hawaiian Humane Society has a very good addendum and a pet application on their website. The application asks questions about the breed, age, weight, veterinarian etc. You can also require that the pet be licensed with the City and County. You may want to include that the interior and exterior of your property are to be treated for fleas or ticks, if necessary. Discuss picking up waste and its disposal. You may want to include whether or not the pet can be bred on the property. It is a really good idea to get information about an emergency contact specifically for the pet. Often when you ask for an emergency contact on an application the tenants may list family members that live off the island. An emergency contact for the pet should be someone that knows the pet and can come and help should a situation arise which needs a hands on presence when the tenant cannot be reached. When checking with previous Landlords ask if the pet was well behaved, created a nuisance or caused damage. It can be a good idea to check with the manager of a building to ask about a perspective tenant’s pet. If the manager doesn’t remember the pet that is usually a good sign, chances are it did not create a problem.

Be aware if you have a property in a condominium or any type of planned community there may be rules that impose limitations on pets. Some examples of limitations are to the size, number and type of pet. Some places may place restrictions on breeds of dogs that are considered aggressive. It is a good idea to require renter’s insurance specifically acknowledging that the tenant has a pet and be sure that any injury to others caused by the pet would be covered by the liability portion of the tenant’s insurance.

In Hawaii, you are allowed to collect a pet deposit when signing a lease. The pet deposit cannot exceed one month’s rent. It can be less than one month’s rent but it cannot be more than that. It is also one deposit per lease, not one deposit per pet. The pet deposit can only be used for damage associated with the pet; it cannot be used for unpaid rent or any other items that do not relate to the pet. Of course pet restrictions do not apply to service animals.

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