Landlord Tenant Q&A with CATHERINE M. MATTHEWS (R)

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

At our sold-out NARPM-sponsored seminar in August for owners who manage their own rentals, we had a question and answer period where members of the audience had an opportunity to ask questions of a panel of experts. We had many more questions than time; following are a few that have short answers.

Q. How clean should a property be left when the premises are vacated? A. A property should be left in the same condition that it was in when received as far as cleanliness goes. It has been my experience that maintaining a property in peak condition and making it clear to a tenant that it must be turned over in the same condition upon vacating usually works. Just remember that you must have a written, endorsed check-in sheet.

Q. Does the new pet deposit law mean we can get two security deposits? Can we get two pet deposits for two dogs? A. Any lease that begins after November 1, 2013 for a property where you allow a pet allows you to collect a refundable pet deposit of no more than one month’s rent in addition to the normal security deposit. You may not collect additional deposits for additional pets; it is just one pet deposit regardless of the number of animals. This money may be used if the pet(s) causes damage to the property, but must be accounted for in the same manner as a normal deposit.

Q. Is unpaid rent a reasonable deduction from a security deposit? A. Yes, paraphrasing the Landlord Tenant Code: the security deposit is money held in trust by the Landlord to remedy the situation should a tenant default in their obligation to maintain the dwelling, for failure to pay rent due, failure to return all keys, or to clean the dwelling back to the condition it was in when received.

Q. What type of liability insurance do you recommend that a tenant get if you allow them to have a pet on the premises? A. This is a question that you should discuss with an insurance agent. Most renters’ policies that I have seen come with a minimum $300,000 liability limit. Depending on the value of your home and the type of pet, you may want to set a higher limit.

Q. My tenant moved out a week ago, I just realized he had an unauthorized pet in the home because it is completely infested with fleas. Can I still charge him even though I already checked him out? A. Yes, the Landlord Tenant Code gives the reasons deductions can be made and it does not say that once you do a walk-through you cannot charge if you didn’t notice something. Often with fleas it takes a few days after the host animal leaves for them to get hungry and jump at your ankles!

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