Landlord Tenant Q&A with LAURENE H. YOUNG

LAURENE H. YOUNG, RMP, REALTOR
Young Hawaii Homes, Inc.
2011 President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers

Q. I was having a difficult time renting my 3 bedroom unit. Finally I got an application, but the credit report was horrible. I decided to rent it anyway since the tenant seemed nice and there was no one else interested. The tenant gave me his money and moved in. A few weeks later I received calls from the neighbors because the tenant had two pit bulls that sometimes got out of the yard. I had told the tenant that no pets were allowed, so I sent him a 10 day notice to correct the problem. The tenant hasn’t gotten rid of the dogs. What should I do now?

A. Many property managers have lived through similar circumstances and changed their policies because of it. I know it is difficult to leave your unit empty for so long, but often that is better than renting to a less than desirable tenant. People have bad credit for many reasons and, because you never know for sure if this is that one usually good tenant who just fell on bad times for a short time, I would recommend that you keep looking until you get a tenant with better credit and references. It’s better to lose rental income on an empty house than to go through an eviction or have to do repairs.

The Landlord Tenant Code Section 521.69 states that “no allowance of time to remedy noncompliance shall be required when noncompliance by the tenant causes or threatens to cause irremediable damage to any person or property.” So, if the pit bulls have tried to attack someone, you can immediately terminate the rental agreement. In this situation, it would be helpful to have a police report.

In the absence of a direct threat, you were correct to send a 10 day notice. The notice should name all the adults residing in the unit, state the violation, state what must be done to remedy the situation, allow the tenant at least ten days to comply, and state that eviction proceedings will begin if the problem is not corrected and that the tenant will be responsible for all court costs and reasonable attorney fees. You could also include a statement that if the problem is corrected but recurs, eviction proceedings will begin immediately without further notice. With a serious violation, I recommend that you mail the notice and post it on the premises across the front door. Take a picture of the notice on the door. One way to document the date and time is to take the picture or video with the display of a cell phone in the shot.

On the 11th day, if the problem is still not corrected and the tenant has not vacated the unit, you can start eviction proceedings. First, if possible, try to document that the problem still exists. You can take pictures or videos, get written statements from the neighbors or record the barking. Once you have verified that the dogs are still there, a case can be filed in court.

One of the problems with these types of cases is that the tenant may go to court and claim that the dogs are gone. The judge may allow the tenant to stay if he pays all the court costs including filing fees, sheriff fees and attorney fees. If the tenant does pay all the costs and brings the dogs back again, you can file eviction proceedings immediately again. You do not have to send another 10 day notice to comply.

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