Landlord Tenant Q&A with LURLINE R. JOHNSON (R)
LURLINE R. JOHNSON (R), ABR, CRB, CRS, GRI, RMP
Property Profiles, Inc.
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 physical damage from the pet but there is a “doggy smell.” The smell is not urine it is just “doggy.” If I call a company to come and try to remove the smell they will charge me. Can I deduct this from the Security Deposit or Pet Deposit? Or, is this “doggy” smell considered normal wear and tear and to be expected since I did say yes to the dog?
A. Okay, let’s talk about pets in a rental property. Recently a new state law passed allowing for a pet deposit. The deposit can be up to 100% of the security deposit which is equal to or less than the rental rate. So if the rent is $1,000 per month you can collect a deposit of $1,000 and an additional $1,000 as a pet deposit. The deposit is negotiable so you can charge any amount up to the rental rate.
An alternative to charging a pet deposit would be to increase the monthly rent. Advertising your rental as pet negotiable allows you to discuss options with the tenant and come to a mutually agreeable pet deposit amount or rental rate. Be aware that a pet deposit can only be used to address damage caused by the pet it can’t be used for unpaid rents, non-pet related damage, etc.
You should always qualify the pet. The Hawaiian Humane Society has a great pet application /registration form on their website. It includes questions regarding breed, age and license number of the pet. It also asks for references for the pet’s veterinarian, tenant’s previous landlord or resident manager, information regarding insurance and contact for emergency caretaker. Many buildings will limit the size and weight of a pet and many homeowner’s policies for renters will be discretionary regarding the breed not allowing “notorious breeds.”
Include a pet addendum to the rental lease that addresses the number and weight of pets allowed, note whether or not they are allowed inside the home and make a requirement that the pet be house broken. Tenant must agree to keep grounds clean of all waste and to be held responsible to pay all costs attributed to any damage caused by pets. Outlining the types of damage will be helpful so everyone is on notice of what this entails. State that damage may include (but not be limited to) replacement of torn screens, damaged flooring or window coverings including odors or stains.
Tenant would need to agree to have carpets professionally cleaned with an additional enzyme treatment to eliminate pet odors, be responsible for flea and tick treatment and agree to purchase a Renters Insurance Policy to protect against liabilities associated with the pet.
So now to answer your question. If you have a pet addendum in place that spells out the responsibility of the tenant regarding damage caused by the pet, then you are within your right to charge for eliminating the “doggy” smell from the property. You could then reference the guidelines of the addendum and charge the tenant (or pet) deposit accordingly. I would charge for removing of the “doggy” smell even without a pet addendum – but it could make for a more confrontational situation at check out.