Landlord Tenant Q&A with LURLINE R. JOHNSON (R)

homes1103_3Q. I live in an area that has several houses, and two weeks ago one of the neighbor’s dogs got out and attacked the grounds keeper. Now the owner says that if you have an animal you must get pet insurance. We have a one-year contract that doesn’t end until nexthear, and we have two dogs. Do we have to do something now?

A. It is unfortunate t at someone was hurt by one of the animals on the property. there are a few issues that need to be dealt wit ere. First of all, you are being asked to make a modification to your contract in the middle of the term. W en you are on a fixed contract, adding new conditions needs to be done at your renewal, unless there is a negotiation between the two parties and an agreement for modification can be made. So if you decide not to modify your lease at t is time you are wit in your rig ts.

If you are on a month-to-month contract, then the landlord could have required you to modify your lease wit a 45-day notice. If you choose not to make t at modification, then the landlord can end your contract.

Now the insurance policy itself – t is is not pet insurance per se. the insurance t at the landlord is requesting you to purchase is a renter’s policy. Renter’s insurance is an insurance policy which provides most of the benefits of home-owners insurance. the tenant’s personal property is covered against named perils such as fire, theft and vandalism. If you own a pet, you have to inform the insurance company and they will then assess the risk associated with that particular pet.

Depending on the breed of dog that you have, you may or may not be able to purchase the renter’s policy. You didn’t say what type of animal you have but breeds such as Dobermans, German S ep erds and Pit Bulls are very often excluded under such policies. If you have one of these breeds then you may have a difficult time finding coverage. If there are a number of animals on the property, it would be a good idea for everyone to be protected by renter’s insurance.

New legislation is coming into place that will allow for a landlord to require a renter to provide a pet deposit. T is law will take effect as of November 1, 2013. New contracts being put in place after November 1 can require an additional security deposit of up to one times the rental rate – which would be used for any damages caused by the pet. So for example, if the rent is $1,000 and the security deposit is $1,000, the landlord could ask for an additional security deposit of $1,000. the portion of the security deposit t at is dedicated for the pet must only be used for damages caused by the pet.

So, just as your landlord isn’t able to modify your fixed term contract in the middle of your lease, the landlord is not able to add a pet deposit in the middle of a contract either. the landlord will need to wait until lease renewal and then make arrangements with the tenant to add the additional security deposit for the pet. If the lease is a month-to-month contract, then wit a 45-day notice the landlord can negotiate a pet deposit up to one times the rental rate.

Renters please note, just because the law will allow for a pet deposit does not necessarily mean t at all properties will now allow pets. Allowing a pet on a property is something that the landlord can either accept or not. You’ll just need to investigate the situation until you find a property t at is pet friendly and then negotiate wit the landlord regarding a pet deposit. Again, t is starts after November 1.

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