So you got a complaint call from someone informing you that the tenant’s dog attacked someone or someone else’s dog and you want to know what to do.
First and foremost is to determine if the tenant is allowed to have a dog by reviewing the lease terms. If not, send the tenant a certified letter immediately informing them that they are in violation of their lease agreement. In that letter, state that the dog must be removed immediately and that they need to contact you right away to schedule an evaluation to verify that they have complied. At this point, it is important to know what the laws are in Hawaii regarding the landlords right to cure a breach in contract. Some states allow you to terminate the lease within 5 days if the tenant does not correct the problem while others give them 2 weeks. In Hawaii, landlords are required to give tenants 12 days to correct a breach in contact. Be sure to include a specific timeline when preparing a notice that will be sent to the tenant.
By sending out this letter right away, you are taking immediate action upon receiving notice of a breach in the lease terms. If the other party is trying to bring suit against you, notify your insurance company right away and provide them with a copy of the lease, notes of the date and time you were notified, and the a copy of the letter along with proof that it was mailed. In addition, be sure to provide you insurance company with the tenant’s contact information so that they can follow up with the tenant for you.
If the tenant does not comply by contacting you or granting you access to the property, proceed with initiating the eviction process. You can also invoke your right to gain access to the property, but you may want to tread lightly on this one since there is the possibility that the tenant has an aggressive dog. The last thing you want is to go into a home uninvited.
Dog is approved and on the lease agreement
Contact the tenant and ask for them to provide you with a copy of their renter’s insurance policy. At this point, you should have read through the lease to determine whether or not the tenant is required to have renters insurance and if the lease states that dogs who exhibit aggressive or violent tendencies are not allowed at the property. If neither of these terms is included in the lease and the tenant does not have renters insurance, then notify your insurance company and provide them with a copy of the lease. Send the tenant a certified letter informing them that the dog now represents and health and safety concern and therefore must be removed from the property giving them the appropriate amount of time to correct this problem as defined by your state. If the tenant does not comply, then proceed with the eviction process, but before you may want to consult with an attorney due to the vagueness of the lease and gravity of the situation.
Dog attacks can be very serious and the most important thing is for the landlord to take immediate action and document everything. Failure to do so puts you at greater risk of being found liable. During the lease, if you are ever made aware of an unauthorized pet or that the tenant does not have renters insurance when it is required, then put the tenant on notice that they have to correct this problem. If you don’t and something like this happens, you could be found liable for not taking appropriate steps to prevent something like this from happening.
November 18, 2013