Inspection, possible eviction, related to pets and lease.
June 3, 2011 2:33 PM   Subscribe

Former apartment manager advised us to cut corners with regard to pets (we have two dogs, two cats) in our original lease (which was written to say we have one dog, one cat that somehow allowed us to pay a single $200 pet fee). The new manager has made this an issue as we attempt to renew our lease and has scheduled an inspection for Tuesday, which may result in eviction or us being asked to "remove" two pets.

My husband and I have lived in the same apartment in Washington State for three years, and have had all four pets for the entire time. We have never, as far as we know, been complained about, and we have always paid our rent before it's due. Our apartment overall is in good condition, save for one spot on a doorframe that has been scratched up by a cat, and two areas on the carpet that have been repeated targets of dog-accidents, though these are always attended to when noticed. There are also two high traffic areas (in doorways) where the carpet is pulling up.

Our most recent six-month lease was up at the end of May; I initiated a renewal and asked for a few repairs at that the beginning of May, which were promptly made, though unhappily. We awaited the updated paperwork, which we usually sign and return, but it never arrived. Over Memorial Day weekend, I called to inquire about this and was asked how many pets we have (apparently in the course of delivering the updated paperwork, the manager heard both dogs barking), and if we have four pets, why didn't we a) list this on our original lease or b) pay four $200 pet fees? My response was that we filled out our lease per the original manager's instructions, and I was admittedly baffled and argumentative about having to pay an additional $600 in pet fees at this point in our tenancy, particularly since we were told to fill our our lease and pay one pet fee by the former manager. The manager was going to contact the original manager and her own supervisor and get back to me. In the meantime, I was advised to go ahead and pay our rent as usual, with the discounted six-month-lease price (despite not having the new lease yet).

Wednesday, I submitted our rent check.

Today, I called to check in and was told that the former apartment manager only recalls us having two pets. I was also told that we were receiving notice that our apartment was going to be entered for an inspection on Tuesday. Depending on the findings from this inspection, we may be evicted, asked to remove two pets (as apparently only two pets per unit are allowed, pet fees or no), or asked to go to a month-to-month lease.

I am planning to do as much cleaning as possible in order for a spotless apartment upon inspection, but there's not a lot I can do for the carpet in this time frame. I am going to try to sand out the scratched door frame area, as well. I'm incredibly anxious about this inspection, and I'm wondering if this seemingly from-nowhere issue is related to my maintenance complaints, and, if so, whether the inspection is really an excuse to find anything they can to kick us out. I have questions. 1) How scared should I be, really? 2) What's the likelihood of eviction? 3) Can they really ask me to get rid of two of my pets? 4) What would be the point of asking us to go to month-to-month? 5) Any other advice to make this go as smoothly as possible?
posted by alpha_betty to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
IANAL, but here is some clear legal information specific to Washington State (PDF). See the section "How to Get Help from a Lawyer." Basically, it sounds like unless you're in Seattle, they can evict you for any reason or no reason if you're on a month-to-month, and if you're in violation of the pet policy, they can evict you for that. If there is a written policy that says that the apartments are limited to 2 pets, I doubt you're going to get around that.
posted by desjardins at 2:50 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Look, the former manager is covering his/her own butt. You really expect them to tell the truth now when they weren't expecting you to tell the truth on your application?

Now, I am not a mind reader but I did use to work for a rental department. The issue is that that deposit is supposed to cover pet damage, and more pets can and usually would result in more damage. On the other hand, you have been a good tenant, have paid your rent, and evicting you would cause them to lose at least a month's rent if not more because they would have to fix up your place to rerent.

I am guessing that if they don't find egregious damage that they will simply require you to get rid of two animals, per the rules. As far as the month to month, the reasoning behind that would be (I am guessing) that if in their view you guys have it well underhand, that's great but they want the option to kick you out if all of a sudden one of your pets went Cujo and decided to wreck the place.

I doubt this is related to your requesting repairs as it is more so the new manager wanting things done "right" on his or her watch.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:53 PM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

I was also just looking at the link desjardins cited. I don't see how you can get out of this: this is (a) a new lease with (b) a new manager who unlike (c) the old manager is not (d) willing to prevaricate about the number of pets you've got. (And no, I wouldn't expect Manager #1 to volunteer that he had helped cheat the property owner out of the money necessary to clean up after your pets.) The management is completely within its rights to demand that you either get rid of your excess pets or decamp. As St. Alia says, they want the month-to-month arrangement so that they can evict you if they catch you circumventing the rules again.
posted by thomas j wise at 2:58 PM on June 3, 2011

The new administration is obviously completely uninterested in helping you, or else they would be offering you options.

It is obvious the manager gives no fuck whether you continue to rent there, so you'll have very little leverage.

They may be trying to lose old tenants and get new more expensive ones, or maybe wants to sell the building or whatever. They will be no help to you.

Good luck, I'm pullin' for you.
posted by TheRedArmy at 2:59 PM on June 3, 2011

I would read the leases you have signed, because something doesn't line up with the number of pets allowed. Either you can have four as long as you pay the deposit, or you can have no more than two despite what you are willing to pay for a deposit -- but it can't possibly be both. Knowing what you agreed to will give you some peace of mind (either about finances or about keeping all your pets).
posted by Houstonian at 3:49 PM on June 3, 2011 [6 favorites]

It's not wrong for them to want you to pay the required deposit. You got offered an under-the-table deal and it probably would have been rescinded if you'd asked them to put the deal in writing, so you went along with the hinky offer. Having it in writing would save you some grief now, but maybe not all since you're between contracts and they've kind of got you in a corner.

But Houstonian is right - are you allowed 4 animals or not? If they do not allow 4 animals no matter what, you can rehome two animals or move. If they allow 4 with 4 deposits then you can pay the deposits, rehome two animals, or move.

Ultimately it's probably going to cost them money for you to move, so you can try using that as a little leverage, but with apartment management I find that once they decide you need to go, it's better to just go.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:59 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think you need to worry far more about (a) rehoming your pets, or (b) rehoming yourselves, than in cleaning the place. I think you're stuck there and having a clean house won't fix that. (Realistically speaking, 4 pets + apartment is... not something most apartments will be cool with.) I would guess the month-to-month might mean, "You get one month to move out because we don't want you any more," something like that.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:42 PM on June 3, 2011

Best answer: If your original lease did not specify only two animals, you're only in violation of not having paid half the deposit. If you have documentation how long you've owned the animals, then you can prove that the old manager would have known that you had four, and it was his decision not to request the other half of the deposit. If the new managers want you to sign the same lease, then that's BS. The lease should be written up to say that there are ONLY two pets allowed.

I hope you have photos taken when you moved in. Take photos now, including the rug. If the rug is just spotted in two places, clean it as well as possible, and move on. High traffic carpet wear areas are not a problem--that's cheap-arsed carpet and piss-poor installation. There is a fair-wear-and-tear assumption that kicks in when you've lived there as long as three years. Landlords should be replacing carpet and painting to keep up their properties, but cheap ones don't bother. If you can, take wood putty and fill in the scratches in the door frame, then sand it down and paint it. If it's stained, you can get wood putty into match the color of the wood. (Then get a good scratching post.)

You can always argue that you've had four pets for three years, and the apartment doesn't have damage (other than standard fair-wear-and-tear.) If it's not smelly, messy, covered in fur and generally looks like a kennel, you're probably ahead of other renters with only one animal. If the new managers were decent, they'd write you in an exemption on your lease stating you were grandfathered in with the number of animals you have.

I'm sure the old manager was playing CYA games. I'm betting the whole issue is about the repairs you requested. Overall, sounds like the new management are dicks. Keep your critters in out of the way and quiet when they do the inspection. Try not to have the place furnished like a kennel (hide the toys, put up the food dishes or at least don't have smelly wet food out, keep kennels all in one room to one side, etc.) I'd tell management you'd prefer to sign a six month lease and see what they say.

Seriously, I'd be thinking about moving. If they do an inspection and your place is clean, it would be unreasonable to make you get rid of your critters, IMHO. If you do move out, make sure they understand you WILL be getting your $200 pet deposit back, or head to small claims court with your new pictures taken of your clean apartment. As far as eviction, you have at least 30 days, and if they went that route, I'd refuse to show the apartment and keep it occupied till the last day, then I'd move out and not bother cleaning. Although my not cleaning wouldn't be that big a deal--I've seen apartments people have supposedly cleaned that were dirtier than my house EVER would be at its worst. OK, then, I wouldn't do the oven. So there.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:02 PM on June 3, 2011

Ask one or two of your friends to dogsit and catsit one dog and one cat for a day or two.
posted by andoatnp at 8:25 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yes, what andoatnp says, only get three out of there for Tuesday (you paid only one pet deposit, right?). And then don't have management in again to fix anything unless you take the pets somewhere first. If they're going to play games, you play too.

And also move. You don't need stress like that.
posted by clone boulevard at 9:40 PM on June 3, 2011

« Older Refund for mistaken bank debits   |   Does it get better ? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.