The property manager and the owner of a rental home in Portland are facing a lawsuit after the manager allegedly entered a unit and removed a tenant’s cat.
According to a news report, the tenant claims that a neighbor saw the property manager take the cat. The tenant claims he was not given notice of the landlord’s intent to enter the unit, did not receive warnings about the cat, and that the lease did not prohibit the tenant keeping the cat.
The tenant is asking for up to $250,000 to compensate him for his emotional distress. The lawsuit alleges illegal entry, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, according to the report. Some of those claims may fall outside the scope of typical insurance coverage, which means any damages awarded may need to be paid out-of-pocket.
If the case goes to trial, the jury likely will hear that the tenant rescued the cat as a kitten and was deeply attached to the animal emotionally, enough so that he had an image of the cat’s face tattooed onto his hand.
This is not the only case of its kind. Two separate tenants in West Virginia complained that their landlord entered without notice and removed their cats from their apartments. The landlord purportedly informed one of the tenants that her cat was brought to an animal shelter and euthanized. In that case, the lease agreement allegedly included a provision that a landlord could enter a unit without notice to extract unauthorized pets. The problem with such a lease provision is that it may not be enforceable, yet it could embolden a landlord or property manager to take such action — with potentially dire consequences. And it does not prevent a tenant from going to the police and reporting the landlord’s actions as theft.
Entering a unit without notice and taking a tenant’s property are examples of “self-help” remedies that can cause income loss for landlords. These losses are entirely preventable. To avoid these costly mistakes, landlords should:
Ask an attorney to review all lease provisions before providing the lease agreement to a tenant. The attorney can determine if any provisions are unenforceable or run afoul of local rental ordinances;
Be familiar with the legal remedies that are available if a tenant breaches the lease agreement. In most cases, the only remedy is to initiate an eviction proceeding and wait for a court order. Attempting to speed up that process by changing locks, cutting power or water, or intimidating a tenant through illegal entry or other acts can result in the landlord owing the tenant money; and
Avoid taking on the role of police officer. If an emergency occurs, such as a vicious animal, leave the matter to the police. A landlord’s interference can impact the prosecution of the case, which leaves the landlord high and dry when it comes to winning a subsequent eviction, and self-help remedies in some cases constitute a crime or breach of the lease agreement.
This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.