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Tenants Must Control Their Pets

By Jennifer L. Alexander, Esq. November 17, 2017 Posted in Landlord/Tenant Law

As a residential landlord, there are all manner of nuisances that you may have to contend with as you navigate the state of New Jersey’s landlord-tenant legal landscape.  Particularly in situations where there are multiple people in close proximity of one another (i.e., an apartment building, or multiple tenants living together in a house), there is a high likelihood of potential nuisances.

Pets can be highly problematic for landlords, which is why — perhaps justifiably — the vast majority choose to prohibit pet ownership in their lease agreements.  Still, despite pet prohibition clauses Sometimes a tenant is able to keep their pet on the basis of an older lease agreement signed with a previous landlord (the terms of the older lease will apply until it expires).  In some cases, the landlord may have had a reasonably pleasant history with pet ownership among their tenants and therefore did not include a pet ownership prohibition clause in the lease agreements.

Poorly-trained, aggressive, or otherwise difficult pets can be a danger and a nuisance to you and others in their proximity.  So, what can you do to resolve the problem?  Let’s take a brief look at your options, pursuant to New Jersey law.

The Basics

In New Jersey, even if the tenant is allowed to have a pet (pursuant to their lease agreement), they are required to maintain control over their pets and to ensure that their pets do not create a continuing nuisance for other residents or for the landlord.  A continuing nuisance need not involve physical danger, and in fact, can involve cleanliness issues such as waste cleanup.

For example, suppose that you are the landlord of a small apartment building, and one of your tenants has a dog that is poorly-trained.  The tenant is rather irresponsible, and walks the dog in the common areas, sometimes allowing it to defecate in the common areas, thus creating a cleanliness hazard for other tenants (and causing a continuing nuisance to others).  The lease agreement does not have a “no pets” clause, but there are rules in the agreement stating that the tenant must take their dog outside for waste maintenance.

As a landlord in this scenario, you may be able to request that the tenant remove the pet and if the tenant fails to do so, you may be entitled to file for eviction.  New Jersey law entitles landlords to resolve the continuing nuisance created by the pet through such means.

Service Dogs

Even if you have a “no pets” clause in your lease agreement, you cannot prohibit a disabled tenant from owning a service dog on-premises, nor can you charge extra to account for the potential risk or difficulty.  Of course, you still have options if the pet is a serious nuisance.  If the tenant has a service dog who has damaged the premises in some way, for example, you may hold that tenant liable for the damages caused.

 

If you are a residential landlord and have questions or concerns about whether you can evict a tenant due to their inability to control their pet(s), or force your tenant to remove their pet(s) from the premises due to a lack of control, then you should consult with an attorney who has experience handling tenant pet issues pursuant to New Jersey landlord tenant law.  Let the skilled attorneys at Griffin Alexander, P.C. assist you!

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