This article reviews the handling of rent applications received from tenants with pets or liquid-filled furniture.
Role of the security deposit
Landlords and their property managers are frequently confronted with acceptable, prospective tenants who own pets or liquid-filled furniture.
Landlords cannot automatically refuse to rent to a prospective tenant whose furnishings include liquid-filled furniture or deny an existing tenant the use of liquid-filled furniture, such as a waterbed, on the premises.
However, landlords can automatically, as a matter of policy, refuse to accept all tenants who want to occupy a unit with their pet, unless the tenant is disabled and uses:
a guide dog, which is a seeing-eye dog trained by a licensed person to aid a blind person;
a signal dog, trained to alert a deaf or hearing-impaired person to intruders or sounds; or
a service dog, trained to aid a physically disabled person by protection work, such as pulling a wheelchair or fetching dropped items. [Calif. Civil Code §54.1(b)(6)]
Disabled persons accompanied by a specially trained dog must keep the dog leashed and tagged as a specially trained dog with an identification tag issued by the county clerk, animal control department or some other authorized agency.
The disabled tenant accompanied by a tagged guide/signal/service dog cannot be required by the landlord to pay any extra rent, charge or security deposit for the dog to be kept on the premises.
However, the owner of a guide, signal or service dog is liable for the cost to repair any damages brought about by the dog’s activities. [CC §54.2(a)]
Also, any public agency owning and operating rental accommodations must permit any person over 60 years of age to keep at most two pets (i.e., dog, cat, bird or fish). The elderly pet owner is responsible for any damages caused by the pets. [Calif. Health and Safety Code §19901]
A property manager who allows a tenant to occupy a unit with a pet should reduce the arrangement to a writing in the form of a Pet Addendum and attach it to the lease or rental agreement. [See Form 563 accompanying this chapter]
The pet addendum establishes the responsibilities of the pet owner and the acceptable behavior standards for the pet.
To avoid misunderstandings as to size, type and number of pets allowed on the premises, a careful description of the pet should be given on the form.
The property manager can charge an additional security deposit for the pet to offset any expenses or losses caused by the pet, unless the rules for disabled persons and their trained dog apply or the security deposit ceiling would be exceeded.
A typical deposit for a pet is one-third of the first month’s rent, with an extra $100 to $200 for each additional pet, limited to the ceiling amount for residential security deposits.
Thus, the total security deposit for an unfurnished residential unit, including the pet deposit, cannot exceed an amount equal to two months’ rent (in addition to the first month’s rent).
For a furnished unit, the security deposit, including the pet deposit, cannot exceed three months’ rent (in addition to the first month’s rent). [CC §1950.5(c)]
If a pet’s behavior is not in keeping with the terms of the pet addendum, the lease or rental agreement has been breached by the tenant.
The property manager can then serve a 3-day notice to the tenant to correct the activity or vacate the premises, called a 3-day notice to perform or quit. [Calif. Code of Civil Procedure §1161(3)]
Landlord liability for pets
A landlord permits a residential tenant to keep a dog on the premises. The landlord is not informed and does not know the dog is vicious.
No “Beware of Dog” notice is posted by the tenant.
A utility serviceman properly enters the backyard to check the meter. The dog attacks and injures the serviceman.
The serviceman attempts to recover his losses due to the injury from the landlord.
Can the serviceman recover his losses from the landlord since the landlord allowed the tenant to keep a pet that was dangerous?
No! The landlord is not responsible for injuries caused by dangerous domestic pets when he has no actual knowledge of their ferocity. Also, the landlord has no duty to investigate or inspect the rental unit to determine if the pet is dangerous. [Lundy v. California Realty (1985) 170 CA3d 813]
However, if the landlord has actual knowledge of the dangerousness of a tenant’s pet and fails to serve the tenant with a 3-day notice to remove the pet or vacate the unit, then the landlord is liable for injuries inflicted by the vicious pet. [Uccello v. Laudenslayer (1975) 44 CA3d 504]
Also, a landlord has no duty to warn a prospective tenant about a dangerous pet located on neighboring property, even when the landlord has knowledge of the ferocity of the neighbor’s pet. [Wylie v. Gresch (1987) 191 CA3d 412]
Qualifying to maintain a waterbed
The use of waterbeds or other liquid-filled furniture in a rental unit cannot be grounds for refusal to rent to a prospective tenant. [CC §1940.5]
If the prospective tenant is otherwise qualified to rent, and the waterbed is qualified to be placed in the unit, the landlord must rent to the tenant.
The landlord may establish conditions for the use of the waterbed on the premises so long as the conditions meet the standards set by the waterbed law.
These requirements must be itemized in the waterbed addendum which is attached to the lease or rental agreement. [See Form 564 accompanying this chapter]
The waterbed conditions a landlord can impose on the tenant to qualify his waterbed include:
- an insurance policy against property damage;
- a special waterbed frame;
- specific methods of installation and maintenance;
- a written receipt of installation by the manufacturer, retailer or movers;
- an increase in the maximum security deposit permitted; and
- requiring the tenant to comply with specific methods of installation or to remove the bed on a 3-day written notice to perform (remove it) or quit. [CC §1940.5]
The floor of any residence has a limited capacity for weight centralized in one area.
Since a waterbed is considerably heavier than a regular bed, the weight of the waterbed must not exceed the weight limitation of the floor, especially if it is on an upper level.
Also, to ensure proper distribution of the weight, the tenant is required to provide an adequate bed frame specially designed to support and distribute the weight of a waterbed. [CC §1940.5(b)]
When a tenant qualifies to maintain a waterbed on the premises, the landlord may increase the tenant’s security deposit up to an additional one-half month’s rent. The waterbed deposit is in addition to the maximum security deposit otherwise allowed.
The landlord may also charge a reasonable administrative fee, such as $50 to $100, to cover the time, effort and money necessary to process the waterbed paperwork. [CC §1940.5(g)]
The amounts of both the additional security deposit and administrative charges are set forth in the waterbed addendum. [See Form 564 §§2; 3]
The tenant can be required to provide the landlord with a waterbed insurance policy or certificate of insurance for property damage caused by the waterbed.
The policy should name the landlord as an additional insured to eliminate any question over the disbursement of funds from a claim.
The waterbed insurance policy must be accepted by the landlord if several conditions are met, including:
- the policy is issued by a company licensed in California;
- the company possesses a Best Insurance Report rating of B or better; and
- the policy offers coverage of no less than $100,000. [CC §1940.5(a)]
The tenant must ensure the policy remains valid and enforceable throughout the period the waterbed is located on the premises. The landlord has the right to demand proof of insurance from the tenant at any time.
If the tenant fails to provide proof of insurance when requested, a 3-day notice to perform or quit should be served on the tenant to deliver up the policy, remove the furniture or vacate.
Consider the insurance policy a tenant holds on his waterbed which expires two months before he plans to vacate. The tenant does not renew the policy as he will soon be moving. The landlord fails to purchase coverage and charge the tenant for the premium or serve the tenant with a 3-day notice to get insurance, remove the bed or vacate.
Sometime after the policy expires, a liner patch from a prior leak fails. The liner ruptures, releasing its water contents.
The whole apartment is flooded, causing hundreds of dollars in damages as well as causing damage to the units and personal property on lower floors.
The landlord repairs the damages and demands payment from the tenant for all of his losses caused by the waterbed. The tenant claims the landlord had the responsibility to obtain coverage if the tenant did not.
Can the landlord collect the losses from the tenant?
Yes! Any damage resulting from the waterbed which is not covered by an insurance policy is the responsibility of the tenant. The landlord has no obligation to procure coverage even though he has the authority to do so on the tenant’s failure to provide coverage.
Further, if for some reason the tenant’s waterbed liability policy is cancelled, expires or is not renewed, the tenant is obligated to give the landlord a ten-day notice of cancellation or nonrenewal of the insurance policy. [CC §1940.5(a)]
The notice is automatically given to the landlord by the insurer if the landlord is an additional named insured on the waterbed policy – as the landlord should be.
Installation and care of the waterbed
It is the tenant’s responsibility to ensure the waterbed is properly installed and maintained.
The tenant must give the property manager 24 hours’ notice if he intends to move, install or remove a waterbed.
If anyone other than the tenant installs the bed, specifically the manufacturer, a retailer or a moving company, the tenant must provide the landlord with a written receipt that contains the installer’s name, address and place of business. [CC §1940.5(c)]
To ensure safety at all times, the tenant must comply with the manufacturer’s specifications for proper use of the bed. [CC §1940.5(e)]
When a landlord suspects the tenant is not meeting the provisions in the waterbed addendum, he has the right to enter the residence to inspect the waterbed and ensure it is being maintained properly.
However, he must give the tenant a 24-hour notice of entry before his inspection. [CC §§1940.5(f); 1954]
The landlord may give the tenant a 3-day notice to either comply with installation and maintenance standards or remove the bed from the premises (or vacate) if:
- the landlord finds the waterbed is not being properly maintained; or
- the waterbed has not been properly installed. [CC §1940.5(f)]
The landlord may serve a 3-day notice to perform or quit on the tenant, as long as the tenant is given the option of either curing the installation defects or removing the bed as performance in lieu of vacating. If the tenant fails to perform either alternative within three days, he must vacate the premises.
In lieu of the notice to perform or quit, the landlord could serve an “advisory” letter giving notice to perform.
However, the landlord would have to later serve a 3-day notice to perform or quit should the tenant fail to either repair or remove the bed.
Finally, the landlord does not lose his right to make an insurance claim if he fails to exercise any of his rights to police the tenant’s care and maintenance of the waterbed. [CC §1940.5(h)]