Hiding Things From Your Landlord Could Be Expensive

Nearly everyone who has rented a house or an apartment understands the value of having a good relationship with the landlord or manager. Having mutual respect and a level of trust helps when inevitable bumps in the road come along, requiring understanding and flexibility from either party. Trust in the landlord/tenant relationship is built on the foundation of representations made during the application and screening process. The leasing documents commit the parties to paper with the requirements and expectations that each should have. If everyone plays by the rules, things generally go smoothly.

When a tenant decides to do something in violation of the lease, such as getting an unauthorized pet, allowing someone not on the lease to move in, or subletting the unit without the landlord’s knowledge or permission, things can go sideways quickly. Not only is the trust in the relationship damaged, but there can be substantial monetary consequences for the offending tenant.

A recent survey revealed that 23% of renters admitted to acquiring an unauthorized pet and hiding it from their landlord. Granted, it can sometimes be difficult to locate a property with all the desired features that will also allow pets, but renting a "no pets" unit under false pretenses is not the solution. Sometimes it’s about the money, and tenants want to avoid paying an additional deposit for their pet or try to circumvent the requirement for a deposit by falsely claiming to have an assistance animal. Regardless of the reason, a relationship formed on misrepresentation is a house of cards.

  1. What are the potential consequences of hiding a pet, roommate, or other breaches of the lease from the landlord?Monetary Consequences: Perhaps your landlord or manager will assess a monetary penalty. The amount can vary widely, ranging from a few hundred dollars to a month's rent or more. The landlord may also adjust rent or utility costs, retain some or all of the security deposit, or terminate the lease in a worst-case scenario. In Virginia, for example, there are breaches of the lease that are considered "non-remediable," such as threats, violence, or involvement with certain drugs, that can result in immediate termination of the lease.
  2. Removal from the Property: Even in cases where the breach is considered remediable, failure to correct the condition or repeat violations can result in removal from the property. Of course, there is a process to follow for the landlord to request possession from the court, but it does happen. It also results in a negative landlord reference for any future rental business.
  3. Legal Action: If the rental property is damaged by the act constituting a breach (such as pet damage), the landlord can sue for any repairs that exceed the security deposit on hand. If successful, a judgment placed on the tenant's credit record can stay there for many years and damage their ability to secure other housing or even do things such as finance a car loan.

In view of these potential negative outcomes, the expression "honesty is the best policy" seems to apply. While a tenant may not always get an enthusiastic "yes" to a request, being forthright with the landlord is the best way to avoid expense and possible displacement. Most landlords will work with a tenant they feel is honest. It's also important to remember that either party gets one chance every year (for annual leases) to be in a negotiating position. If you're a solid tenant who wants a concession of some sort, approach the landlord in time to discuss and possibly modify the terms of your agreement before the deadline to provide your notice or renew the existing lease.

The property managers at The Real Estate Group appreciate the value of fostering good relationships with quality tenants.  We also understand how important it is to act quickly when there is an issue of compliance or that could result in negative consequences.  Talk to one of our team members to find out why so many landlords feel we are the RIGHT CHOICE for management of their investment real estate.


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