Checking For Animals After a Move-Out
Upon the vacancy of a rental property, certain immediate actions are necessary, regardless of whether the lease has ended and the tenants have departed, or if the property was abandoned due to eviction or an unplanned move-out. Some tasks may be apparent, while others could catch you off guard, such as discovering a tenant’s abandoned pet. While this may seem like an unlikely event, you should be prepared if you find an unwanted animal in your empty unit.
Initial Actions After Tenant Departure
If the tenant leaves upon lease termination, no further steps are required before securing the unit, as you already possess it. However, if the tenant abandons the property, you must first obtain documents that conclude the residency, thus returning the unit to you.
Once in possession, promptly secure the property. While a locksmith may not be immediately available, ensure doors are locked, windows are closed and latched, and faucets are functional and turned off. Inspect the refrigerator (reconnect if necessary) and discard expired food. If a smell is present, locate and remove the source if possible, though deep cleaning isn’t required at this stage.
State regulations dictate the handling of abandoned property under the “move and store” law. If a tenant leaves personal belongings, you must transport and safely store them for up to six months, which necessitates a court order. Consult your attorney before removing items.
You May Have Animals Removed Immediately
Luckily, in California, landlords may request immediate assistance from animal control for any abandoned animals in their rental units. According to Cal ALS 265 and Cal AB 2949, if an animal is left behind at a property after it’s been vacated due to foreclosure or a lease ending, the person or private entity in charge of the property must promptly inform the relevant animal control officials about the abandoned animal.
Under this law, the person or private entity responsible for the property won’t be considered the animal’s caretaker or face additional criminal or civil liabilities. However, they are still subject to all local ordinances and state laws regarding proper care and treatment of animals.
Backed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the California Animal Association, the law’s goal is to allow animal control officials to swiftly rescue abandoned pets. Before this law, many local government agencies in California would wait between 24 and 72 hours after a pet was left in an empty home before retrieving the animal and providing food and shelter.
The law specifies “animals,” not “pets.” Check for animals regardless of your tenant’s pet ownership, as they may have acquired one without your knowledge. Any animal discovered in the vacant unit is considered abandoned. If you discover an illegal pet in your unit, you’ll also know to check your units for pets more thoroughly. The best way to avoid having unregistered or illegal pets in your rentals is to allow tenants to have pets and maintain reasonable rules and fees surrounding pets in the building.
Of course, if an abandoned pet is found, contact your former tenant first. They may be grateful to know their pet is safe. If you’re unable to reach them, you don’t have to wait any period of time to get assistance with removing the pet.
It’s important to check your vacated units immediately. If there does happen to be an abandoned animal in your unit, you don’t want to leave it stuck there for a few days. Additionally, as the law states, although you aren’t considered the animal’s owner, you are responsible for providing proper care to the animal from that point. Neglecting to check for abandoned animals may cause significant damage to your rental property and negatively impact the animal’s well-being.