WHAT STEPS SHOULD YOU TAKE TO ELIMINATE A “VICIOUS ANIMAL”? WHAT IS A LANDLORD’S LIABILITY IF TENANTS DO NOT INFORM YOU OF AN INCIDENT?

You should travel under the grounds for termination set forth in RCW 59.20.080 (1) (k) which provides that a tenant’s tenancy may be terminated if a tenant creates a nuisance that materially affects the health, safety, and welfare of other community residents. A five-day “cease and desist” notice must be delivered as a pre-condition to termination under this provision.

If you allow any animal of known vicious tendencies to reside on park property (such as a pit bull), you will be liable for injury to person or damage to property caused by allowing such animal. Alternatively, if you allow an animal with unknown vicious tendencies to reside on park property, you will not be held liable until you know or should know of its ability to injure or cause damage. Once you are (or should be) put on notice of possible vicious tendencies you must notify the applicable tenant that he/she has five days to take the animal off community property permanently (or vacate the premises). If the tenant does not comply, you must commence an unlawful detainer proceeding to avoid liability.

As a general rule “pets” should be addressed in the rental agreement with an additional “pet agreement” incorporated as a part of the rental agreement. Do not deal with pets in the rules and regulations as all tenants must be treated the same under RCW 59.20.045. This provides complete discretion to the community owner to make tenant by tenant decisions on pets. The pet agreement should contain a provision requiring the tenant to get rid of a “vicious” animal” at the complete discretion of the landlord. The landlord’s standard should be tied to the health, safety, and welfare of the tenants.