24 Replies Latest reply: Jul 16, 2018 11:08 AM by kcrosley RSS

    I'm livid! Please talk me off the ledge. Undisclosed dogs (!) in my home

    ladysoc Contributor

      I've been renting my home for at least ten years. Prior to the start of this year's season, we installed a "Ring" camera that looks onto the dock and lake. It has a motion detector and I watched a few of my current guests' activities that set it off. In the video, I saw a dog! I watched a few more and then saw another video with two dogs! I am not pet-friendly (though I love dogs).

       

      I'm so mad that the guest did not disclose this to me that my hands are shaking. They are due to check-out tomorrow morning. I have a clause in my rental agreement that they agreed to when they booked through vacationrentals.com that reads:

       

      PETS AND SMOKING: Pets/service animals and smoking are not allowed in the Home or on the

       

       

      grounds at any time. If a pet or evidence of smoking is found, the Guest agrees to vacate the home

       

      immediately, without refund, with forfeiture of security deposit, and agrees to a penalty of $500.00.

       

      I think I will hold their security deposit but I am just so mad. Does anyone else feel my pain, lol?

        • Re: I'm livid! Please talk me off the ledge. Undisclosed dogs (!) in my home
          feibus CommunityAmbassador

          If you have on-site management, this is a good time for them to pay the guests a visit.

           

          And don't get us all started on people who insist on bringing their stupid dog "Fluffy" who marks everywhere and who the guest calls a "support animal" that's really just the guest being too cheap and entitled to pay for a pet sitter....

          • Re: I'm livid! Please talk me off the ledge. Undisclosed dogs (!) in my home
            ohst8er Senior Contributor

            That RING doorbell should be on your main entrance.  is It on the back of your house?

            • Re: I'm livid! Please talk me off the ledge. Undisclosed dogs (!) in my home
              ashevillelookout Senior Contributor

              I would definitely want to hold their security deposit. 

               

              How do you like the ring camera that you installed for viewing your back yard? I assume that you divulged this camera's existence in your RA?

               

              P.S. (ohst8er, the OP said camera, not doorbell camera; Ring offers a regular motion sensor security camera as well as the doorbell cam).

              • Re: I'm livid! Please talk me off the ledge. Undisclosed dogs (!) in my home
                twomoreyears Senior Contributor

                ladysoc - If you are in the United States, I believe you cannot prohibit a legitimate service animal from staying at your home. This is not in reference to your current guests; it's just a head's up that you might want to change "service animal" to "emotional support animal".  I suspect you can require they let know they are bringing a service animal, though.

                 

                And, yes, I feel your pain and betrayal.  Most of us are emotionally invested in our homes and, to some extent, in the relationship we try to build with the guest before they arrive.  Having them lie to us  about something like this (or bringing more guests than allowed, etc), feels like a personal betrayal.

                 

                And I agree with feibus - enforce your contract and get your on-site manager over there to kick them out TODAY.

                • Re: I'm livid! Please talk me off the ledge. Undisclosed dogs (!) in my home
                  georgygirl1955 Senior Contributor

                  Since they are leaving tomorrow morning, I would stay silent.

                  Then ChaChing ! Enjoy the extra money....you deserve it.

                  • Re: I'm livid! Please talk me off the ledge. Undisclosed dogs (!) in my home
                    vrdoctor Senior Contributor

                    Assuming you are located in the USA, nearly everything you listed in your rental agreement is either unenforceable or downright illegal.

                     

                    1. You cannot discriminate against service animals.

                    2. Making statements that service animals is prohibited can and will get you sued by the renter and/or your State's DOJ on behalf of your renter.

                    3. You cannot charge "penalties" this will not fly in just about any court.  You can charge additional guest fees, and deep cleaning fees, but generally you can only charge for rent and actual damages.

                     

                    You can have the carpets steam cleaned and pay your cleaners to do a double or triple the normal amount of time deep cleaning and charge the guest from their security deposit.  If you hold their security deposit you will need receipts and invoices for the cleaning to back it up.  You are also going to get a poor review for holding their deposit but that's just part of the game.

                    • Re: I'm livid! Please talk me off the ledge. Undisclosed dogs (!) in my home
                      green_mango Active Contributor

                      I've found this info helpful in the past (although I am dog friendly) - check out the exceptions

                      As far as the deposit, I also have financial penalty wording, but in reality I can't withhold anything without actual damage - so if I were in your shoes, I would keep the $500 but spend it on extra cleaning - laundering, carpet cleaning etc....

                       

                      The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 extended the protections of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (the Fair Housing Act) to people with disabilities. This is the law that applies to most forms of housing, including most rental housing and most condominiums. Exceptions to this law include buildings with four or fewer units where the landlord lives in one of the units, and (b) private owners who do not own more than three single family houses, do not use real estate brokers or agents, and do not use discriminatory advertisements.

                      Protection under the FHAA is contingent upon:
                      (1) Tenant has a disability (case law suggests the landlord may be permitted to require proof of disability);
                      (2) Landlord/Housing Authority knows about disability;
                      (3) Reasonable accommodation may be necessary to afford tenant an equal opportunity to use and enjoy his or her dwelling (again, case law suggests the landlord may be permitted to require proof of need and proof of training for a service dog); and
                      (4) Reasonable accommodation would not constitute an undue burden or fundamental alteration.

                      • Re: I'm livid! Please talk me off the ledge. Undisclosed dogs (!) in my home
                        scottr Active Contributor

                        I feel your pain - the downside to cameras.  The first guest after we installed our camera, brought their dog.   We were livid also, but calmed down.  Our contract said "No Pets", but there were no consequences specified.  That's when we added that the damage deposit would be forfeited if pets were brought.  Two months. later, another violation.  A month after that, another.   I learned to sympathize with residents, once I saw what guests do.  My camera also sees the front of the VHR across the street, and there has been some pretty poor behavior from those guests.

                        • Re: I'm livid! Please talk me off the ledge. Undisclosed dogs (!) in my home
                          calicalling Active Contributor

                          I know it makes me crazy when guests violate my contract or house rules- especially when I see it on camera. So I totally get where you are coming from.

                           

                          But I would get legal counsel about your contract. My understanding of the ADA is that you must allow service animals. My understanding is that the only exception for short term rentals is if you share the home, sort of Airbnb style. You can't even ask guests to prove that the SA is authentic. There are some questions you can ask but you cannot require documentation. I find that asking these questions and seeming knowledgeable about the law goes a long way toward limiting the number of 'service animals."  The other factor that I find that helps is to point out that at no time can the "Service Animal" be left alone in the unit. This is ADA guidance that actually makes sense when you figure that if it is a legit SA the person should always need it.

                           

                          Here's my policy on pets and SA, in case it helps: This is on my FAQ part of my website and I send parts of it as a pet acceptance agreement for people who bring pets. I get that you don't want to host pets, but maybe the SA portions will be helpful.

                          -----------------------------------------------------------------------

                          Your well-behaved, friendly dog is welcome to stay at Sonenalp with prior approval and a fee. Please contact us for approval in advance as a part of your reservation.

                           

                          We comply with ADA requirements regarding Service Animals. A service animal is one which is trained to do specific work or perform a specific task for the benefit of an individual with a disability. Your service animal is welcome at any time but we do need to be notified in advance.

                           

                          Pets which provide emotional support, well being, comfort or companionship are not recognized as service animals under ADA guidance and must be hosted under our pet policy.

                           

                          House Rules for Pet and Service animals:

                           

                          • As per ADA guidance, Service Animals may not be left alone in the condo at any time. Please keep your service animal under your control at all times.
                          • If you leave your pet alone in the condo, please plan to kennel them for their safety, safety of maintenance staff, and to avoid unintentional damage.
                          • Please do not allow your pet on the furniture in any of our homes.
                          • Please be aware of local risks to your pet/SA such as wildlife and pests. All pets who visit Sonenalp must be treated for fleas and ticks.
                          • Please be sure that your pet or SA is supervised in common areas including the foyers, garage and shared balcony.
                          • Please be respectful of our neighbors and clean up after your pet or service animal. Leaving waste, even in bags, can attract bears. Please keep our property clean and safe by disposing waste.
                          • Please be aware of Mammoth Lakes laws, ordinances and rules regarding animals in town, on the mountain and on public transport.
                          • Pet fee is $200.
                          • Re: I'm livid! Please talk me off the ledge. Undisclosed dogs (!) in my home
                            ambidextrous Active Contributor

                            No. I do not feel your pain. As an owner, you should expect that this will occasionally happen and be prepared for the next step. It looks like you have enough deposit to overpay your cleaners and get the house super clean. You notify the guest that they have violated the policy. I would do that immediately. Per the contract, you will use their deposit to defray the cost to bring the home back to suitability for guests who may have allergies.

                             

                            This is not worth getting worked up over. Clean up, keep the deposit, buy yourself a good bottle of wine and chalk it up to experience.

                            • Re: I'm livid! Please talk me off the ledge. Undisclosed dogs (!) in my home
                              scowol Active Contributor

                              Since you asked to be "talked off the ledge" here is my advice to help you emotionally deal with this:

                               

                              For background, my homes do not have cameras--inside or outside (the point of your post is not to debate cameras, so I'm not discussing cameras). But, since I don't have cameras, I'm 100% certain over the past 10 years of renting my two homes that several guests over the years have brought dogs, cats, birds, Billy goats, guinea pigs, snakes, etc.  In fact, I doubt there is a single owner that this has not happened to!   I know there's been animals in the house because I've seen very clearly evident dog lick marks on the sliding glass door a few times.  However, other than the lick mark evidence, each time there was zero trace that a pet was inside; e.g., no pet hairs, no smell, no damage, etc.   So while I was unhappy/furious, I was relieved that the house was left spotless each time I had discovered some trace lick marks.  I grabbed some Windex and voila, done.  I was happy.   I suspect that most people sneaking in pets decide to keep the place sparkling clean or do a deep self-clean.

                               

                              So back to help you off the ledge...  I suggest that you wait till the guests check out and then do a deep inspection. Look for pet hair, smell for pets, look for damage.  Because they snuck them in, they may likely leave your place spotless.  In fact, you (or your housekeeper) may be joyful that the house was so clean and it took hardly any effort to clean.  But, if there's damage, call out the evidence left behind (pet hair, pet odor, damage, etc.).  In doing so, I wouldn't immediately bring up the "WE CAUGHT YOU ON CAMERA!!!" route.  The camera gig just lends itself to a whole can of worms of spying, etc.  However, if they balk, then tell them the video on the Ring camera.

                               

                              If there's no damage, but you do have to do some extra cleaning, balance the extra fee you may recoup with the stress and anguish of dealing with the guests.  I'm not suggesting that you don't pursue the fee.  Rather, you need to determine yourself what your tipping point is to "let it go" or bill the guest.

                               

                              Yes, you are furious!  And you're furious because you caught them on camera. But you mentioned you've been renting for 10 years.  How would you be reacting right now before the advent of the Ring camera five or so years ago?  The answer is that you wouldn't be reacting because there was no video to view!

                               

                              If there's no damage, sometimes letting it go is the best prescription for your emotional health.  Just my two cents.  Again, my advice is solely to help talk you off the ledge!

                                • Re: I'm livid! Please talk me off the ledge. Undisclosed dogs (!) in my home
                                  scottr Active Contributor

                                  I look at the issue a little differently.  I'm in any area with a very strict VHR ordinance and severe fines for poor owner and guest behavior.  We also have a ballot measure coming up in Nov, to ban all VHRs in residential neighborhoods.   If you would have asked me five years ago, I would have told you that all my guests were well-behaved, and that locals were alarmists and over reacting to issues.  I feel strongly that owners must be the stewards of the VHR industry, and that being 100% aware of guest behavior is part of that,  Ignorance may be bliss for an individual owner, but not as an industry steward. 

                                    • Re: I'm livid! Please talk me off the ledge. Undisclosed dogs (!) in my home
                                      scowol Active Contributor

                                      scottr   I have total empathy for your situation regarding a ban because my marketplace just had an election to ban VRs in June.  I participated in a grass-roots pro VR group, and that group was very instrumental in educating voters (via the media and city hall) and thus driving the measure to failure.  HA (Expedia) and Airbnb helped fund the group, so I have a ton of gratitude as I would have otherwise had to sell my properties. 

                                       

                                      Anyhow, to respect the subject of this post, I don't want to digress.  So feel free to DM me or create a new post and I would be happy to share info... Other owners may have had or are facing similar ballot measures, so there may be lots of insight...

                                        • Re: I'm livid! Please talk me off the ledge. Undisclosed dogs (!) in my home
                                          scottr Active Contributor

                                          scowol  Thanks for the offer.  June? I'm guessing you're in Palm Springs.   We watched that closely, and expect similar results in SLT, as the two towns have a lot of similarities.  kcrosley was a big help and inspiration in gathering data for our City Council, when the new ordinance was being formed last September.   We have a group that is funded by Realtors and local businesses, and they are taking the lead on defeating the ban. 

                                            • Re: I'm livid! Please talk me off the ledge. Undisclosed dogs (!) in my home
                                              scowol Active Contributor

                                              Yes, the election was in June 2018 for VRs in Palm Springs, CA. Similarly, Palm Springs has arguably the strictest ordinance in the nation... from garbage cans left out to zero tolerance to any music outdoors... all are subject to an immediate $1,000 fine by the compliance patrol officers. Some other owners here thought I was making this stuff up, so here's some pics to show how serious the city is about regulating VRs...

                                               

                                              vehicles.jpg

                                              636619964715496374-Vacation-rental-compliance.jpg

                                               

                                              Glad to hear that there is a group already formed to fight the measure.  Hopefully you will experience the same outcome and the measure is defeated!

                                              • Re: I'm livid! Please talk me off the ledge. Undisclosed dogs (!) in my home
                                                georgygirl1955 Senior Contributor

                                                1. who is Kcrosely ?

                                                2. Is your town now changing the regulations?

                                                3. Do you know of any staff at AirBnb who will help with legislative and lobby work?

                                                  • Re: I'm livid! Please talk me off the ledge. Undisclosed dogs (!) in my home
                                                    scottr Active Contributor

                                                    1) kcrosley is an owner in Palm Springs who maintained a web site with statistics about the VHR incidents in Palm Springs.  He had some interesting KPIs that he used, and and some good ways to visualize the information.  Hopefully he will check back in with the Community.

                                                    2) There are minor changes coming before the council on Tuesday.  Mostly these are around fines and parking.   After being challenged through the appeal process, the city found that it was illegal to have fines exceed $1,000 for a single offense.  So, fines that apply to both an owner and a guest, are being dropped to $500.  They city also found that it was illegal to restrict legal parking on the street, so the ordinance is being revised to only stipulate the max number of vehicles at a VHR, and that all vehicles must be on a paved surface.  Language saying that VHR guests can not park on the street has been removed (The CSO stopped enforcing this months ago).  Its possible that you heard about changes coming to the county,   The city and the county have different ordinances, and the county is in the middle of making changes,   Owners know the difference (I have property in both the city and the county), but most people don't understand the difference.

                                                    3) I don't know anyone at AirBnB.   Expedia sent form letter to owners in SLT, with instructions to forward them to the city council.  The form letter wasn't accurate to what the council was considering, and this only annoyed the City Council.  I heard that Expedia was helpful and provided $ to the Palm Springs effort to defeat the ban.

                                                  • Re: I'm livid! Please talk me off the ledge. Undisclosed dogs (!) in my home
                                                    kcrosley Contributor

                                                    Hey scottr and scowol. Yeah, that would be me.  I believe @scowol's reference is to either the campaign to defeat Measure C (the Palm Springs vacation rental ban), which was welovepalmsprings.org or Vacation Rental Owners and Neighbors of Palm Springs (www.vronps.org).  Though I am not on the board of VRON-PS, I was one of the first members and was very active in the effort to defeat the ban.

                                                     

                                                    My page (which is somewhat out of date right now as i am *trying* to move it to a different system) is my "Palm Springs Vacation Rental Hotline Map" project:  http://www.evillapalmsprings.com/map.html.

                                                     

                                                    YES, there really should be a new thread started about these ban citizen's initiatives which are become "a thing" that short-term rental prohibitionists do now.  Even though the Palm Springs initiative went down in absolute flames (final vote tally was more than 70% NO [meaning the ban was NOT adopted] to less than 30% YES), these people have similar efforts underway in Pacific Grove, CA and South Lake Tahoe, CA.

                                                     

                                                    THE #1 MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR in being able to defeat the ban initiative in Palm Springs was the existence of VRON, which was organized well BEFORE the ban got anywhere near the ballot. Owners who do not have an organization like this for the municipality where their short-term rental is located should organize immediately and start one.  In many places, there will already be some sort of organization that organizes and represents the interests of VR property management firms -- HOWEVER, there should ALSO be an organization that represents *the actual holders of permits / the actual owners of the properties*.  While the interests of these two different groups overlap, they are NOT identical and (at least in Palm Springs) the property management firms had control of the dialog around STR regulations for far too long before owners organized.

                                                     

                                                    I could go on and on but am not trying to hijack this thread.  But anyway, all of this is probably the #1 most important topic anyone could talk about here.