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Tenant Leaves Pet Behind. What’s a Landlord to do?

You are a landlord and you suspect your tenant has moved on but left behind her personal property, including her dog.  You’re savvy enough to know that the law views pets as personal property and you’re worried about getting dinged for removing a tenant’s property without a court order or giving written notice as required by statute.   There have been recent reports of pets being left behind when tenants are evicted or property is foreclosed on or simply as a result of poor decision making on the part of pet guardians.  In California, as well as in several other state, this problem has been addressed in the state legislature, with the blessing and cooperation of the ASPCA.    Since 2009, California law provides that if a live animal is left behind in a home that has been vacated, the owner can immediately call the animal control officials to have the animal picked up.  The law makes clear that the caller will not be liable for any civil or criminal penalties for having the animal rescued. You might not be able to get rid of all the rest of the things left behind as quickly as you would like, but at least that dog or cat or other once loved creature won’t have to pay the penalty. (Civil Code sections 1815 and 1816)

Mara J. Mamet

mmamet@carnaclaw.com