Can a landlord charge everyone a fine because he doesn’t want to find out who a troublemaker is?

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Can a landlord charge everyone a fine because he doesn’t want to find out who a troublemaker is?

I came home and found this notice on my door: “It has been found that the entrance to the building (#3) has dog feces covering the walkway, grass and in the shrubs. It is our policy that all dog owners clean up after their pets and dispose of the droppings immediately. We are unable to know which resident’s dog is responsible for the droppings, therefore a cleaning charge of $35 will be charged to each unit in that building for feces removal until we are notified of the offender”. Is that fair or even legal?I own no dog, only indoor cats and small caged animals. Are landlords allowed to punish all residents for crimes because they don’t want to find out the real culprit?

Asked on April 11, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Oklahoma

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

A lease is a contract; it binds both parties and neither party may change its terms--such as by adding a new fee--unilaterally, without the consent of the other party. This means that no, the landlord may *not* add a new cleaning fee unless there is some reservation of power within the lease (or within any rules which the lease references and incorporates) to do this. For example: say the lease makes reference to House Rules. Say a House Rule states that the landlord may charge cleaning fees not to exceed $50 per month in the event such proves necessary. In that case, the landlord could add the fee. But w/out some authority or reservation of authority within the lease, the landlord cannot alter its terms by adding a fee.


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