Do tenants have any recourse when management decides to enforce a clause in the lease that hasn’t been enforced for over 13 years?

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Do tenants have any recourse when management decides to enforce a clause in the lease that hasn’t been enforced for over 13 years?

We have been living in a “pet-friendly” apartment complex for the past 13 years. Although the lease specifies indoor cats only, several previous management teams have been aware that our 2 cats go outside and have advised us that they wouldn’t take any action because that clause is simply to absolve them of liability should a cat be injured on the property. Recently, a notice went out that the new management team has decided to enforce the indoor cat clause and that the Humane Society would be bringing in traps for outdoor cats. Do we have any options other than to have miserable cats or move?

Asked on February 7, 2011 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, you probably do not have any options. The fact that someone has previously chosen to not enforce a lease term does not generally mean that they cannot enforce it at some later date. This is particularly true when there is a new person (e.g. a new management team) seeking to enforce a term or clause in the lease.  It is therefore very likely that the management can enforce the indoor cat clause.

Have you considered trying to negotiate with them? Perhaps if you (1) offered to execute some liabilty release; and/or (2) either put up a bond or extra security deposit, for any costs outdoor cats somehow cause, or offer to pay a bit more in rent (an extra $25 - $50 per month?) they'd be willing to amend your lease to let your cats go in and out.


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