As a landlord-tenant attorney, my goal is to keep clients out of the dog house (pun intended). That’s why I want to discuss a new requirement for landlords and vacated property: checking for abandoned animals.
Landlords and Vacated Property
This law applies to landlords whose rental properties are vacated as a result of an eviction proceeding. It is fairly new, and is not yet included in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s eviction laws, found online. The full text of the law can be found in the passed law, and is included below:
Not more than 3 days after a property owner or a lessor knew or should have known that a property has been vacated as a result of summary process, the property owner, lessor or a designee shall inspect the property for the presence of abandoned animals.
If the property owner, lessor or a designee encounters an abandoned animal under this section or section 4, the property owner, lessor or a designee shall immediately notify an animal control officer as defined in section 136A of chapter 140, a police officer or other authorized agent of the presence and condition of the animal.
The property owner, lessor or designee who encounters an abandoned animal pursuant to this section shall not be considered the owner, possessor or person having the charge or custody of the animal under section 77 of chapter 272.
For the purposes of this section, an animal shall be considered abandoned if it is found on or in a property vacated as a result of summary process.
If the property owner, lessor or a designee fails to comply with this section, the lessor or property owner shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $500 for a first offense and not more than $1,000 for a second or subsequent offense. Funds collected under this section shall be deposited into the Homeless Animal Prevention and Care Fund established in section 35WW of chapter 10.G.L. c. 239, § 14
This law, notably, only applies to vacated properties after an eviction (known as a “summary process” case). The law defines an abandoned animal as one that is “found on or in” a vacated property. This suggests that landlords should also report abandoned animals that are in the vicinity of their rental properties.
From my years of representing landlords, I doubt this law will have a major impact for most owners of rental property. Generally, after an eviction, most landlords can’t wait to get into their rental units and check on their property.
Nonetheless, this is an important, new requirement for landlords and vacated property that should be kept in mind following an eviction.
Besides animals, it is a good idea for landlords with vacated property to take a close look at their rental units for other potential issues, such as health and safety concerns.