Beware of Rattlesnakes: A Property Manager Nightmare

While most professional property managers say, “I’ve seen it all,” they’re still surprised occasionally.

Kathryn Guthrie, owner of Real Property Management Sac-Metro in Sacramento, CA shares her story of how their office encountered a rattlesnake infestation in one of their rental properties.

A man inspecting a water heater

It began as a routine inspection of the property. “As our inspector entered the garage to document the condition of the water heater, the tenant said, “I don’t think you want to go over there”. The inspector then heard rattling behind the water heater. The tenant explained that there were rattlesnakes in the garage and that there were maybe 50 snakes on the property. “Needless to say, our inspector made a hasty retreat from the garage.” The tenant did not want the presence of the snakes reported to management and asked the inspector to keep quiet. When asked why, the tenant replied, “We’re making rattlesnake rabbit sausage.” Because the rattlesnakes migrated to the house from the neighbor’s property, the tenants would not technically be in violation of their lease agreement, but by asking the property manager to leave the snakes, Kathryn said, “We were in a bit of a quandary of what to do next. Obviously we couldn’t allow the situation to continue, because by allowing the snakes to stay on the premises the property owner and our office would be liable for injury.”

A rattlesnake being lowered into a bucket by wildlife personnel

Kathryn’s team sent a wildlife expert to the property to document the presence of the snakes and remove them. The tenant now claimed that all of the snakes had been sent to a meat processor. The wildlife expert found no evidence of rattlesnakes left on the property but the tenant was reminded in writing that keeping any snakes, or other reptiles, is not allowed under the terms of their lease.

While there is no risk-free way to manage rental properties, excellent knowledge of governing laws guide Real Property Management offices and minimize liability for property owners.  Kathryn says, “If you wait to document a situation until there is an acute problem you can get in a real bind if you need to support your actions.” Addressing situations such as the rattlesnake issue quickly and professionally mitigate your risk. One lesson Kathryn learned from this experience? “I didn’t even know that people made sausage out of rattlesnakes!”

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