They don’t pay the rent. They don’t take care of the rental property. Still, they feel like their landlord owes them a place to live. Meet the professional tenant. Savvy to the legal system, these tenants have learned how to game their way into free rent, over and over again. How do they do it? Take a look at the strategies:
There’s usually a sad story, designed to make the landlord feel guilty.
To avoid falling for the strategy, just keep in mind that your rental property is a business, and there are other options for a tenant who is truly indigent. Negotiating for a longer period of time will not solve the problem, only perpetuate it.
File your notice to terminate the tenancy and get on the docket for an eviction.
That said, in some cases it may make sense to negotiate the tenant’s exit–cash for keys, if they need their deposit money and you need them out without paying for an eviction or any damage to the property.
Respond to the Eviction Complaint
Any response to the landlord’s eviction proceedings likely will generate a short grace period–10 days or much longer, under the rules for eviction. A typical response is to deny the landlord’s claims and ask for a hearing, or complain about conditions on the property–typically for the first time, in order to claim an offset against unpaid rent or damages.
If the tenant has talked with a lawyer–free tenant legal help is available everywhere, they may raise technical challenges regarding the service of the notice, or the contents on the notice, possibly leading to a dismissal and refiling, and an even longer grace period.
Landlords who have not followed local eviction rules to the letter, or who have allowed late payment behavior in the past are the most vulnerable to these challenges. If the tenant gets their way, the case will be set for a hearing, causing additional delays–from about three weeks to several months.
Beg the Judge
Tenants who don’t know how to use the legal system can still delay simply by writing a letter to the judge spelling out all of their concerns, or showing up to ask the court for a delay in execution of the order for possession. A sympathetic judge may encourage the landlord to “work something out.”
Continue the Hearing
Showing up with an excuse at the hearing is another effective delay tactic. For instance, the tenant may claim they need more time to hire an attorney, or have a medical issue. It’s up to the individual judge whether to get tough or to reschedule the case a few days or weeks down the road.
Show up for the hearing prepared to go forward, and explain the inequity of any further delay. You also may be able to request that the tenant supply the court with proof of the reason for the continuance.
A desperate tenant may file bankruptcy to delay the eviction. While the case will proceed eventually, it may become necessary to work through the eviction process with the permission of the bankruptcy trustee or judge. Even then, any claim for damages may be history. Tenants may have the option of dismissing the bankruptcy filing a few days later, after it served its intended purpose.
Trash and Leave
If the tenant is not responding to the eviction in court, they may be biding their time, living rent-free, and waiting for the last possible minute to vacate. There is a risk the tenant may be taking out their frustrations on the property. It’s not uncommon for the tenant to leave behind heavy items, trash or pets, while taking more valuable treasures–appliances, copper and furnishings, along with them.
After all, what do they have lose?
Careful tenant screening is the best eviction-avoidance strategy a landlord has. Running a tenant credit check can show if this tenant is a pro. Knowing if there is a prior eviction history is a significant indicator of a repeat performance. Also, check for a criminal background, especially crimes that involve fraud, bad checks, and other devious methods.
This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).
Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.