First, there’s the tenant who holed up in her apartment for three extra weeks because she “accidentally” found a house to purchase and the deal hadn’t closed by the end of her lease term. Then, there’s the tenant who negotiated a one month extension, but failed to pay the rent. One tenant is holding over without paying rent, but the landlord is legally responsible for keeping the place warm while awaiting an eviction hearing. Another tenant gave notice, allowed the property to be shown to new tenants, then simply changed his mind. He hasn’t moved and won’t answer the phone.
In every case, the landlord is left with one question: What happens now?
While there is very little that landlords can do in this unfortunate situation, there are many things they cannot. For instance, a landlord can’t change the locks, throw out the tenant’s possessions, turn off utilities or use intimidation to get the tenant out without risking additional income loss.
The landlord may have no other option but to file for an eviction order on the grounds that the lease has been terminated. That will require proof. If there were subsequent discussions about the move-out date, additional rent accepted, or any extensions provided, it may be hard to determine the landlord’s rights. In some cases, the hold-over could become a month-to-month tenancy, and that may require a different notice to terminate. Some leases provide for automatic renewal which can catch a landlord by surprise. The landlord’s success in an eviction will rely on how well these interactions have been documented.
Landlords can minimize the likelihood of this difficult situation by staying in touch with exiting tenants throughout the last month of the tenancy. That means making sure there is no room for confusion regarding the move-out date. Get a signed notice of intention to vacate or other written proof of the agreed-upon date. Schedule a move-out inspection, and record the date and time. Check in a few days before to make sure the tenant is on track.
Avoid lease provisions that are ambiguous with respect to the term. Avoid any verbal modifications that can occur at the eleventh hour. If it’s in writing, an modification will be easier to prove. If there is a dispute, the tenant cannot simply change the story.
Only rent to tenants with acceptable credit. Good credit is an asset, and tenants who possess it will do what they can to protect it. A conflict with a landlord can damage a tenant’s credit history, and therefore prevent the tenant from finding new housing, so he or she may think twice before holding over or failing to pay rent.
Eviction and dispute resolution proceedings take time, so assess your course of action and move quickly at the first sign of trouble in order to minimize losses.
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).
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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.