Late Rental Payment Due To Tenant’s Delayed Welfare Cheques

Posted by on November 30, 2006 under Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

There are many landlords with tenants who are more than a tad tardy in paying rent, often excusing themselves on the grounds they are short of funds, because their welfare cheque is late. The question is, is it possible to check out a tenant’s welfare cheque story?

If, you try and confirm the story with the Welfare department, they will only tell you recipients can’t be discussed. I’m sure, you find this rather odd, since if landlords can get information from employers and prior landlords, why not from Welfare?

But, it is a little different where the welfare department is concerned. The public assistance office staff was right in turning down your request, as recipients of welfare cheques are legally entitled to privacy about personal finances.

It’s a whole different matter when employers and past landlords are contacted to verify information, prospective tenant applicants provided when they filled out your rental application forms. Even so, you have to ensure your questions are carefully worded to elicit relevant information about a rental applicant’s employment or past rental history, questions these sources can answer truthfully, without fear of legal liability. However, to walk on the right side of the law, careful employers and landlords will only give information if you have written permission, called a ‘release’, before talking to you.

However, if you are fed up as your tenant on welfare is habitually late in making his / her rental payments; you are not legally obliged to wait for it to arrive. You can take recourse from the legal process of termination of the lease and, if necessary, eviction. To speed up things, terminate the tenancy with the proper notice as soon as the rent is late.

On that cautionary note, another fair bit of advice for both landlords and tenants, do avoid expensive landlord / tenant litigation! Tenants should ensure all promises are put down in writing, and landlords can take necessary precautions, such as, screening tenants and conducting background checks on prospective tenants. A simple click of the mouse and one can visit for tenant screening and background check services. On the other hand, tenants can be on their best behaviour!

Locking Out A Tenant Is Illegal

Posted by on under Landlord Tenant Lawsuits | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

What every landlord wishful of getting rid of an unwanted tenant should keep in mind, is that they can be subject to penalties for changing locks or cutting off utilities, in order to force a tenant to vacate the rental property.

No doubt, as every landlord will agree, there are occasions when tenants may sorely test your patience, tempting even a saint to bypass normal legal procedure, and take direct and immediate action to safeguard his / her rental property. Take for example; a tenant’s repeated destructive behaviour may push a landlord to consider replacing the locks and slinging the tenant’s property out on the street. Or else, if a landlord is the one responsible for paying the utility bills, may simply stop paying the bill, hoping lack of water, gas, or electricity will compel the tenant to move out.

However, no matter how bad the situation, landlords should not take matters into their own hands thinking the egregious conduct of the tenant excuses your behaviour. Nonetheless, the tenant not paying rent, leaving the property in a mess, hurling verbal abuses when approached, or otherwise acting outrageously does not constitute as valid defence. In fact, such behaviour may well land a landlord on the wrong end of a lawsuit for not only trespass, but assault, battery, slander or libel, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful eviction. Defending this lawsuit will prove far more expensive than evicting a tenant by going through the regular legal channels.

Landlords or managers of rental property should not attempt to take the law into their own hands. Taking the short route by threatening, intimidating, cutting of utilities, or attempting to physically remove a tenant is illegal and can prove to be dangerous. So, even if the eviction process may entail considerable expense and delay, it is the only kosherly legal game in town.

A Landlord’s Preparation For Court

Posted by on under Landlord Tenant Lawsuits | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

Often, when landlords return security deposits, they end up being sued without adequate cause, by tenants claiming their security deposit amount has not been returned, or else too little of it has been refunded. This, despite the fact, landlords give itemised lists of much-needed repairs. And, to top it all, they have the audacity to claim not only payment of the security deposit in the small claims court, but payment for grief and time, including gas and miles. Well, you as a landlord, tell me, does the tenant deserve all that? Frankly, no, only in a far stretch of imagination! One can only recommend you prepare well before going to the small claims court. Remember, it is not what you say in court, but what you bring with you that will count, ultimately. Ensure you have pictures of the damage, receipts for repair work carried out, as well as, estimates for materials costs.

All in all, all this means, you are pretty well prepared, however, in court you will need to prove to the judge, the damages, you have had repaired, were not there, at the time the suing tenant moved in. You will have to show the judge with evidence that a considerable amount has had to be spent on necessary repairs, repairs that are not a part of normal wear and tear, when the tenant vacated your rental property. As well, following state procedure, you provided him / her with itemised deductions, including refunding the balance of the deposit. Do bring receipts, photographs, and helpful witnesses, if any to the court with you. Witnesses do not necessarily have to appear in person, a signed declaration on their part will probably be sufficient.

Impress the judge of the reasonableness of your nature; be calm, factual, and as succinct as possible, at the time of making your presentation. It is highly unlikely, transportation costs will be awarded to the tenant, in the eventuality he / she wins. Rest easy, play it cool and calm and you may find the ruling in your favour!

FAQs – Security Deposits And Rental Lease Terminations

Posted by on under Rents and Deposits | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

Ques. Are there any particular rules for security deposits returns?
Landlords are permitted deductions from tenant security deposits for unpaid rent, or for repairing any tenant caused damages, including cleaning costs, when a tenant moves out without cleaning the place or getting the carpet shampooed. Most of the states require a written itemized account of deductions for unpaid rent, damage repairs, and necessary cleaning exceeding normal wear and tear, together with any payment made for the security deposit balance.

There are varying deadlines state to state, however, as a rule, landlords are allowed a set time limit to return deposits, usually 14 to 30-days after the tenant moves out, either voluntarily or has been evicted.

Ques. What is outcome of a tenant breaking his / her rental lease?
The general rule is that a rental lease binds the tenant for its duration, unless and until the landlord breaks the law or violates the terms of the lease, such as, failing to make necessary repairs, or not complying with an important lease clause. Certain states have laws in place that allow tenants to break a lease due to health problems or job relocations requiring a permanent move. As well, federal laws, including many similar state laws allow tenants entering active military service, or related government positions to terminate rental leases early, with impunity.

A tenant breaking a lease without reasonable cause is held responsible for the rent due under the remaining lease term. Most states, rather than charging lease breaking tenants with payment of total rent remaining under the lease, require the landlord to make all reasonable efforts to find a new tenant, regardless of the tenant’s reason for leaving.

Ques. When is it considered legal for a landlord to terminate the lease and end the tenancy?
When a landlord terminates a lease due to significant violation of lease terms by a tenant, he / she is within the rule of the law to do so. If, a tenant keeps a dog or a cat in violation of his / her rental lease that contains a no pets clause, a landlord is within his / her rights to legally terminate the lease. As well, the landlord can legally break the tenant’s lease, if the latter is a habitual late rent payer, or does not pay rent at all, or substantially damages the rental property, or engages in illegal activities on or near the premises e.g. sells drugs, etc.

Before breaking the lease, the landlord is required to notify the tenant in writing that his / her tenancy has been terminated. There are detailed state law requirements regarding how a landlord must write and deliver (serve) a termination notice. The termination notice should clearly state why the tenancy is being terminated and warn the tenant the premises must be vacated; otherwise he / she will have to face an eviction lawsuit. Or, the notice may warn the tenant that to rectify the lease violations i.e. pay the rent, or remove the pet.

If, the problem is fixed or the tenant moves out, there is not need to sue. Non-compliance with the termination notice is when a landlord can go ahead and file a lawsuit for evicting the tenant.

Changing Locks On A Tenant’s Guest

Posted by on under Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

Many landlords with rental properties often come in for a spot of trouble with unruly tenants or tenant guests, as can be seen from the following scenario. A landlord who has a legal rental lease with a tenant, allowed the latter to let a friend stay for a few weeks, while he / she searched for a place to stay. However, things didn’t pan out as expected. When the time came for the visitor to move, he refused outright. While, the landlord would like to retain his original tenant, and the tenant too wants to stay, the landlord would prefer the guest to leave his property. The question is, can he legally change the locks on the doors, allowing only access to the original tenant with whom he has a lease, and prevent the visitor any access to the rental unit?

Well, as long as the landlord has not accepted rent from this guest, or in any other way indicated he / she has been accepted as a tenant, his tenant’s guest is nothing, but an unauthorized occupant. A tenant allowing a guest to stay for a few weeks does not turn the guest into a co-tenant.

Theoretically, an unauthorized occupant is nothing more than a common trespasser and a landlord can seek help from the state in getting rid of him. A good beginning would be to call the local police. And, it would be legally kosher for the landlord and tenant to change locks to keep the trespasser out.

However, while the law may be on your side, the problem is, a long-term guest may claim, he has been treated like a tenant, and therefore has the same rights enjoyed by tenants. And, as you know, tenants enjoy freedom from illegal evictions, including lock changing.

So, unfortunately, the best course of action is to avoid changing locks, or do anything to force the guest from the property. Any such action could land you in legal trouble, if the guest goes to a lawyer cooking up a tale of being a tenant who has been locked out. The only remedy is to file an eviction suit against the interloper. Next time, get it in writing that the guest is not a tenant, only a friend of your real tenant, who has been allowed to stay for a few weeks, without paying rent, while he / she searches for rental accommodation.

Cleaning Up After A Tenant Has Moved Out

Posted by on November 23, 2006 under Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

Your tenant has just moved out, vacating your rental property. Everything kosher and above board so far, however, what is not good is that he / she has not paid last month’s rent, and has taken the keys to the property, including leaving behind his / her personal belongings in the garage. You would like to rent out your property again, but do not know what to do with the tenant’s bits and pieces.

However much, you wish to throw his / her things out, resist the impulse for the time being. Unfair though it may seem, in order to stay on the right side of the law and as is the rule in many states, the landlord cannot just remove a tenant’s belongings from his / her premises, without first determining the value of the abandoned property. If, it is found to be worth something, the landlord must trace the tenant and inform him / her that he / she intends to sell it, unless the tenant claims it.

Often, such situations may turn out to be more than a little complicated and can turn ugly. It is, more than worthwhile, to learn the ins and outs of every tenant / landlord related issue, especially, as future tenants can pull similar stunts. The last thing any landlord wants is to find himself / herself sued for ‘destruction of property’, simply because, you disposed off the abandoned property, without adhering to state law.

Clean Apartment Tenant Expectations

Posted by on November 22, 2006 under Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

Every tenant moving in for the first time expects a clean rental unit i.e. freshly shampooed carpet, a scrubbed and polished bathroom / kitchen, and perhaps, even a lick of fresh paint on the walls, if required. However, tenant expectations are sometimes not met by landlords, who may promise a clean and newly painted apartment before a tenant moves in, but renege and do not deliver on the promise?

If, you are one of those landlords, who did not clean the place before the new tenants moved in, and now because they have nowhere else to go, they are concerned about the health of their children and the total well-being of the family. In such a situation, they may just consider reporting the unhealthy living conditions of your rental unit to the health department, getting you into trouble with the authorities. Once they know their legal rights in the matter, they may even go to court against you.

Unpainted and unclean conditions are genuine health risks, and certainly demand that you as landlord should take immediate action by getting the place in spic and span condition. Once the matter gets reported to the health department, seeing the severity of the problems will prompt them to take action against you, especially, if the walls are painted with peeling lead-based paint, fast deteriorating and a definite health hazard.

Many of the states have enacted remedies for tenants that give them permission to carry out necessary repairs in their rental units, later on deducting costs from the rent, or withhold rent till such time; the landlord cleans the place, carrying out repairs and maintenance work.

To wind off, a word of advice to tenants:

  1. In future, get every landlord promise down in writing before moving in. You will need a contract to prove your point, in case you have to move the issue to a court of law.
  2. Avoid renting a dirty place, as any landlord who advertises and shows such a place has no pride in his / her property, and is unlikely to keep it up during your tenancy.

As for landlords, it your responsibility to offer clean and healthy living conditions. After all, if your last tenant did not clean out the unit before moving out, you had their security deposit to deduct cleaning and repair costs from, unless of course, the lick of paint has been long over due, in which case, painting costs cannot be deducted from the security deposit amount.

Alternative Housing For Tenants During Pest Control

Posted by on under Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

Ques. Are tenants entitled to alternative housing during pest extermination?
Good question, as your landlord has recently sent out a notice informing all tenants, their apartment complex is to be going to be fumigated for termites over the weekend. Since, tenants don’t have a choice in the matter, but to find alternative housing, most certainly, they would like to know, whether the landlord would be responsible for their overnight hotel stay. As well, what kind of accommodation are they entitled to i.e. motel or hotel?

While, yes indeed, tenants are entitled to compensation for the couple of days they could not stay in their rental apartments, however, they cannot turn the fumigation exercise into an opportunity for an expensive paid for vacation.

What is due you, especially if the rent you are paying is relatively modest, is the result of dividing your monthly rent by 30, multiplying the result by the number of days tenants sent outside the rental unit. There’s a slight catch here with the calculations, as what is due will not be able to cover even a modest hotel, or motel or meals. On the other hand, if the rent is sky high, you could chip in some and go ahead with a paid for holiday.

As well, tenants may approach the landlord and ask for the cost of staying at a hotel or motel comparable in quality to the rental unit, plus compensation for meals at restaurants, above what would have been spent for food prepared at home. This is a fairer method, both for the tenant and the landlord. If, your rental apartment comes with amenities and community features, such as, a swimming pool and exercise room, a good idea would be to find a comparable match in a nearby hotel or motel.

Which means, renters of ritzy penthouses in an upscale part of town might be quite justified in choosing a chic hotel or motel. However, for more utilitarian than stunning, rental units, moderately priced lodging is in order.

A word of advice! Don’t withhold rent or deduct your weekend costs from the next rental payment, in the event your landlord balks and refuses compensation. The safest recourse is going to the small claims court, where it can be pointed out to the judge that the termite infestation rendered your unit unliveable. Only a court has the power to order the landlord to compensate you for relocation expenses.

On that cautionary note, another fair bit of advice for both landlords and tenants, do avoid expensive landlord / tenant litigation! Landlords can do so, by taking necessary precautions, such as, screening tenants and conducting background checks on prospective tenants. A simple click of the mouse and one can visit for tenant screening and background check services. On the other hand, tenants can be on their best behaviour!

Enforcing A ‘No Pets’ Policy

Posted by on under Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

Owners of houses with large mortgages to pay off, often rent out the basement or a couple of rooms, in order to ease the financial burden. And, many of them, despite specifying a No Pets policy, allergic as they are to cats or dogs, end up with tenants who just because they pay rent, feel their pet is entitled to their living accommodation, as well.

Often, sharing a house means sharing the same heating system, with dog or cat hair making its way through the whole house, triggering off allergic reactions, especially if the landlord is allergy prone, making his / her life miserable. The only thing a doctor can advise is to get away from pet hair and dander, but what is to be done if the tenant refuses to get rid of the pet. Most certainly, it makes for a desperate situation, especially if a long-term lease has been signed. What can be done to enforce the landlord’s No Pets policy?

No doubt, giving up a pet is not easy, but then too allergies are not easy to cope with. However, a tenant who moved in with a pet, despite being aware of the allergy prone landlord’s No Pets policy, has had fair warning. The landlord’s newspaper advertisement made it plain pets were not allowed, and legally binds the tenant to this rule.

As long as, the landlord has not been openly tolerating the pet’s presence, it should not be difficult to convince a judge that as a landlord, you should be able to enforce this rule. Violation of any important term or condition of a rental lease can be sufficient grounds for termination of a tenancy. In such a situation, a suffering landlord needs to send a written notice advising the tenant that he / she should cease violating the lease by finding a new home for his / her pet, or by moving out. In legal terms, a landlord needs to serve a ‘Cure or Quit’ notice to the unruly tenant. Most state laws allow tenants anywhere from three to ten days, in which to comply with the ‘Cure or Quit’ notice. In case, the tenant refuses to follow the directions of the notice, a landlord may file for eviction.

Can A Tenant Be Asked to Move If The Rental Flat Is Required For A Family Member

Posted by on November 21, 2006 under Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

Consider the following scenario. You own an apartment in a rent controlled city, which is rented out to a tenant, who has been running a childcare business in your apartment. However, she is not doing a good job of it, as after the children arrive, she neglects them, doing nothing when they end up crying all day. Half an hour, before the parents are due to pick up their children, happy times are simulated by turning on some loud, peppy, feel-good music. Obviously, any landlord would like a tenant such as this one, to move out, especially if they have a son or daughter in sore need of rental accommodation. The question is, can a tenant in a rent controlled city be asked to move out, without letting her know it the childcare business that is driving you nuts. And, of course, the apartment is needed for personal requirements.

All in all, you are in a difficult situation, where the law must be followed to a T. Each ordinance of your state law deals or interprets the issue of an owner evicting a tenant for using the property for their own use or the use of a family member. However, whatever the phrasing of the tenant / landlord ordinance, what a landlord must remember is that as long as the tenant has a functioning lease, it must be honoured, no matter how urgently you or your family need the place for your own purposes.

The first thing to be done before taking any step is to check the rent control ordinance applicable to your state. Landlords and tenants residing either in New York City, Newark, San Francisco, or other cities with rent control laws in place, should read and understand the most recent copy of the state’s rent control ordinance, including other regulations, so as to keep themselves informed, as to what is permissible in the state, their rental property is located in. They can acquire a current copy by getting in touch with the local rent control board, or by contacting the mayor or city manager’s office.

On that cautionary note, another fair bit of advice, avoid expensive landlord / tenant litigation, by taking necessary precautions, such as, screening tenants and conducting background checks on prospective tenants. A simple click of the mouse and one can visit for tenant screening and background check services.