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What To Do When Tenants Won't Leave Your Investment Property

Mar 31, 2008
You have decided not to renew a particular tenant's lease for any number of reasons (late rent, noise complaints). Immediately after notifying them that they must be out by the 31st, they stop returning your calls and are very cold when you do see them.

You never hear from them again, but you stop by at 5pm on the 31st to check if they clean up the apartment only to find them still living there. Now what do you do? I have some ideas on "Now What?", but let's first examine what you should have done prior to reduce your risks of the "Now What?".

Prior to telling the tenant you are not renewing their lease:
1. Tour the apartment looking for any work that may need to be done and to confirm the current condition of the unit. Try to complete any repairs prior to the previous tenant moving out to save time.
2. Talk with the tenant informally about their plans to renew the lease. Do they need a bigger space or less expensive? See if just a little coaxing could get them to move on their own.

How to inform the tenant you are not renewing their lease:
1. First talk to the tenant in person. Although this is more intimidating, it is also less formal and may be received better. Then follow up the conversation with a letter for documentation.
2. Give them at least 61 days notice. This should work in most states and will give the tenant ample time to find a replacement apartment.
3. Call back every week or so to confirm they are looking for a new apartment. If they don't answer the phone, stop by. If they won't answer the door, start preparing for the "Now What?".

Preparing for the "Now What?"
1. Talk to them immediately. Use your best negotiation skills.
2. If they will talk to you, see if you can bribe them to move by offering them cash for a moving truck.
3. If they owe you money prior to the move-out date, consider an eviction process to insure they are going to be out. You can also threaten to evict them if they are not out on time.
4. If you see this problem coming, do not lease the apartment for the month immediately after as you could put yourself in a bind with the new tenant having no where to go.
5. Research how to evict a "Hold Over" tenant in your state.
6. If the tenant receives public assistance for their rent, contact their coordinator and see if they can provide any leverage to get the tenant to move.

The morning after they didn't move out
1. Understand the rights of the tenant and do not cross the line as you could be liable for a lawsuit if you try to force them out illegally.
2. Put your "Hold Over" tenant eviction plan into action. Notify the tenant that you are taking legal steps to remove them.

Having a tenant refuse to vacate the apartment once their lease expires can be a difficult event. There are many twists and turns in this drama. By being prepared as early in the process as possible with good contingencies, you should be able to avoid the "Now What?".
About the Author
Scott Ficek owns and manages almost 30 investment property units from single family to multi-family. Find his website at www.minnesotainvestmentrealestate.com. He is also a Minnesota Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Advantage Plus in Minneapolis and helps new and seasoned investors buy and own Investment Property.
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