Easy Guide to Florida Landlord Tenant Law

Under Florida landlord tenant law, tenants have certain rights and responsibilities to which they are entitled.

A person becomes a tenant when they pay rent to live in a mobile home, condo, apartment, or single family home whether there is a lease in place or just a verbal agreement. This is an easy guide to those rights and responsibilities.

1. The Right To Private And Peaceful Possession.

Florida allows landlords to enter a rented unit to inspect it or make necessary or agreed upon repairs.

Reasonable notice is required for entry unless emergency conditions exist.

2. The Right To a Habitable Environment.

A rental unit in Florida must have plumbing that works, access to hot water, have a reasonable amount of security, and be structurally sound.

Any building must meet local safety, health, and building codes.

3. Tenants Must Maintain Their Living Conditions.

A tenant must maintain a rental unit so that it continues meeting all necessary codes.

This means removing trash when necessary, cleaning the unit, and using appliances as they are intended.

Any damages to a unit that is caused by tenant neglect is generally the responsibility of the tenant to pay.

4. Tenants Can Be Evicted Even If Partial Rent Payments Are Received.

If a landlord has issued a notice to quit because of the nonpayment of rent, the eviction procedures can still take place even if they accept a partial payment for past due rent.

Sometimes housing associations can demand that tenants pay rent to them instead of the landlord.

All evictions are handled through the courts.

5. Tenants Have The Right To Their Security Deposit.

A security deposit must be maintained throughout an entire tenancy.

Landlords must return the full amount within 15 days of moving out or provide a detailed statement of deductions from the security deposit.

Interest on this amount may be required to be paid in certain circumstances.

If a tenant does not provide a forwarding address upon moving out, the may lose the right to claim any remainder to the deposit.

This guide is not intended to cover every potential situation that may occur under a Florida rental agreement between a tenant and landlord.

Be sure to consult with Florida’s landlord tenant law to receive specific answers for your situation or consult with a legal professional.

The Key Points of Michigan Renters Rights

Once a rental agreement is assigned, the household which occupies a rental unit becomes a tenant.

This gives them access to all of the renters rights they are allowed under Michigan’s landlord tenant laws.

In basic terms, this means that renters are allowed to live in a place that is habitable.

This includes the actual property in addition to the structure being occupied.

Common areas should also be maintained for normal use. Here are the key points of Michigan renters rights to consider in addition to the rights that are listed above.

1. Renters Generally Have a Right To Receive Repairs In a Reasonable Time.

Renters can ask their landlord to make a needed repair in writing.

Landlords must generally then make this repair in a reasonable amount of time.

Renters have the right to request a deadline.

The exception to this rule is that Michigan allows this right to be waived for leases that last longer than 1 year.

If the repair is not made, then renters have the right to place their rent into an escrow account or pay for the repairs and deduct the cost.

2. Renters Have The Right To Have a Quiet Enjoyment Of The Property.

Landlords are not allowed to do anything that prevents a renter from having access to their home.

This means renters must not be threatened, have force used against them, or have personal property removed, withheld, or destroyed.

Locks may not be altered without tenant permission.

Landlords may not even enter without permission unless they’ve offered previous notice for an inspection or sales tour or there is an emergency repair which must be made.

3. Renters Have The Right To Change The Terms Of The Lease.

If a tenant and a landlord mutually agree to change the terms of a lease while it is still active, then Michigan allows for this to take place.

Any changes should be in writing, signed by all parties, and made as an addendum to the lease.

There are some reasons why a landlord could make changes to a lease without the agreement of a tenant, including the need to raise rent to meet raises in property taxes, utilities, or insurance costs.

4. Renters Have The Right To Hold Over After An Expired Lease.

When a renter’s lease ends, they are allowed to keep living in the rental property if this is also agreed upon by the landlord.

Both parties can either negotiate a new lease or the tenancy can become month-to-month instead.

Some leases offer an automatic renewal, so renters must pay close attention to what their lease says when they initially sign it.

5. Some Renters Have The Right To Break Their Lease.

If a renter fears that they might become a victim of domestic violence, then there are circumstances which allow them to break the lease and move to a new location without having an obligation to pay rent through the end of the lease.

This includes stalking or various types of assault.

6. Renters Have The Right To Receive a Full Security Deposit Refund.

Landlords are allowed to keep a portion of the security deposit when there are damages to a rental unit which must be repaired.

Damages cannot be charged when what needs to be repaired is normal wear and tear.

If a rental unit has a carpet which is 20 years old and it needs to be replaced because it has just worn out, the last tenant to occupy the space doesn’t foot the bill. Normal wear and tear can be different for different households as well.

A family with 3 kids and 3 dogs will have a different level of wear and tear than a newlywed couple renting their first property together.

7. Renters Have The Right To Have a Capped Security Deposit.

Michigan allows landlords to charge a security deposit that is 1.5x the amount of rent they charge in their lease. If the monthly rent on the property is $1,000, then the maximum security deposit would be $1,500.

This cap applies no matter what a landlord may try to call this deposit and applies even when the first and last month’s rent is requested to begin the tenancy.

These key points cover just a few of the renters rights which are provided by the state of Michigan.

If your question was not answered here, then be sure to consult with the specific state statutes which govern your situation under local landlord-tenant laws or ask a knowledgeable attorney.

Louisiana Landlord Tenant Law: Important Points to Know

Before moving into a rental unit or becoming a landlord, Louisiana has some unique aspects of their landlord tenant law which should be reviewed.

In basic terms, tenants are responsible for paying rent on-time and maintaining a healthy and safe living environment.

Landlords must provide a residence which is habitable and up to building codes.

Here are some of the important points to know beyond those basics.

1. Lease Terms Must Be Specific.

If there is not a fixed term specifically stated on a rental agreement, then Louisiana considers this to be a month-to-month lease.

Tenants or landlords can terminate a month-to-month lease with 10 days written notice before the end of the month.

2. Late Fees Must Be Included In a Lease.

If a rental agreement does not contain any language about paying a late fee when a tenant misses a rent payment deadline, then Louisiana forbids landlords from charging one.

There are no set laws about how much a late fee which is legally included in a lease can be.

3. No Alterations Are Allowed Unless They Meet Or Improve Tenant Habitability.

Landlords must provide tenants with a private living experience.

This means in Louisiana, unless there is a need to make an alteration to come into compliance with expectations, a property must not be altered while it is occupied.

Tenants can make alterations, however, with landlord permission.

4. Louisiana Holds Those Who Cause Damage To a Rental Unit Responsible.

If a landlord fails to maintain a habitable living environment, then any needed repairs are their responsibility.

Tenants are responsible for their damage or damage caused by guests or pets which exceeds normal wear and tear.

If a landlord fails to make a needed repair for habitability issues and a tenant has provided them with a written notice and reasonable time, then the tenant may pay for the repairs and deduct a reasonable price from the rent.

5. Pet Fees Are Not Covered By Security Deposit Terms.

A landlord may or may not choose to charge a pet fee.

If they do, then this amount is not considered part of the security deposit, which is returnable after a tenant moves out.

These important points are just a few of the highlights presents under the Louisiana landlord tenant laws.

For specific answers to any questions you have that were not covered here, be sure to check with your local statutes or consult with a legal professional.

What Is the Eviction Process in Missouri

Sometimes a landlord has no choice but to begin the eviction process on one of their tenants.

Missouri offers landlords some specific steps which must be followed in order for this process to begin.

This formal process is required any time a tenant must be removed from a property, even when there is a potentially dangerous situation going on.

Most landlords will initiate the eviction process because of a failure to pay rent.

Any provision within a lease that is not met can also be grounds for the eviction process in Missouri to be initiated.

Evictions may also occur after a fixed term lease has expired without renewal or if a landlord wishes to terminate a month-to-month tenant.

No Specific Amount of Time Is Required

When the issue is for the non-payment of rent, there is no specific amount of time that is mentioned in the landlord tenant laws of the state.

As a general rule, however, landlords should give their tenants 5 business days in order to pay any rent that is due.

The amount of the demand may include a late fee as well if the rental agreement allows for these fees to be paid.

Paying the rent, but not the late fee, may be an active defense for a tenant fighting an eviction.

If the rent is not paid after the demand has been issued and an appropriate amount of time has passed, then a landlord may proceed with a rent and possession lawsuit against the tenant.

This allows a landlord to proceed with the eviction process in Missouri and seek a monetary award for the amount due them at the same time.

A court date will be set. If a tenant fails to show up for the hearing, then a default judgment will be issued.

This may result in an order to leave the rental unit, monetary damages being awarded, or both.

The Unlawful Detainer Process

When the issue is different than a failure to pay the rent, landlords must pursue an eviction process that is a little different.

 

This is known as the unlawful detainer lawsuit. It is used to remove tenants who have not met some component of their lease or have failed to move out after their rental agreement has expired.

This lawsuit against a tenant follows the same process as the rent and possession lawsuit, but with one exception.

Landlords are not allowed to pursue any monetary damages under this eviction process.

The court will only issue a writ of possession if landlords are awarded the judgment and the Sheriff’s office or other designated official are the only people who can enforce the court order.

Tenants are given 10 days to leave after a judgment has been issued.

Tenants Have the Right to Appeal

Tenants may lose their case, but that doesn’t mean it is the end of the story for a landlord.

Tenants can appeal a judgment against them within 10 days of that judgment occurring.

While the appeal is pending, however, a tenant must post a bond with the court that is equal to any monetary judgment that has been made against them. If the tenant wins the appeal, then the money is given back to them.

If not, the court will give the money to the landlord instead.

An appeal must be filed within 10 days if a tenant is still using a rental unit. If no appeal is filed and the tenant is still holding possession of the rental unit after 10 days have passed since the judgment, a landlord can file for a writ of possession.

This allows the Sheriff or designated official to remove the tenant from the property.

What About an Expedited Eviction?

Some landlords may be able to request an expedited eviction process in the state of Missouri.

This is allowed when the eviction is because the tenants or their guests are engaged in drug related activities or has allowed people in the rental unit or on the property that the landlord has not allowed.

If tenants caused damage to a rental unit that is equivalent to 12 months of rent, this process may also be requested.

If a landlord attempts to evict a tenant on their own, then the eviction process doesn’t necessarily stop.

Self-help evictions do open up a landlord to the possibility of being sued by a tenant because Missouri considers such actions to be illegal.

Any damages that result from turning off utilities, switching locks, or removing the front door [or other actions not listed here] are determined by the court.

The eviction process in Missouri is a streamlined process which is designed to help landlords manage their property effectively.

As long as these steps are followed and appropriate legal counsel is available, this difficult task can become a little bit easier.

What Are the Laws for a Section 8 Rent Increase

When you are living in a qualified Section 8 rental property, then here's some good news for you: the landlord you have can't just decide that they want to increase your rent.

Landlords must make a request for a rental increase and then wait for it to be approved.

Tenants are not required to pay more rent unless they have been notified in writing by the governing housing authority that they must do so.

Rent increase requests that are deemed to be unreasonable or outside of what the fair market would allow are generally refused.

Tenants Can Have Their Rent Increased For Other Reasons

Landlords might need specific permission from their Housing Authority to increase the rent on their property, but tenants can see rent changes for a number of different reasons.

This won't affect the amount that a landlord receives, but it will affect how much of the rent that a tenant would be required to pay.

Here are some reasons why tenants would pay more every month.

  • The amount of income that a household receives has had an increase.
  • A tenant decides to move out of one rental property and into another one, including into a different apartment within the same building.
  • The Housing Authority that approves rent that is higher than payment standards.
  • Section 8 reduces the amount they pay to a landlord.

A tenant's rent in a Section 8 property can only be increased once per year and it can only happen on their re-certification date.

All tenants must receive a written 30 day notice of their rent increase for it to be valid.

What If a Landlord's Request For More Rent?

In most circumstances, the Housing Authority will pay the requested increase from the Landlord that has been approved.

It will not change the amount that a tenant has to pay in rent.

The only exception to this is when a landlord requests an increase that is higher than the payment standard and it is approved.

When this occurs, tenants can be required to pay the extra rent on top of what has already been agreed upon.

If HUD lowers their fair market rents, some Section 8 tenants might also find that they have large rent increases because of the standards of their property.

In both of these circumstances, tenants are required to have a 90 day written notice informing them of the increase.

These unique circumstances can also push a tenant's rent above the 40% income threshold that is generally allowed in this type of housing.

The rules are slightly different for tenants who have a diagnosed disability.

They may be able to request more assistance if a rent increase occurs, request having more disability accommodations that meet their specific needs, or other make other requests based upon their diagnosis.

Notification times are the same in these circumstances. It can be difficult for a landlord to get a rent increase for their Section 8 property.

By knowing what the laws are, however, the best chance to get that increase approved can be realized.

What Are Squatters Rights in Texas

Squatters might be an inconvenience to landlords and property owners, but they do have rights that cannot be violated. The first thing that anyone should do if they discover squatters on their property is to contact the police. If your home is actively lived in, then this may be considered a break-in and the squatters will be removed. If there isn’t any active living on the property and the squatters have set up utility accounts, you may need to take civil action instead. If your property is in Texas, however, you have an advantage when it comes to handling squatters. What are squatter’s rights in Texas? Let’s take a look.

It Takes 30 Years of Adverse Possession For Success

The conditions for squatters to be able to claim adverse possession are very difficult to achieve. The squatters must be living on the property continuously and without permission. They must also prove that they are behaving as the property owner, perform maintenance on the property, and reside their alone [or with their household]. Texas requires these conditions to be met for 30 years for adverse possession to occur. Texas also requires that all elements of adverse possession be in place for a deed to be drawn up in the squatter’s name. Because of the 30 year minimum requirement of living on a property, there are a lot of things that can happen. Witnesses to the adverse possession may move away or pass away. The legal owner of a property might be able to prove that they granted the squatters the legal permission to live on the property at any time during this 30 year period. If there is just one missing element to an adverse possession case, it will be dismissed. Only if all elements are in place and the squatters have been there for 30 years without permission will an adverse possession claim be considered successful. At that point, the property deed will be treated as if cash or other valuable goods were exchanged for the it. If there is any outstanding debt or liens on the property, they become the responsibility of the previous property owner, not the squatter.

What About the Affidavit Method of Adverse Possession?

Texas has a century old law that has a potential loophole in it regarding adverse possession. It was used in 2011 to allow Kenneth Robinson to move into a foreclosed home that was worth $340k. The loophole was deemed to be invalid, however, and Robinson was given an order to move out of the home. Robinson’s efforts inspired others to try moving into homes that weren’t theirs as well. The only problem was that 8 people actually moved into homes that were actively occupied. This caused charges of burglary to be filed against them and some defendants received sentences that included fines up to $10,000. Texas passed legislation in 2013 that permanently closed this loophole. The good news for property owners in Texas is that they have plenty of time to deal with squatters that might be on their land. The bad news is that if that property is being used for rental income, it means money is being lost every day. By knowing the rights of squatters in Texas, however, every property owner can take the actions that are necessary to claim their property back.

Outline of Tenant Rights During Construction

When a rental property begins to undergo a construction process, this is typically treated as a special circumstance by the leasing agreement.

Landlords have a right and often a duty to repair the property so that it is safe and secure to inhabit.

Unless the work is being completed within the interior of the rental unit, there may be very few remedies available to the situation from a tenant’s rights perspective.

If, however, the construction interferes with the quiet enjoyment of the property outside of the confines of health and security, then this may entitle a tenant to break the lease and seek out financial assistance from the landlord because of it.

What Can a Tenant Request if Breaking a Lease?

If construction allows a tenant to break their lease, then there are numerous ways a landlord may be required to compensate the tenant for their trouble.

Relocation Assistance. Landlords may be required to pay for moving costs and other fees associated with a tenant moving to a new residence. If the relocation is temporary, a landlord may be required to pay for hotel fees or the costs of moving to a new rental unit until the primary unit has been repaired.

Rent Reduction. Some jurisdictions allow a tenant dealing with ongoing construction to be entitled to a reduction in the amount of rent that is owed.

Actual Damages. If a landlord has permitted a tenant to operate a business out of the rental property and the construction impacts that business, then a tenant may be entitled to claim actual damages and losses that they have experienced.

The quiet enjoyment of a rental property is a rather vague term, which means each circumstance is evaluated on its own.

For someone who is single, working full-time, and rarely home except for the weekends, then no accommodations may be required for construction that happens on weekdays while the tenant is at work.

On the other hand, if a tenant has four children that are all under the age of 5, works full-time at home with an approved business, and has limited access to their rental unit because of the construction, the tenant may be able to make several claims.

This is especially true if the tenant can provide evidence that the landlord was aware of their living situation.

If the quiet enjoyment stipulation is violated, a tenant may have the right to sue for the nuisance that has been caused by the construction.

Some jurisdictions allow for a breach of contract lawsuit.

The construction company, each contractor, and even the laborers may also be allowed.

How Are These Two Rights Balanced?

There must be some give and take from both parties when there is construction involved with a rental unit.

Some jurisdictions do have specific policies and procedures to follow, but in general, the need to repair a property becomes a negotiating point in combination with the quiet enjoyment of the rental.

Normally a conversation or two regarding the situation can balance out each right so that everyone feels like they come out ahead.

If a landlord serves a notice on a tenant to temporarily vacate the premises without compensation, however, many landlord/tenant laws allow this notice to be ignored.

It is considered a breach of the contract to force a tenant to move when they have a valid right to be there.

If a landlord attempts to force a tenant out, even temporarily, then the only allowable method is typically to pay for all expenses during the construction period, including food and incidental expenses, while giving the tenant a time to return.

A 60 day notice for this type of temporary move is usually required as well.

Tenants may also have the right to call out building inspectors to determine if the building is remaining up to code during the construction process.

If the housing is deemed to be uninhabitable, then the landlord may have 24 hours to rectify the situation or risk the lease being broken with cause, meaning a tenant may be able to gain their full deposit back unless there are provable tenant-caused repairs that must be made.

For the most part, landlords should generally work on rental properties when there are no tenants in a unit to prevent this situation from ever occurring.

When emergency repairs are required or a unit needs to be updated, however, it pays to give tenants as much notice as possible and make it worth their while to put up with the noise if the problem isn’t their fault.

Otherwise that construction cost might not be the only charge that has to be paid.

Tenant Rights and Hot Water

In just about every jurisdiction, landlords are required to provide tenants with a living space that is safe, healthy, and livable.

The definition of what constitutes what must be provided to make the space this livable may vary, but one of the basic items that must be provided in every jurisdiction is hot water.

If there is a hot water issue within a home, then it generally qualifies as being a 24 hour emergency repair.

If the repair is not made after a written notification to the landlord is made, then the tenant may be able to break the lease without penalty.

Depending on where the property in question happens to be, a lack of hot water may also allow the tenant to take the following actions if they choose not to move out without notice.

  1.  Withhold their rent to make the repair on their own if there is no response from their written request for hot water repair.
  2.  Pay for the repair needed to have hot water again and then charge this cost to the landlord through an invoice.
  3.  File a lawsuit against the landlord for not providing conditions as indicated in the leasing agreement.

The reason why a tenant has these options is that landlord-tenant laws have an implied warranty of habitability included with every rental arrangement.

Tenants have an expectation to live in a home that meets their basic needs.

The structure should be intact, not develop mold, be susceptible to pests, and have hot water available.

What About Hot Water That Runs Out?

The provision that landlords must generally follow is to provide a “reasonable” amount of hot water.

This means a tenant can potentially use up all of their hot water and the landlord would not be liable for this fact.

For example: if a tenant takes a 45 minute shower every day and leave their child with no hot water for an additional shower, then this would be a tenant issue instead of a landlord issue.

Where shades of gray begin to form are in how the hot water is provided compared to the size of the household that occupies a rental property.

A single person, for example, could have a 20 gallon hot water heater and probably have their reasonable needs met.

If a landlord rents a home to a six person household, however, that 20 gallon hot water heater isn’t going to meet needs very efficiently.

In the latter circumstance, the 6 person household could have a potential claim against a landlord who doesn’t upgrade the hot water system.

Hot Water Is Considered a Major Repair

The problem that many landlords have with hot water repairs is that they tend to be expensive. If the hot water heater fails, then there is the cost of a new appliance and the emergency labor required to install it.

There may need to be additional plumbing repairs needed to install the new unit.

This type of repair could easily reach $1,000 or more, which might exceed the amount of rent that is paid each month.

Because hot water is considered an essential service and a tenant right, it is always considered a major repair because it is needed to provide habitable conditions.

Sometimes hot water can be considered a minor repair because it is being provided, but not in a way that is satisfactory to standards or preferences.

No hot water would be a major repair.

Having hot water that is heated to 5-10 degrees lower than what landlord-tenant laws stipulate would be considered a minor repair.

Both would need to be completed, but minor repairs can often be completed in a 10 day window instead of a 24 hour window.

 

If a hot water heater is leaking, but still providing hot water, then a landlord may wish to consider it a major repair.

After notifying a landlord of a leak, the tenant is not responsible for the maintenance of the hot water heater.

This means the water can get into the walls, flooring, and other components of the structure and cause additional damage to the structure that may make it eventually uninhabitable.

The statutes that govern hot water can vary somewhat from state to state and jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but there is always a requirement to provide a water supply and a way to heat it up.

You may be required to heat it to specific temperatures or provide specific amounts.

Check your local laws if you’re unsure to determine what tenant rights and hot water regulations must be followed so every rental unit can meet the legal standard.

The 6 Stages Of Evicting A Tenant

Becoming a landlord is a goal for many people, and for good reason. It can be a solid way to build wealth, in the form of both ongoing ‘passive’ income as well as capital growth over time. The process of sourcing and purchasing a rental property for investment is costly and time consuming, but once a tenant is in place the hard work is done….right?

Well, that is what we would hope of course, and for the most part this is how it works. But, unfortunately, this is not always the case. Despite our most thorough screening, tenants do not always behave as we would like. The main issues tend to be refusal to pay rent, violations of the lease, damaging the property, breaking local noise laws, and causing health and safety hazards.

If you are faced with any of these as a landlord, what options are available to you?

Let’s take a look at how a landlord may deal with issues surrounding payment of rent.

Late Payment Of Rent

The first thing to establish is that late payment of rent is a serious issue. As a landlord, it is not unreasonable to consider this a serious breach of the rental lease. You likely have a mortgage to pay, so not receiving your rent payment will force you to pay from your own funds. In effect, not paying rent is therefore stealing from you.

It is advisable to have a system in place to deal with late payments right from the start. Be clear that any delay in receiving rent payments will Image courtesy of projectcensored.orgautomatically incur a fee. You must insist that this is paid if you want your tenants to take you seriously and respect your contract.

If this doesn’t help, or you are experiencing further breaches in the lease, or even outright refusal from the tenant to pay rent, then eviction may be your only course of action. It is important to be aware of the law surrounding tenant eviction as well as the fact that it can be a time-consuming and expensive process.

It can be daunting to start the legal process, so we have put together the following 6-step guide, which will suggest how to handle tenant eviction in the most fair and efficient way possible. The ideal outcome is of course to receive the rent owed and enforce the lease conditions, and, more often than not, the following steps help to achieve this.

Step 1 – Stay Calm and Start Communication

The first step when rent is not received on time should be a phone call, especially for a first-time offense. Speak calmly ? there is no sense in becoming angry  but let your tenant know that the rent must be paid immediately, and that the late fee must also be included.

This is also a great opportunity to gather information to understand why the rent has not been paid. The following questions will give you an insight into the finances of your tenant, and also indicate if the pattern is likely to repeat.

  • Why were they unable to pay on time?
  • When are they receiving pay next?
  • When were they last paid?
  • Has there been any illness or job loss?

It may be that you need to speak to the tenant about prioritizing their finances and organizing their money around paydays. The ideal outcome at this point is to receive an apology for not paying on time, as well as a promise to pay by a set date along with the late fee.

Image courtesy of EHow.comIf the tenant is not in a position to pay in the next two weeks, and they have a genuine reason (for example illness) then this is a trickier situation to navigate. Try to stay business minded regarding ‘sob stories’, as the rent still needs to be paid, and it is no fun if this has to come from your own pocket.

If you are unable to get hold of the tenant on the phone then make contact along the same lines via email.

If this first, soft step is unsuccessful in prompting a tenant to pay the rent that is due, consider putting together a letter explaining the seriousness of their actions, and the repercussions that eviction will have on them. Let them know that their credit score will be affected, and that you will sue them for the rent due. Be sure that you do not threaten the tenant at all.

Protect yourself by staying calm and acting within the law at all times. You should be aware that eviction rules vary from state to state, but there are actions which are illegal across the whole country. These are things that you should not do under any circumstances:

  • Change the locks on the rental property
  • Remove doors or windows
  • Shut off utilities
  • Touch the tenant’s possessions

You should not even enter the property without the prior consent of the tenant, as this will only cause legal complications further down the line.

If it seems that you are not able to solve the issue in a reasonable manner, there is another option that you can try prior to filing for eviction at court.

Step 2 – Pay The Tenant To Leave

This step is sure to roll a few eyes. Sure, it feels wrong. It feels that you are giving in, and why should you ever have to consider giving your hard-earned cash in exchange for the keys to the property that you own.Image courtesy of WiseGeek.com

I hear you loud and clear! But this option is the equivalent of ripping a bandage from a graze, compared to opting for surgery (which is what going to court can feel like!).

The legal process of tenant eviction is expensive, stressful and time consuming, so paying tenants to leave, in an act known as ‘cash for keys’, could be a better option. These are the steps to doing this effectively:

  • State the terms of the Cash for Keys agreement (eg the property must be empty and clean)
  • Specify the date that the tenant must be ready to exchange (normally 4 days maximum)
  • Give official notice to pay or vacate
  • Meet the tenant at the property to check that it is clean
  • Take somebody with you as a witness / safety precaution
  • If you are satisfied, present a letter detailing the agreement to be signed
  • Once you have both signed and dated the agreement, you hand over the agreed cash amount in exchange for the key.

The amount of cash is up to you, but it is usually around $500, which is far less than the cost of legal eviction.

Step 3 – Hire An Attorney

If ‘cash for keys’ is not for you, or the tenant still refuses, then you will need to begin the legal process for tenant eviction. An attorney is not essential, but it is advisable, as the process can feel like a real battle and become very complicated. A simple mistake with paperwork can cause the balance to shift in the favor of the tenant.

You, or the attorney, will start the process by drawing up the eviction notice.

Step 4 – Deliver Eviction Notice

Image courtesty of AlperLaw.comThe eviction notice should be served in person to the tenant. If they are not at the property, it may be taped to the door, or sent through the mail with a certified return receipt.

The document gives notice to pay outstanding rent (or adhere to other breaches in the tenancy lease) or vacate by a specific date. Details must be clear, with an order to comply with terms. It is advisable to look into the state-specific laws when drawing this up.

Many landlords write a letter accompanying the eviction notice to soften the blow and keep lines of communication open.

At this point, the tenant may decide to pay what is owed, and eviction can be avoided. But if the date passes without action, the eviction must be filed at this point. You or your attorney will gather a copy of the lease, the eviction notice, and a summary of your situation, and these will be filed with the court administrator while you wait for a date to appear in court.

The order to appear in court will be served in person to the tenant.

Step 5 – Appearance In Court 

Prior to appearance in court, all paperwork should be compiled, including communication around the non-payment of rent and the original tenancy Image courtesy of Everything-PR.comapplication. Either you or your attorney will be required to stand up in court to discuss the situation.

Often the tenant doesn’t appear at the hearing, in which case they lose automatically. But if they do, the judge hears both sides and makes a decision. If you lose, that is very bad luck, and is usually due to issues with the paperwork you have produced, or unfavorable behavior on your part through the process.

If you win the case, the tenant will have to pay rent and back rent, the late fees, as well as your court costs. They will also be given a date by which they must vacate the premise. You will be provided with a  ‘Writ of Restitution,’ which affords you with the legal right to remove the tenant.

You will then take the writ to the sheriff and schedule the date to remove the tenant. Unsurprisingly, you will be charged a fee for this.

Step 6 – Remove The Tenant

Once the day arrives, the sheriff will attend the property with you to supervise the ‘removal’ of the tenant from your property. Often, the tenant chooses to leave before the sheriff arrives. You may be left with a houseful of the tenant’s property, or a house in a poor state of repair. But you will have access once again.

So, as you can see, eviction can take months and prove to be very costly. The best outcome is to come to a settlement outside of court if at all possible. The best way to avoid these stresses is to build a robust screening process, but even that is not infallible. Being faced with a non-paying tenant is bad news for a landlord, but by staying calm and following the process, it can be rectified with minimal fuss.

What Landlords Should Know About Adverse Action Notices

Tenant turnover, while something that every landlord deals with at one point or another in their career, can be a pain.

It starts when you get that phone call or written notice from your tenant saying that they will not be renewing their lease with you when it comes time. The reasons are endless, and while you should take note if there is something you could have done differently with that tenant to have encouraged them to extend their stay with you, your real focus should turn to the transition process.

You will need to list your property for rent, receive applications, perform tenant screenings, and choose your next tenant, all while finding that careful balance of speed and accuracy.

Depending on how much notice you received from the outgoing tenant, this could limit the time you have to find that next tenant if you want to reduce the amount of time that your property stands vacant, but that’s never an excuse to simply shrug off certain legal procedures.

It’s a fair assumption that you will be receiving multiple applications for that rental, but no matter how many you receive, you will need to provide an Adverse Action Notice to anyone that you run a background check on and do not accept or for whom you alter the conditions of acceptance based on a background check.

What Is a Adverse Action Notice?

An Adverse Action Notice is a letter that is required by federal law through the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) which tells someone that they are being denied or conditionally accepted for something (in this case residence) based on the contents of a credit report or background check.

You must provide the letter to any rental applicant on whom you have run a consumer report and intend to either deny or alter the terms of the lease agreement for in order to accept them as your tenant.

What is considered a consumer report?

A consumer report contains information about a person's credit characteristics, character, general reputation, and lifestyle. A report also may include information about someone's rental history, such as information from previous landlords or from public records like housing court or eviction files. To be covered by the FCRA, a report must be prepared by a CRA – a business that assembles such reports for other businesses. The most common type of CRA is the credit bureau. [x]

What are some examples of a consumer report?

  • A credit report
  • A criminal, and/or eviction report prepared by a Consumer Report Agency such as TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian
  • A tenant screening with rental history and/or records attached to it
  • A reference check done by a third party hired by the landlord/property manager (through reference checks performed by the landlord or their direct employee may not be considered a consumer report)

When Would You Need to Supply an Adverse Action Notice?

The Adverse Action Notice is not limited strictly to applicants that you are denying the tenancy to.

While applicants that you have turned down for the rental should receive this notice, you will also be required to provide an Adverse Action Notice to an applicant that you are accepting, but have set additional conditions for that acceptance that you may not have set for other applicants.

A few instances that could require an Adverse Action Notice would be:

  • If you are turning the applicant down for the rental
  • If you are charging a higher deposit due to something found on the screening
  • If you require a co-signer due to something found on the screening

As a rule, if you require anything of one applicant that you may not require of someone that met all of your usual standards, you will need to provide them with this letter to explain why.

In many cases, they will be eligible to receive a copy of their credit report directly from the credit agency that the report has been run through, and part of what you will provide to them will be the contact information so that they may easily do this.

What Goes Into an Adverse Action Notice?

It’s a good practice to have a standard Adverse Action Notice that you will send out to every applicant that needs one. This will help to make sure that you are keeping things fair to each applicant and that you are providing all of the information legally required of you.

While you should always check local and federal laws to make sure that you are providing correct and up-to-date information, a few things to make sure are noted on an Adverse Action Notice can be found here:

  • The landlord/property manager’s name
  • The property that was being applied for
  • The date that the notice is being given
  • The applicant’s name
  • Information about why they are receiving the Adverse Action Notice
  • If they are being denied or if additional conditions may be set for acceptance
  • Contact information for the CRA (such as Trans Union, Experian or Equifax) that the report was run through (including a toll free number for that CRA)
    • An explanation that the applicant has a right to dispute the information with the CRA if they believe they have inaccurate information on file
    • An explanation that the applicant has a right to a free credit report within 60 days
  • A note stating that the the CRA did not make the final decision

What Can You Use and What Can You Not Use For an Adverse Action Notice

You will likely have many pieces of information that you look at during the screening process.

Between the credit report, criminal report, eviction report, references that you follow up on, and any other number of documents you may choose to check, there can be an overload of information.

The fair housing laws dictate what you as a landlord and/or property manager may and may not use to influence your final decision when you are choosing a new tenant. The laws are set up to protect your rental applicants from discrimination.

What you shouldn’t use to turn down a rental applicant:

  • Anything that discriminates against an individual that is part of a protected class – The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits a landlord or property manager from discriminating against an applicant or tenant on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and family status. Local laws may add additional groups to this list.  
  • Strictly based on an applicant’s criminal history, without proof that the individual is a danger to others – The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a set of guidelines in early 2016 that said that while individuals with criminal records are not necessarily considered a federally protected class, blanket denial of any applicants for having a criminal record of any kind may lead to discrimination based on race or color.
  • Having a service animal in a no-pet rental – Many landlords have valid concerns over pets being in their rentals, but a service animal is not considered a pet. You may not charge a new tenant more for allowing their service animal to reside with them, nor may you deny their service animal access to the rental. If the pet damages the property, you will be allowed to deduct that from their security deposit at the end of their stay.

What you may use to turn down a rental applicant:

  • Information found in their credit report – You are allowed to set minimum requirements for credit scores, negative tradelines, or anything else found within their credit history.
  • Information found in their criminal report – If your applicant’s criminal report returns with information showing that they may pose a threat to your rental, neighbors, or anyone else, you may turn them down as long as you use the same qualifiers for everyone.
  • Rent versus income ratio – If your applicant does not make enough money at their current employment position to adequately cover the debts they owe and rent every month, they are not a good choice for you. Many landlords require that the applicant make at least three times the monthly rent.
  • Prior evictions – A rental applicant that has been evicted before may not be someone you want to immediately welcome into your rental.
  • Too many people wanting to move in – You are allowed to put reasonable limits on how many people may live in the rental unit as long as those limits don’t cause you to discriminate against families.

In the end, you have a lot of flexibility in what you can use to choose to deny an applicant as long as you are not discriminating against a class protected by the Fair Housing Act.

What Can Happen If You Do Not Provide What is Required?

You will want to make sure that you follow the letter of the law, both federal and local. This may take some extra work, but it’s worth it.

If you miss a step or are found acting contrary to the law, you may open yourself up to a lawsuit, which will cost you in time, money, and stress.

If you lose that lawsuit, you may be on the hook for the tenant’s legal fees as well.

 

What Should an Adverse Action Notice Look Like?

LandlordStation has put together a sample of what your Adverse Action Notice should look like if the report is run through our site. You may also download a copy here.

 

Adverse Action Notice Sample

 

Dear [applicant’s name],

 

This letter is to inform you that your application to rent [insert property address here] has not met the standards that we have set for the rental property. Because of this we are

 

[   ] Denying your application

[   ] Requesting the following additional conditions to be met

 

Additional conditions: ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

This descision was made due to the following information found on your consumer report:

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

The CRA (Consumer Reporting Agency) that this information was provided by is TransUnion. Their contact information is:

 

2 Baldwin Place, P.O. Box 1000

Chester, PA 19022-20000

1-800-888-4213

www.transunion.com/myoptions

 

In compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have a right to obtain a copy of your Consumer Report through the agency from which it was provided within the next sixty (60) days following the date that you receive this letter. You may address a letter requesting this information or call the CRA listed above for this information. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act you have a right to dispute any information that you believe is erroneous or incomplete. Please note that neither the CRA nor LandlordStation were involved in the final decision regarding your application, nor can they explain why this adverse action was taken.

 

Landlord (print): _____________________________________________ 

Signature: _________________________________________

Date: ________________________________