It’s the nightmare scenario every landlord has faced over time: A tenant disappears off the earth after missing one or more rent payments. Logic requires you to try calling and, if there’s no response or call back, drop by to see what’s up.
Why does this happen? You don’t have to be a psychologist to understand that most renters are sincere about their financial obligations when they sign a lease, but over time, myriad reasons can trigger this act of property abandonment.
The current Covid-19 epidemic is just the latest on a long list of reasons rent isn’t paid and tenants vanish. Psychologists say that shame is a big motivator. It’s easier to disappear than to have to admit to losing a job, a relationship or another catastrophic event that starts the downward spiral.
Compassion aside, you’re in the business of renting properties and making sure rents arrive in a timely manner, so whether you are new to this situation or you’ve been around the block, we can help you navigate the waters.
What you should do if tenants miss rent payments and their unit is abandoned? Follow these 7-steps to cover your bases and you will be prepared to deal with another such situation, should it occur down the road.
1. Include specific property abandonment language in your lease that explains the ins and outs of not paying rent and stipulates steps you will take should a tenant abandon their residence without notice.
2. Contact utility companies servicing the unit in question to find out whether or not your tenant has stiffed them, too.
3. Peruse the unit to see if possessions have been left behind, a potential indicator that fleeing was the final act of desperation, just in case you’re still trying to figure out why the tenant disappeared.
4. Contact neighbors, references cited on the lease and the post office in the unit’s zip code to ascertain whether a forwarding address has been filed.
5. Notify the tenant of your intent to declare the unit abandoned by mail, in accordance with state or municipal laws. Explain your intent to terminate the lease once you've done your best to locate him or her.
6. Having taken steps to establish a legal case for unit abandonment, it's time to begin the eviction process that follows state and federal guidelines.
7. If possessions have been left behind, your state may require you to inventory and store for a specific time period. When that deadline arrives, items become the property of the landlord and can be sold to offset storage costs.
The amount of money, stress, time and inconvenience associated with a thoughtless tenant flaunting his or her legal obligation can be daunting. You’ve read the aforementioned 7 post-abandonment actions, yet they don’t begin to describe the inconvenience of running this gauntlet when you could be generating revenue for the building by leasing units and servicing residents who play by the rules.
Is there a less labor-intense, time consuming and money saving way to deal with renters who walk out on their leases and fail to make rent payments? The most logical, practical and stress-free answer is to retain an experienced property management firm to tackle everything from legalities to logistics.
In fact, researchers have proven that hiring a property management company to handle everything from eviction and property abandonment to marketing, tenant qualification, background checks, reduced maintenance costs, tighter rent collection processes and legal expenses saves a fortune in time, money and stress.
Turning to a single resource to handle evictions is the wisest move you can make. By turning to us, everything included on that 7-point list is taken care of expertly and efficiently. Your job at that point? Do what you were hired to do: Rent units and go about the tasks that make your building the most well-run property in the community.
Got questions? We’ve got answers – and you’re going to like what you hear the moment you give us a call!