November 2019 Landlord/Tenant Questions & Answers

Ted Kimball, Esq.

1.  Question: Our tenant owes us back rent and is stating that he is probably going to file bankruptcy.  We’ve been trying to work with him but are getting nervous now.  Do we lose all the back rent if he files bankruptcy?

Answer: It depends.  If he files a Chapter 7, there is little hope.  If he files a Chapter 13, you may receive all or a portion of the back rent.

2.  Question: There was a grease fire in one of our rental units due to a tenant’s lack of knowledge of cooking.  What is my obligation to provide alternate accommodations for this tenant?  Am I required to keep her as a renter?

Answer: You are not obligated to put the tenant up.  You may have a right to evict her based upon waste of the unit, which requires a 3-day notice to quit.

3.  Question: The tenants living in one of our apartments signed a one-year lease which states that there will be no pets allowed.  They now have two cats in the apartment and are only in the second month of the lease.  We served a 3-day notice to perform covenant or quit.  They have chosen to leave.  The rent for the entire month was paid.  Are they entitled to the prorated amount of rent for the unused portion of the month?

Answer: No, they are liable for the remainder of the lease or up to the time you relet the premises, whichever occurs first.

4.  Question: My tenants paid an extra deposit for a pet.  They gave away the dog after 2 months.  Now they are asking if the pet deposit could be returned.

Answer: You do not have to account for the use of the deposit until 21 days from the date they return possession of the premises, so you don’t have to refund any of the deposit.

5.  Question: I rented an apartment to a young man; he signed a one-year lease and paid the deposit and first month’s rent in full.  He moved in today and less than 24 hours later, he is requesting to get out of his lease because another apartment that he prefers became available. Is there any kind of buyer’s remorse on signing a lease?

Answer: Your tenant is obligated to pay rent through the lease term or until the time the premises are relet, whichever occurs first. There is no buyer’s remorse. 

6.  Question: One of the recent applicants to our apartment community claims he is paid “under the table”.  How do I verify his income?

Answer: You really can’t, and because he is committing fraud, you should not consider this a legal source of income.  If they fail to otherwise qualify, you can deny his rental application.

7.  Question: One of our tenants was recently arrested and has not paid the rent.  We served a notice by “post and mail” and it has been over three days.  How do we serve the unlawful detainer (eviction) on the tenant while in jail?

Answer: Most jails will allow your process server to serve the tenant while in jail.  It may take several hours before they are able to pull the inmate up, but your process server can be waiting for him or her and legally serve them while incarcerated.

8.  Question: One of our residents served us with a written 30-day notice and has failed to vacate after 30 days.  Can I start the eviction process or must I serve a 30-day notice first?

Answer: If a residential tenant serves the landlord with a written 30-day notice and the rental term is month-to-month, the landlord may immediately file an unlawful detainer (eviction) action in court on the 31st day, providing the 30th day fell on a business day.

Kimball, Tirey & St. John LLP is a full service real estate law firm representing residential and commercial property owners and managers. This article is for general information purposes only. While KTS provides clients with information on legislative changes, our courtesy notifications are not meant to be exhaustive and do not take the place of legislative services or membership in trade associations. Our legal alerts are provided on selected topics and should not be relied upon as a complete report of all new changes of local, state, and federal laws affecting property owners and managers. Laws may have changed since this article was published.  Before acting, be sure to receive legal advice from our office. For contact information, please visit our website:  www.kts-law.com.  For past Legal Alerts, Questions & Answers and Legal Articles, please consult the resource section of our website.

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