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Standard month to month lease violation outside of Airbnb

Hello all,

I have a situation I need some advice on how to deal with. Since the slow down due to Covid-19 I have been fortunate up to now and had a few 4 to 6 week guests. I was introduced to a couple that needed a furnished house about a week before the current guest at the time was checking out. Since I didn’t have any guests scheduled I decided to rent to them using a standard month to month lease. They said they wanted to stay for at least 3 months. Its now almost 2 months into the lease and I am having problems.

Issues:
1 – They broke a window pane in the back door. They did have it repaired.
2 – There was a mail slot flap installed in the front door years ago. They removed it and the door veneer was damaged on the inside to the point that it will take a lot of spackling to repair it and will never look right. (est. $260 for new door cost)
3 – I have a roll up shade on the front of the carport (kind of like a cheap garage door) and it is damaged beyond repair. ($25 at home depot)
4 – They broke off the door handle lever on the outside of the front door so I went over there to reconnect it to the door and when I did that, I realized they had a dog in the house. They said it was only there for one day. They were told from the start that I do not allow pets in my house. I also noticed the TV and Stereo was moved from its place in the living room so I asked where they were and they told me they moved it to the back bedroom.
5 – About 3 days later the dog is still there and they said there relative was going to pick it up that day.

Because of this I told them I needed to come inside to inspect the home and more issues were found

6 – The TV and stereo that were moved to the back bedroom had been damage. They look as if some got mad and through something at them or punched them and they were obviously trying to hide that fact. (I believe the TV is between 32 and 40 inch LED (Non-smart) TV ($125 to $200) and the stereo is worth about $200 to $300)

There doesn’t appear to be any other damage to the home or any caused by the dog other than a slight dog odor. They say it will go back to their relative’s house when they get back in town but I don’t believe it. I knew they owned a dog that they wanted to bring at the start but I told them I have a no pet policy and I would not allow it and they said no problem their relative like the dog and it was not problem for it to stay at the relatives home.

Status as of today: Dog still there. They have paid rent for September and I don’t want to continue renting to them. I prefer that they leave immediately but I believe that even though they have violated the agreement and damaged my property I still have to give them 30 day notice to move and that means they will have until the middle of October to move and if they don’t find a place before the end of the September I doubt they will pay rent for any part of October knowing they have to move.

$25 for .5 hour working – Door knob repair
$50 – Door mail slot hole cover installed
$260 – New door
$200 – TV
$300 - Stereo
$835 - Total

Questions:
1 - Can I file a dispossessory warrant for violating the agreement by keeping a dog there and damaging my property?

2 - Should I try to bluff them and say they have to move by the end of September because of all the issues and I’m not going to renew the lease for October?

Sorry for the long explanation but I felt I should include all the details. Any recommendations are appreciated.

Thanks in advance for any advice you may have.
Nolan

How you can deal with it depends upon how your lease is written. Mine is strict in that any violation of lease terms (e.g. no pets & Who is an allowed tenant) means eviction. Damages other than normal wear will be paid by the tenant or by forfeiture of the security deposit.

When my lease converts to month to month, I can terminate the lease by giving 30 days notice (not the first of month following 30 day notice)

Your recourse all goes back to what the lease says.

I’m so over people, terminate ASAP. Keep deposit. Be prepared to not get paid for last 30 days and there to be move out damage. Get them out.

Neighbor’s tenant’s boyfriend ripped cabinet doors off hinges & took baseball bat to tvs & furnishings after being cited for lease violations. I hated it for the owner. Too many crazies…That is why we have insurance…

Btw-the removal of the mail slot is concerning.

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First - sorry! This sucks. We have been landlords a long time. Most tenants have been great. We have had minor drama with a few and managed to work things out, even with them leaving quickly and quietly.

Agree with @Annet3176. In some states, regardless of the lease they may be a “mere month-to-month tenant” and not necessarily bound to the lease agreement. It may sound weird but this can be true. Time to get them out, for sure.

A recurring theme is “much depends on your state” and “much depends on your actual contract”.

Most boilerplate includes language for no alterations without written permission, etc. Moving stuff around is no big deal.

The dog is a big deal. Assuming your contract has proper language, you may be able to write them to the effect that they are required to remove the dog immediately from the premises. Failure to do so by midnight on X date will indicate that tenant wishes to immediately severe terms of the agreement per section X (hopefully exists) and therefore must vacate premises without further notice, etc. Again - depending on state and contract language. If your state is pro-landlord and written correctly, you may be able to proceed with immediate eviction, without extra delays.

With our tenants, the min is 1st, last and 1 month security. Hopefully, you are holding a big security deposit. In some states, this is required to be in an escrow account. Make sure that you are in compliance! Unfortunately, you will need to charge against it soon enough.

Agree that it is likely that they will try to not pay last month. Hopefully, your agreement has daily cumulative late fees that continue to accrue until full payment. So, even if they don’t pay, you take them to small claims and win there. Then, again - depending on your state, the judgement may allow you to file against their credit report and perhaps even garnish wages.

In some states, collecting on the judgement is not a given. In other states, wage garnishment is an option. However, these tenants are not likely to know the ins and outs of landlord-tenant law in your state. So … a mere verbal discussion of "if you play ball we’ll make this happen smoothly - it would be a shame for your credit report to suffer and your employers to become directly involved with wage garnishing, etc.

It can be a very big stick. Some states are very pro-tenant - playing such a game in one of those would be hazardous (fines, etc). Know your laws inside and out.

Truly best of luck - the situation does suck - we all hope that it works out well for you!

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Jefferson has given you lots of good advice. One additional factor, depending on your location is that getting rid of tenants, even if they do bad things, may be tougher with COVID. Some states, provinces, etc. have heavily favored renters because so many are faced with financial issues during COVID.

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In addition to the other great advice you’ve gotten here, I’ll add this. We have a clause in our leases that says, basically, that damage caused must be paid for within 3 days. That way you don’t have to worry about getting it paid later or hoping that their deposit covers it all. All of the things you mentioned would have had to be paid for within 3 days under our lease.

Also, never believe anyone that asks to have a pet when they tell you they’ll make other arrangements for their pet. They won’t. They will sneak in the pet.

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Thank you all for your input and concern. It is very helpful. I am thinking about getting a lawyer to write letter to let them know i am serious and have the resources to collect for any damages they might cause. i specifically added no pets in the special stipulations but the lease is only for one month since they wanted month to month.

I will update on the progress.

Again, Thanks so much for the information and recommendations
Nolan

A few additional points

  1. You’ve done a very good job of documenting the issues and damages. Make sure you have documented correspondence of all that with the tenants. Email is usually acceptable. That will help you should you ever take this to small claims court. Do EVERYTHING in writing (email, SnailMail, and text) and make sure you save all this.

  2. Most cities and states have different requirements for communication for withholding security deposit (or a subset), so be informed what your jurisdiction requires. In general, typically Landlord is responsible to provide written documentation within 30 days. Failure to do so may prevent you from retaining the deposit and possibly may incur penalties towards the landlord. Email if possible, but I’d also do a certified letter to their new address. If they don’t give you that, send it to their last know address, even if that is your property. Have written estimates and/or bills for any repair, replacement, excessive cleaning.

  3. I hope you have BEFORE pictures, prior to their move in, and definitely take AFTER pictures.

Check and see what the CDC order regarding evictions says before you do anything. If it only stops evictions for non-payment, then you may be able to proceed with a termination due to actual cause.

I am not an attorney, so I urge you to check with several larger local landlords and ask who their attorney is for evictions, and then call one of them.

When the guy that had been my lawyer for landlord matters died, I made a mistake that cost me $3500. If it had talk to another lawyer I would have had them out and been garnishing wages.

Better to know what the law is, especially with the CDC eviction stay, than to make a costly mistake.

Any further communication with these troublesome tenants should be in writing. If you talk on the phone or in person and one party consent is allowed for recordings in your state, record all conversations.

Photos with time & date, and videos will help to document what’s going on.

Hey folks, wages aren’t "garnished " (garnish means putting a sprig of parsley on the plate), they are “garnisheed”. It’s a completely different word, although I realize it sounds much the same.

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In Alaska statutes, it’s “garnished”, and the noun describing the act is “garnishment”. From the OED:

gar·nish·ee

/ˌɡärniˈSHē/

verb

past tense: garnisheed ; past participle: garnisheed

  1. another term for garnish (sense 2 of the verb).

My giant unabridged Webster (my mom was a Scrabble freak) says that garnishee is “colloquial” and “obsolete”.

I’ve never heard anyone use “garnishee” in the past 40 years, and the folks that used it are long dead.

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A news service published an article about this. Non-payment due to Covid-19 income loss is only protection offered. Eviction can occur due to damage & rules breaking.

In my area The difficulty comes because courts have backlog of cases

Well, thanks for the enlightenment. I guess it became “garnish” because so many people said it incorrectly that it became standard usage :slight_smile: I’ve actually heard it as garnishee in Canada, quite often, and not by any dead people.

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Agreed. It is standard usage throughout the US (according to US Dept of Labor, etc), and varies by state. US Landlords should be aware what applies to their situation.

https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/wages/garnishments
https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/wage-garnishments-attachments

Ah, oui, il est Québécois! But, in English, it is “garnished” :wink:

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I’m getting the authoritative opinion from A Way With Words, a great radio program/podcast about English and its dialects and slang. They also have a great Facebook page.

www.wayword.org

Well, I don’t speak French, so it’s in fact in English that I’ve heard it as “garnishee” in Canada.

No, in fact, you heard “garnishee” in Frenchglish in Canada :grin:
Seriously, it’s a Quebecois word, that’s why you heard it in Canada. (And not in the US. Or France for that matter :wink: )

For that matter, I heard a bunch of Portugese cursing at the market earlier, but that doesn’t mean it’s the legal term for anything.

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That’ll be Portuguese, in English of course :stuck_out_tongue:

JF

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@JJD It may very well be used by Quebecois, but it is a legal term in English, which you can easily see for yourself with a simple Google search.

Next folks will be telling me that “incidences” means the same thing as “incidents” :slight_smile:

Yeah. Yeah. Drinking the sherry you brag about so much. Guess it’s working :wink:

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