Bill Gray – The Landlord Doctor

Insider Advice on Collecting Tenant Debt and Screening Tenants

Posts Tagged ‘Ex-Tenant’

Failure to Comply With Tenant Deposit Notifications Could be Costly

Posted by Bill Gray on February 22, 2010

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A Landlord's Worst Nightmare

Imagine being forced to write a check to a previous tenant who still owes you money.  This is a very real possibility if you fail to comply with the law after the tenant moves out.  With the amounts and occurrences of tenant debt rising, having to pay a previous tenant who still owes you money only adds insult to injury.

In most states, landlords and property managers are required to notify their tenant if they do not intend to refund the tenants deposit after they move out.  States vary in the required timeframe and method of notification, but most do require it.  This notification is referred to in various terms such as SODA (Statement of Deposit Account), Deposit Disposition, Final Account Statement, etc.  Some states require the notice be sent via certified mail, while others accept First Class mail notification.  I advise landlords to mail this notice via Certified Mail, whether the state requires it or not.  Sending it Certified Mail provides you with a receipt proving you mailed it and complied with the law.

Failing to notify your previous tenant of how you intend to apply the deposit he paid you may end up costing yourself even more money!  Regardless of the unpaid rent, damages, eviction legal fees, etc., if you fail to notify the tenant as required by law in most states, the tenant can demand his deposit back.

Let’s say the tenant paid a $1,000 deposit on a twelve-month lease. Six months into the lease, the tenant skipped, leaving your rental trashed and owing you a month’s rent.  Once you calculate your losses, you determine that the tenant owes you $3,000.  After subtracting the $1,000 deposit, you are in the red $2,000.

If in this scenario you do not notify the tenant of how you intend to apply the $1,000 deposit toward the $3,000 loss, the tenant in many cases could demand his $1,000 back, regardless of what he owes you.  Yes, he may have to sue you to get the deposit back, but if you have violated the law, he most likely will win.

So, take a look at what your failure to comply with the law may cost you in addition to a big headache.  Immediately, you have cost yourself the $1,000 deposit plus any legal fees you paid to defend yourself in court.   A quick Google search will give you further proof, revealing a number of class action suits against landlords and property management companies who failed to notify past tenants of how the deposit was applied.

In many cases, you might not have a forwarding address to mail the notice to. Your only option is to mail the notice to the last known address, which is the address of your rental. Half or more of these notices will be returned to you as undeliverable or having a wrong address.  File the returned mail with the tenant’s file and save it.  You may need the returned mail as proof that you did attempt to send the notification.

Comply with your state’s deposit notification law.  Doing so may save you money.

The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed to be legal advice.  Consult a local landlord-tenant attorney to discuss your specific situation.

Email me your tenant screening and tenant debt questions.

Bill Gray

Bill@thelandlorddoctor.com

www.thelandlorddoctor.com

Tenant Debt & Screening Forum www.theinformedlandlord.com

Copyright 2010 – Click here to reprint/re-post

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New Landlord Forum – Tenant Debt and Tenant Screening

Posted by Bill Gray on November 25, 2009

[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DThanks for reading my blog.  I try hard to respond to every email I receive, but I receive more and more every week.  It is getting hard to keep up.  I started a forum that will address tenant debt and tenant screening issues to help answer the commonly asked questions.  Please help me get the forum off the ground by registering and posting your questions.

The forum url is: www.theinformedlandlord.com

Thanks,

Bill Gray

Bill@thelandlorddoctor.com

www.thelandlordoctor.com

Copyright 2009

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Don’t Miss an Important Component to Screening New Tenants!

Posted by Bill Gray on October 7, 2009

[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DA vital part of tenant screening requires more than learning about applicants, their employment and credit history—it’s learning everything you can about theirtele-interview2 previous rental history. Yes, former landlords who have rented to this tenant before have a wealth of information which should be weighed carefully before you approve an application.

Think about it. For six months or six years, former landlords have received or not received payments from your applicant. They know how the tenant left the property and about any complaints made when they leased it.  Their file and recollection can provide you with more insight than you’ll find by calling employers or ordering a credit report.

Start with the end in mind and weed out any applicants who might not treat your property with a gentle, kind, and caring hand. Was their former landlord impressed with the condition and cleanliness of the property when the tenant moved out?  Or were they overwhelmed and disappointed with the lack of attention and personal consideration they showed by leaving the unit a mess?

Screening former landlords can reveal much more, though, and the information you gain is worthy of your time. Does the tenant have a history of short-term housing, indicating problems with payment or other terms of the lease? Was the tenant a nuisance to other tenants? Did the tenant honestly disclose past information to previous landlords, and did that information hold true?

I should note here that all applicants are not Honest Abe.  Dishonest applicants know that telling the truth on applications could hurt their chances of being

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Landlords Who do Not Screen are Shooting Themselves in the Foot

Posted by Bill Gray on September 23, 2009

[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DemailOf the 20 to 30 emails I receive per day from landlords with tenants who owe them money, 5 or 6 are from landlords who did not screen their tenants before they rented to them and are now upset that the tenant burned them.  I shake my head when I read these requests for help.

For whatever reason, the landlord rented to someone who “looked okay” and then got upset when the tenant burned them.  Would these landlords buy a used car sight unseen?  Or show up at a dog shelter and say, “give me any dog, I don’t need to see it or know anything about it.”?  Of course they wouldn’t.  As absurd as this sounds, it is basically how they run their rental business.

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SUING AN EX-TENANT FOR PAST DUE RENT: What Factors To Consider

Posted by Bill Gray on September 14, 2009

[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DTristan R. Pettit, Attorney at Law, Milwaukee WI –       Tristan’s Landlord – Tenant Law Blog www.petriestocking.com/blog/

Your tenant has already vacated your rental unit – so there is no need to file an eviction action — but they left owing you money.  Is it worth your time and effort to sue them in order to obtain a money judgment?  This is probably the third most frequently asked question that I receive when talking to landlords (the first two most asked questions in case you are curious are (1) which notice do I use when? and (2) how do I evict my tenant?).

There is not a simple answer to this question.  It depends . . . on many things.  Many variables need to be taken into consideration before deciding to spend the time and effort to sue an ex-tenant.  Let’s consider what some of those variables are.

1.     How much money does the tenant owe you?

Is the amount that is owed to you worth the time, energy, and cost to attempt to collect it?  You will need to purchase a small claims summons which will cost you approximately $100.  You will need to personally serve the ex-tenant with the assistance of the Sheriff or a private process server — typical cost between $35-$100.  If you are representing yourself you will spend time away from work and therefore lose some wages.  If you opt to hire a lawyer to represent you, you need to consider how much you will have to pay the lawyer.

There is no magic dollar amount that makes suing a tenant worth it or not worth it.  The “breaking point” as I like to call it, will be different for different people. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Credit Bureau Reporting, Evicted, Landlord Tenant, Landlord Tenant Law, Tenant Debt Collections | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

I’ve been having all kinds of trouble collecting the rent from my current tenants

Posted by Bill Gray on September 9, 2009

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“Hi Bill,  I own a house in North Texas and I’ve been having all kinds of trouble collecting the rent from my current tenants.  They skipped 2 months of rent  back in May & June and started paying again in July & Aug but then, now they don’t have money to pay for this month(September), I am getting ready to file Eviction on them.

Do you have any advice for me with this kind of situation?  Thanks for your help, I’m looking forward to hearing from you,”.   Sincerely, Teresa S.

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Hi Teresa,

It sounds like your tenants are running over you like a Mack truck.  They are costing you money! If I woke up in your shoes this morning I would begin the eviction process immediately.  Don’t change your mind, or listen to any sob stories.  Put them out and find some good tenants that will pay their rent.   Start fresh and be firm with your new tenants.  If you haven’t already, sign up for a free account with the American Apartment Owners Association.  You can find a link on my blog.  I recommend you take advantage of the discount and join as a premium member so you may screen future tenants.

Keep track of all the rent they owe and your out of pocket costs to ready and re-rent the unit.  After they are gone, let me know and I will try to help you with the debt.

Don’t let tenants like this run over you!

Keep your chin up and press forward.  Good luck, and let me know if I can be of any help.

Regards, Bill Gray

Bill@thelandlorddoctor.com

www.thelandlorddoctor.com

Copyright 2009

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An Organized Landlord Has Less Tenant Debt and More Profit

Posted by Bill Gray on August 22, 2009

[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DMessyFilesAn organized landlord is a more profitable landlord.  I have reviewed many thousands of tenant debtor files, and one thing is certain; by looking at a tenant file after the tenant moves out, I can usually tell you fairly accurately how the property is being managed.  A well-organized landlord who documents everything has less tenant debt, and, as result enjoys more profit.

Organize your files logically and consistently.  At least half of the files I review are little more than a pile of unorganized papers thrown into a file folder; and often very important documents are missing

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Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin Tradeshow and Educational Seminar

Posted by Bill Gray on August 21, 2009

I am scheduled to speak with members of the Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin September 16th.  I look forward to meeting members and talking with them about how to collect their tenant debt. 

Contact: Tim Ballering “10th Annual Landlord Tradeshow & Educational Seminar” for Apartment Association of Southeastern WI on Meetup
Serb Hall, Milwaukee, WI on Wed Sep 16, 12:00 AM

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When a Tenant is Behind in Rent, When Should You Call it Quits?

Posted by Bill Gray on August 17, 2009

[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DToday I reviewed over eighty tenant debt accounts and noted that the average balance due is significantly higher than a year ago. With theemptypockets exception of the most expensive areas (such as California, New York City, and the northeast), the average amount of tenant debt is normally between $2500 and $3000.

I separated all accounts over $4000 and took a hard look at them to determine why there were so many high balances.  The answer was that landlords allowed tenants to go month after month paying little or no rent, before they were eventually evicted or the tenant skipped out. This is obviously a sign of the times.

I assume landlords are allowing tenants to live in their units for three to four months without paying rent for one of two reasons:

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Posted in Collection Agencies, Credit Bureau Reporting, Evicted, Landlord Tenant, Tenant Debt Collections | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Landlords Should Consider Settling Tenant Debt

Posted by Bill Gray on August 11, 2009

[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DSome of my most uncomfortable moments have come when talking to landlords about considering settlement offers.  Often, the landlord is somoney4 emotional about the debt he or she is owed that settling is not an option.

After 12 years of reviewing tenant debt accounts, I can tell you with certainty that landlords who seriously consider settlement offers recover much more money than landlords who don’t.

If a previous tenant makes a settlement offer, he or she is looking to resolve the debt for some reason right now.  Maybe he is trying to rent another place to live, or trying to obtain a mortgage or another loan. For whatever reason, he is motivated to pay you.  If you ignore the offer, he may find another way to rent or get a mortgage or loan without paying you.  This may be your only opportunity to collect even part of what you are owed.

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