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yikes

Registered: 02/17/09
Posts: 383
Reply with quote  #1 
Thanks in advance to any responses.  Here is my situation:

I am a new landlord in MN.  

Tenant wants to break a 12 month lease on short notice after only 3 1/2 months of renting.  Thinking about a buy-out as an option.  Is there a cap on how much you can ask for in a buyout situation?  It is winter here in MN - not a lot of people want to move during this time of year.  I'd want several mos but don't know if I can ask for that much.

Also:  MN is one of the few states where a lanlord does NOT have a duty to mitigate damages for a tenant who breaks the lease or wants out of the lease.  So the landlord has no duty to help find a new tenant during the existing tenant's lease if they don't want to.  What is the norm in this situation - do landlords still do it anyway, or do they just say 'too bad for you' and let the tenant handle it?  If this goes to court I don't want to seem lazy - so I have been advertising and doing showings - but it's taking up all my time dealing with ads, showings, emails, calls, and I've done so many showings but no takers as the place is a mess.  This plus the current tenant is extraordinarily difficult and is taking up SO much of my time because of their difficulty, argumentativeness, excuses, not getting back to me or working with me to make this easier on the both of us.   I'm not a full time landlord and if I don't *have* to do all of this work for the tenant (they have to pay me rent whether I find someone or not) then I don't want to.  Got an email today from freaky, defaulting tenant complaining about my not renewing Craigslist ads often enough.  So now I'm getting quite fed up but trying to be reasonable.

Advice welcome. 
rkkeller

Registered: 04/07/08
Posts: 761
Reply with quote  #2 
It depends. Was this a good tenant or one you might have want gone eventually ?

My tenant was not the greatest and asked to leave a month early and I let her with no penalties. I would have let her leave 3-4 months early with no problem if she asked. :>

What you can do is up to you. You can try to enforce the entire year, go to court and all that. Or explain the situation from your perspective and ask for X (payment for the ads only, ask for 1-2 months rent). Or you can let them go with a handshake.
yikes

Registered: 02/17/09
Posts: 383
Reply with quote  #3 
Thanks for your reply.  My main objective is to keep the money coming in, but yeah, this tenant is such a pain it's hard to keep trying.  I'm feeling tired and defeated dealing with this person day after day, they are an angry sort and I am very nonconfrontational.  They did not leave due to anything that was wrong with the apartment, they just decided to move to another state and do something else with their lives.   

That being said, while I want to be fair and reasonably accomodating, I'm getting really irriated that she is behind in rent, just left the place and moved someplace else with 2 weeks notice, left the place a mess and expects me to A) be okay with it all and B) do all of this work that really only benefits her. Just because she left doesn't mean she still doesn't owe me rent.   She is full of excuses and lies and is a completely unreasonable person.  She sees nothing wrong with leaving mid lease and thinks that I should just let her off the hook.  She is also arguing over the damages she caused to the place.  She was the first tenant to live in the unit after we did $30,000 in rennovations to it, and now is claiming that things were broken before she moved in, etc.  They were brand new.  Fortunately I took a lot of pics before her move in.

I'd like to be rid of her, no question, but it's so hard to find a renter in Feb in MN.  Added to that is that the place looks like a bomb went off in there - so showings are not going well.  Since rent is (occasionally) coming in from her, (hasn't come in yet this month).The pics on CL were the pics I took last fall before they moved in and generate a lot of interest, but then when people see the disaster area that it is now, they run away, uninterested.  If I let her out, I might be looking at months of vacancies.  If I just stop showing the place, am I doing something wrong?  My state law says I don't have to - but I don't want to seem like a deadbeat landlord.   Does anyone know what protocol is on the duty to mitigate stuff in the 11 states that don't have a duty for a landlord to mitigate?

And the buyout thing - If I ask for 4 mos rent as a buyout, but rent it two months from now, am I violating laws?  Is that like collecting double rents for the same place or not?
yikes

Registered: 02/17/09
Posts: 383
Reply with quote  #4 
Thinking about hiring a management co.  They are looking like a cool, refreshing oasis in this desert of creepy people that I've been dealing with.

Here were how my last two showings went:  One asked, 'How would you feel if I had like, oh, 40 or 50 people in here?  Loud parties?'  The next prospective renter asked, 'How do you feel about beekeeping?'  I said, "bookkeeping?"  She said, 'No, BEEKEEPING.  Can I do beekeeping in here?"  Huh?  Can you imagine?!?!  Beehives and fog and zillions of BEES  in an apartment?  Noooo.

hahaha. 
OHlandlord

Registered: 01/20/07
Posts: 3,537
Reply with quote  #5 
yikes, beekeeping is an outdoor hobby.  Hives in the yard (square wooden ones about 2 foot high).  It's not indoors.  If you have a large yard and this is permitted in your area, this shouldn't pose a problem.

First, inform your tenant that while you have advertised and shown the unit many times, no one is interested in the unit in the condition she has it.  Let her know that state law says you have no obligation to re-rent and can continue to collect the rent from her, but that you are trying to be fair here.  Unfortunately, unless she cleans up the unit, it will do no good to continue to show the unit.  Give her a deadline to have the unit cleaned so you can continue to show it and find a new tenant.

Since she is still in possession of the unit, you can't do repairs yet.  She needs to clean the unit up and return possession to you.  Then you can do repairs and re-rent it.  If she returns possession, get the place cleaned up, fixed, and charge her deposit for all of it.  Charge the unpaid rent from her deposit too.  Make an itemized statement and send it to her within 21 days of her giving you possession. 

You can sue her for the unpaid rent until you re-rent it in small claims court.  However, if she is leaving the state, it will be much harder to do so.  I suggest a "termination fee" equal to 2 months of rent and the advertising/repairs.  (That should take you to May.)  f she pays that in full, you will give her a letter saying she has no further obligation under the lease.  Then you can re-rent wihtout worrying about double dipping (collecting 2 rents).  This will be a termination fee, not rent. 
yikes

Registered: 02/17/09
Posts: 383
Reply with quote  #6 
Thanks OH. 

The beekeeper's questions sounded like she wanted to beekeep in the unit, but perhaps I misunderstood... Either way, I'm deathly allergic to bee stings, so it wouldn't work out.

I did send a letter similar to the one you outlined, saying that we don't have a duty to re-rent the apartment and mitigate damages, and that because the place is a mess and is turning off renters, continuing to show it in it's present state is fruitless.  I suggested that she clean it in order to help find a new renter quickly.   I also pointed out damages beyond normal wear and tear and that these things also affect showings and will be her responsibility to repair or pay to repair.

I got an (of course) angry response, full of excuses as to why she left the place a mess, and that I'm not reposting my craiglist ad often enough.  Clearly, she did not get either of my points that I don't have a duty to advertise or show, that it is a courtesy to her, and that cleaning the unit would help to show better (and benefit her most of all).

Then she went on to say that she signed a new lease elsewhere yesterday and is not able to pay both rent at our place and at the new place...sigh...and somehow that was my fault, too.   As for the damages, of course, none were her doing, they were already like that when she moved in.  We have just put 30,000 into that unit and she was the first tenant to live there - everything had been refinished.  Fortunately, I took lots of pictures of the unit and the condition of the place prior to her move in.

So, at this point, it is clear that communication with her is futile.  She is unwilling to work with us at all.  Which makes me think that a buyout may be our best option instead of having her continue to pay rent and have legal rights to the property.   I just don't want to deal with her anymore.   Can the buyout be effective ASAP in terminating the lease?  Or do I have to give her time?  She has not paid Feb rent yet.

Also, she claims she rented a new place but also claims she cannot pay rent to us and rent to her new landlord.  Clearly she did not put us down on her rental application or she would not have qualified to pay for another place (and we probably would have heard from the new landlord for reference check).  Should I try and contact the new landlord to let them know what is going on?  Or is that none of my business?  I'd hate for someone else to have to go through this.

OHlandlord

Registered: 01/20/07
Posts: 3,537
Reply with quote  #7 
I hate it when a new LL gets stuck with a PITA too.  But don't contact him.  That could be considered harassment of the tenant.  Just know that the LL must not have done his due diligence or he would have checked with the previous LL to find out about the tenant.  That was his responsibility to do.  And if he didn't do it, well, (as the kids say nowadays) his bad.

You can have the (buyout) Termination be immediate if she pays the money in cash or certified bank check and signs the termination paperwork.  Be sure to write on her paperwork/receipt that this is a termination fee and that the tenant agrees to terminate the lease immediately.  Don't give her the letter if she doesn't pay and don't say that her obligation has ended.

Has she returned the keys yet?  If not, and she hasn't relinquished possession, you can't even re-rent the place.  If she refuses to pay and sign, start eviction proveedings on her. 
rkkeller

Registered: 04/07/08
Posts: 761
Reply with quote  #8 
They could just lie about where they were living and put one of their friends as the owner. My current tenant is moving soon and has another place already and no one contacted me for a reference. I think it would be illegal for you to seek out her new LL plus you have to watch what you say or it might be her suing you.

Is she still living there or has she left already and the place is just dirty?

If she is already gone, send a final demand letter, then just take it court don't go through all this. You never argue or fight with a tenant even more so one that already moved. You are in charge, this is what I want, else court. Then leave it.

Clean up the place yourself if she doesn't leave it clean enough so you can show it in a better light. You need to drop the thought of you dont have to mitagating your loss and cleaning it only helps her.

Its going to be YOU stuck with a vacant dirty unit when she just leaves and she is going to if not already. If you can afford to pay the mortgage tenantless for months fine but I know I could not.

You may sue in court, you may even win but there are all kinds of ways tenants try to avoid paying. It could be months to never you get what is due you.

I know one person who sued for eviction and damages and won in court about two years ago. The person was removed by the Sheriff but they have still not seen a penny.
yikes

Registered: 02/17/09
Posts: 383
Reply with quote  #9 
Thanks.  I for sure will not contact new landlord.  Boy, I feel bad for them already, though.  I'm positive that she just lied about where she's been living and didn't disclose to the landlord that she was currently in another lease elsewhere. 

RKkeller - she is still paying rent (just got Feb rent today) and all of her stuff is there - like ALL of it - furniture clothes, etc.  But she is gone.  I'm quite sure I can't just go in there and clean it because A) she is still a paying renter so has the right to quiet enjoyment of the property and B) I can't imagine it is legal to pick her dirty underwear off the floor and rummage through her things, rearranging them.  She's no longer living there, but she's still renting the place.  So, as of right now, I can't do anything about the state of the place, nor can I start repairs.  She still has keys, garage door opener, mailbox keys, everything.  The only time I'm in there are for showings, and I always notify her before showings, but I can tell she hasn't been there in weeks because everything is exactly the same. 

I read that under MN law you have no duty to mitigate but as soon as you accept keys and stuff now you have self imposed that duty.

I'm kinda worried about the garbage, food, dog feces, etc. all over the place - that soon we will have a bug/rodent problem because it's been sitting like that for weeks now.  But again, I don't want to mess with her stuff.

We are going to ask for a significant buy-out and see what happens.  we'd give her until the end of February to get out. The money from the buyout would be to cover vacancies for a couple months, fees for advertising/rerenting and such, and utilities that she would have been repsonsible for (heat during these months are like 200/mo).  Hopefully that will be that, we can get her out, get the place cleaned up and don't have to deal with her anymore. 

I'm hoping to stay out of court, it is a hassle and expensive and takes forever...let's hope she accepts the buyout so we can be done with this.
yikes

Registered: 02/17/09
Posts: 383
Reply with quote  #10 
OHlandlord -
So, I cannot re-rent the place until she give the keys back?  You mean I cannot have someone move in for Feb because she has paid Feb rent.  I can still show the place though - right?  And tell people it's available march 1.

You bring up an interesting point, however.  Because she have us such short notice, most of the potential renters are people looking to move ASAP.  They want to know when it's available and I really don't know what to say.  I suppose if we just keep looking for a replacement renter while the current tenant continues to pay rent, each month she pays that's a month we can't get someone in there.  Didn't think of that. 

Kind of off topic, but I know what I was a renter, there were situations where I'd be leaving on the 31st and someone else was moving in the next day.  How do landlords get the place in shape in that amount of time?  What if the outgoing renter left a major disaster area?  It's going to take me a looong time to fix the junk she broke.  If I found a renter for March 1, there's no way I'd have it ready if this tenant were not leaving until the last day of Feb.
OHlandlord

Registered: 01/20/07
Posts: 3,537
Reply with quote  #11 
I'd contact your tenant again.  Let her know (again) that no one wants the place when she hasn't cleaned it yet.  Let her know that you cannot re-rent the place if she doesn't give you back the keys and let you make the repairs.  If she wants to just keep it empty and continue to pay the rent, that's her choice.  If she refuses to return the keys, you will quit looking for another tenant and she can keep paying.  But that you would like to be able to fix it and re-rent it to end her obligation for rent.  You are able to take her to court for the unpaid rent if she fails to keep paying too.

If she returns the keys, you can go ahead and rent it.  You may have toi refund some days of rent (but I suspect you will be using those paid rent days to fix it up instead of having another tenant take occupancy immediately.) 

Some LLs don't bother to fix anything before another tenant moves in.  Sometimes a tenant will move out leaving the place so clean that you have to do nothing at all!  (These are few and far between.)  Some just do a quick cleaning job.  Some will make the repairs after the new tenant moves in.  But if you sign a lease for someone to move in the 1st and then the place is so filthy that they can't move in, you're on the hook for that.

One other thing you can do is to serve a 14 day Pay or Quit notice on her as soon as legally allowed.  (If you have no grace period in the lease, you can serve it on the 2nd of next month.)  Call the clerk of court and ask her how this has to be served.  If you can, just attach it to her front door.  Then evict when she hasn't paid.  It's not your problem if she doesn't see it on her front door.  Once you file to evict, have no contact with her whatsoever.  An eviction will end her obligation to pay rent, but it will get her out.  If she's not paying rent until the 18th of the month, you will have already filed eviction by that time.  Just refuse the rent then.
rkkeller

Registered: 04/07/08
Posts: 761
Reply with quote  #12 
Sorry, I did not realize that much was there and she was still paying. I was thinking some garbage and nick nacks like some tenants leave.
yikes

Registered: 02/17/09
Posts: 383
Reply with quote  #13 
thanks, guys.  I have tried to get a hold of her several times but she is not returning my calls.  Of course. 

I can send a letter but don't have her forwarding address.  I like to send certified because it's proof that they received it but I know she's no longer living in my building so where do I sent letters...or if it comes to this, how to I serve papers?

I was *so* incredibly careful to rent to someone with good credit, lots of $, etc. etc.  How did I get myself into this?  Does this happen you guys all of the time?  Or is it just me and I made some rookie mistake?
rkkeller

Registered: 04/07/08
Posts: 761
Reply with quote  #14 
That happens.

My current tenant who is leaving by 3/15, I hope, was at first what I have called almost the perfect tenant. Then her new guy moved in they started partying all the time and now I cant wait for her to leave.
OHlandlord

Registered: 01/20/07
Posts: 3,537
Reply with quote  #15 
Good tenants go bad sometimes.  I've had it happen.  A girl in one of my units was an ideal tenant for several years.  Had a small child, kept the place clean, planted flowers, no problems with the neighbors or other tenants.  Then she, too, found a druggie BF and it went downhill fast.  They ended up having a drug raid on the unit.  Perhaps that is what has happened to your tenant and why she has left everything in her place.

Having worked in the prison system, I have seen this a lot.  Saw a stock broker blow his 6 figure a year salary by getting into coke and ending up in prison. Saw a great football player who had a full scholarship to OH State blow it too.  Even saw a nice Amish kid get screwed up with drinking.  Sometimes good people just screw up.  It just happens despite your best attempts to screen.

About all you can do is what until the 1st of the month since she is still paying.  When you don't get your rent on time, follow the Pay or Quit notice as I said.  Then refuse the late rent unless she pays up within the 14 days and evict her.  As long as she continues to pay the rent in a timely manner, there is little you can do.
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