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wallysurfr

Registered: 12/01/09
Posts: 29
Reply with quote  #1 
Real quick background:

NJ Tenant has been in for 6 months, never got security (I know it's my fault), she pays late every month (I have been serving notices to cease), gas and electric both included in rent.  Multiple buildings on property she is in the front house.  I went do do yard work, deal with back house tennant on multiple occassions and saw that the heat was on with windows and sliding door open all day while she is at work.  Called and left a message saying we had talked about this, the lease is clear about using utilities in a reasonable manner (did this twice as a follow up to an email I sent).  Finally get her on the phone and she starts off with "I don't want to get legal on you but I have right to privacy and peaceful enjoyment and I have the right to fresh air."  She went on to say that I should not be on her property that often and that I am harrasing her with the email and phone calls.

The kicker:  I went to change furnace filter and have the ducts blown out and her dog urinated on the freshly refinished hardwood floor right in front of me twice!  In the email I stated that this needs to stop or I need a security deposit immediately (she considered this email harassment as well). 

The resolution as of right now, I told her she needs to keep the door and window closed while the heat is on, she agreed.  I told her she will be responsible for damage to the floor and we need the security deposit asap.  I told her we have served her with enough late rent noticed to prove habitually late and that we could evict her immediately if she did not make some changes she agreed. 

The plan:  Get security deposit, let her live there as long as she wants (she wants to stay long term and the damage is already done to the floor)  When she does move we will redo the floors anyway.  She pays a lot $1750/month single woman.

My question: What does she need to prove in order to say that I had harrassed her (as of now we are not going to evict but I am curious as to what is constituted as harrasment).  Is it unreasonable to say that two or three times I attempted to contact her about the doors and windows being open and the heat being on? 
rkkeller

Registered: 04/07/08
Posts: 761
Reply with quote  #2 
I am in NJ too and you really need to have a lot of this in the lease as NJ is SUPER tenant friendly. Put things in writing as much as you can and have her sign them or have a witness with you that can say you told her, talk is worth nothing.

My lease says I will do all yard work, raking leaves, grass cutting, other care, some snow and things like that so it covers me being "outside" without having to give any notice. There is also a section about pets and what they need to do and what is not acceptable. I also have in it about being able to do a walk thru anytime I want with 24 hours notice.

You need to get a security deposit now, not if her dog stops peeing or she does this or that, you need a deposit now or your going to be eating a lot of damage with a hard time getting it back later on. Get one.

You are not harassing her. She is using this and will eventually use the "I will get a lawyer" nonsense too. I had a tenant do this to me and then say she was scared of me to keep me away so my business partner had to deal with her crap.

The thing with the constant late rent is after time with you always accepting it and not filing for eviction, its like you are fine with it being late. From what I understand about NJ is you cant go to court after 6, 8 , 9 months accepting it then try to evict for it.

FWIW, your problem is why in my duplex both sides pay for their own water, gas and electricity. We upgraded the boxs and moved meters outside too. They use it they pay. You would be amazed at how quick people cut back when they are paying.
wallysurfr

Registered: 12/01/09
Posts: 29
Reply with quote  #3 
rkkeller,

Thank you so much for the valuable information!  I know the rumors about the state being tenant friendly.  I've been to Freehold and it didn't seem so while I was there.  Although I didn't know exactly what went on in each case that I heard. 

I could split the electrical but I can't split the gas at this point because the back house gets its hot water from the front...

Any suggestions on this?  I've heard of companies that meter the lines, you pay the combined bill, the company sends your tenants their portion of the bill and they send you the money.  Has anyone every tried this?

Thanks again for the info!  
yikes

Registered: 02/17/09
Posts: 383
Reply with quote  #4 
I learned in law school that New Jersey is THE most tenant friendly state in the USA, with California close behind it.  It's definitely true.


With regard to the gas bill - you can pay it yourself but send a copy of the bill to the tenants and have them pay their portion.  I have two units that are not separately metered and we do it this way - I pay it, send them a copy of the bill and each pays half.  It's kind of a pain to have to send them a bill each month, but it's worked out just fine so far.  Just make sure it is written in the lease that the tenant is responsible to pay 50% (or 75% or however you want to split the bill depending upon the size of the units) of the gas.
If they don't pay it, it can be problematic because it's in your name and therefore you get stuck with the bill, which is a big downside, but you can take unpaid utilities out of the security deposit should it come to that when the tenant leaves.  Alternatively, you could pay gas yourself and just increase rents to compensate for carrying that cost yourself.  But the downside to that is that tenants who don't pay their own heat bill tend to do careless stuff like crank up the heat and open the windows :-/  But lots of landlords pay heat in their units!

Hope that helps.

OHlandlord

Registered: 01/20/07
Posts: 3,537
Reply with quote  #5 
A couple of things.  The back house gets its hot water from the front? - why not just install an electric hot water heater in the back one?  (Cost $300 plus installation).  Then split the electric and they pay for their own hot water.  No need for gas back there at all.  Front house can have the gas lines.  Back one can have electric heat and hot water.  Ta da.  Separate utilities. 

Had I found a tenant's door standing wide open and no one home, I would have entered as an emergency situation to secure the property.  If the door is standing wide open, that allows squatters, thieves, animals, pests, the weather, and who knows what else access to the unit.  I would have secured it as an emergency measure and left a note saying such.  I would have informed the tenant that the unit needs to be secure at all times when no one is at home.  If the tenant continues to leave the property in such a manner, any and all damages to the property and utility overages would be her responsibility.

Of course, this is LL friendly Ohio, and not a tenant friendly state.

MOON

Registered: 09/17/08
Posts: 577
Reply with quote  #6 

I did a notice to cease for habitual late rent a few months back, as per my attorney you have to state in the notice each month that they have been late. then if they are late 2 more times you can file for eviction but you must send them a late notice for every month they are late. send registered & regular mail. E-mails do not replace old fashioned mailed notices. not all courts accept e-mails . I have a question, if you include utilities do you have the right to set thermostats ? If so what is the temperature you legally are obligated to set them at ? I am also in NJ & I am not sure if after 6 months you can still demand a security deposit ?? Have you sent any notices regarding the security deposit ?    

wallysurfr

Registered: 12/01/09
Posts: 29
Reply with quote  #7 
First thing, this site is great!

In response to some of the posts in this thread:

Yikes:  I had thought about sending the bill and having them split it but I think that would end badly with the responsible young girl in the back hating the woman in the front for leaving the heat up with the windows/door open.  Some months I actually make a little more money by having the utilities included in the rent.

OHLandlord:  The back house has gas heat so in order to split utilities I will eventually install a tankless gas water heater (save space) in back house, split gas and split electric and lower rents to compensate for utilities not being included (I hate being at the tennants mercy for heat during cold winters on the Jersey Shore).  For some reason no one around here like electric heat.  I have seen some of posts about how other areas of the country really like electric heat and hot water. 

I did enter and close the door a couple of times in the beginning and followed it up with a phone call saying "I think you forgot to close and lock the door."  Her response was "fresh air" and I played it off as I thought it was an emergency or someone was in the house while you weren't home (breaking in).  and she understood but said she leaves it open for air and I stated that in my opinion and the as far as our lease is concerned that is unreasonable.


MOON:  Thanks for the advice, I have been mailing and posting notices to cease witholding rent every time.  I have the notice to cease witholding security on my desk but after my last convo with her I think she is finally getting it. 

regarding setting the thermostat, I think you may be onto something.  You can buy thermostats with limits on them like they can't go above 68 in the winter or below 72 in the summer or something like that.  i have thought about one of these or one of the lock boxes that go on over the thermostat but I think both can be fooled by hair dryers in the summer and leaving doors/windows open in the winter.  I just wish I had a responsible tenant that understands that I am not made of money!  haha!

Thank you everyone for helping me determine if my actions were considered harrassment and for all of the suggestions here so far.  I have a feeling I will be spending a lot of time on this site and making use of all this great information.

Thanks!

Travis
 
wallysurfr

Registered: 12/01/09
Posts: 29
Reply with quote  #8 
Update!

Sorry to dig this one up but I need some advice from the seasoned landlords here.

I went to the house to have the furnace serviced in the basement.  I had to enter the premises in order to access the thermostat.  I had her permission beforehand.  There was dog urine and feces all over the hardwood floor again! (I have a feeling this takes place every day while she's at work).  I noted the smell of urine from the basement as well.

I am starting to reconsider my plan of having her stay as long as she wants and replacing the floors on her dime when she moves.  Still no security deposit and still late with every payment.  Currently late for $875 due from the 1st of the month.

My options:

1. Should I cut my loss and move forward with eviction for non payment of rent plus habitual late payment (I have served all notices).  Get posession and then get a judgement and garnish wages?

2. Serve all notices including notice to quit witholding security deposit, notice to quit gross negligence (dogs), and another notice to cease late rent payment?  Talk to her about it and let her know she is one step away from being forcefully removed from the property through the court system?  In essence, a last chance?

3.  Do nothing, keep accepting late rent, let her stay as long as she wants and just worry about the floors later when she moves out by keeping any security that we ever end up getting and taking her to small claims in order to get judgement for total owed and then garnish her wages?

Open to any other suggestions as well.

Thanks,

Travis 

   
MOON

Registered: 09/17/08
Posts: 577
Reply with quote  #9 

Well at this point forget about getting that security, she can't pay her rent she will never give you the security deposit. she is ignoring your notices, she obviously does not care what the dog does to your property ( not even newspapers down? ) why isn't the dog outside while she is working ? she knows the dog has a problem. send a notice regarding the dog just for records - start eviction so that she knows you will do it ,but she may show up in court with the rent , not likely but she will still be your tenant if she does, but the judge can at that point address the other issues. I would let it be known that the dog has to either go or be kept outdoors while she is not home to walk him.Is this a m2m?  my experience has been that once they are served with an eviction they do not pay any rent anymore just wait until the court date to move or the judge tells them to pay up or leave & then wait until the sheriffs office tells them to leave & then leave a mess for you & blah blah blah. 

OHlandlord

Registered: 01/20/07
Posts: 3,537
Reply with quote  #10 
How are you going to replace the floor on her dime if she can't even pay the rent on time or the security that you should have received at signing?  You have no security deposit to even deduct this from?  Evict.
wallysurfr

Registered: 12/01/09
Posts: 29
Reply with quote  #11 
Well her lease is up at the end of May (1 year) so I told her that if we don't have the security by then we are not resigning. 

My plan is to continue to get rent, get the security so she thinks we might sign her for another year, then do a walk through and tell her that we are not going to sign her because of the way she has kept our property.  That way I have all rent, security and she still moves out.
OHlandlord

Registered: 01/20/07
Posts: 3,537
Reply with quote  #12 
Let me get this right.  Tenant has been there for 8 months without ever paying the deposit.  And you still expect her to pay that deposit prior to the end of the lease?  Not gonna happen.  You're fooling yourself.  On top of this, every time you bring up the fact that she hasn't paid that deposit she claims harassment?  PITA Tenant.  It's just gonna get worse.

Cut your losses here.  Serve a notice of the dog damages.  Get an estimate of those repairs and serve her a bill for them now.  Serve her a notice for non-payment of rent (pay or quit), and evict if you have been regularly giving her notice of late rents.  In NJ you have to keep giving them notices to prove habitual late payments and make it a cause to evict.

I suggest you split electric on these, disconnect gas from the back one, install an electric water heater and electric furnace (or baseboard heat) there so that the back unit doesn't need gas at all.  You will have problems trying to just allow them to split the cost of shared utilities.  One tenant could complain and a court could make you pay any shared utilities.  Most courts believe that if they are not separately metered, the LL should pay.  You don't want to do that, so split utilities up any way you can.
yikes

Registered: 02/17/09
Posts: 383
Reply with quote  #13 


Because you have no deposit to work with, I agree with OH Landlord that you should get her out ASAP.  She's not taking good care of the place, her dog is ruining the floors, and you have no cushion to pay for these costs - this will come out of your own pocket.  The longer she stays, the more damage she and her dog will cause, and this means more money out of your own pockets to fix these things.  Plus you are not getting your rents in full on time.  So she's living there, wrecking havoc on the place and you are getting the run around and having to fight her to get (some) of your rents.

I agree that you need to crack down on this tenant and say 'give me my money for damages and for rent now or you are out'.  No more wiggle room.  If she pays you, great, but if she doesn't, kick her out.  Life is so much easier when you have a good tenant that pays on time and takes good care of the place.  Vacancies are scary, but they are better than having someone damaging your place and not paying rent.
wallysurfr

Registered: 12/01/09
Posts: 29
Reply with quote  #14 
Here we go...

Should have followed to info given to me 6 months ago...

Same tennant lost her job (teacher) and notified me verbally she would be looking for a cheaper place.  Our lease ends at the end of this month.  She has been paying about a week or two late each month.  Still dont have the security deposit although i did get $200 of it so far (I know, I know!  Learned my lesson on that). 

She has paid 1200 of the 1750 for April and has yet to pay for any of May owers 875 for first half.  She stated in writing that she would pay the remaining 550 on the 12th (tomorrow) and 1750 on the 15th.

I went over and very kindly asked her when she thought she would be out so we can make the necessary arrangements and told her that we planned on moving in there when she was out and renting the cottage that we live in now.  She asked how much and I said 950. 

She said she would be interested in swapping so I told her to come take a look.  She looked and agreed to move on May 8th.  On May 6th, after double checking we were still on twice she cancels the switch on me so I ask her when she wants to switch and she says she doesn't and she wants to go month to month and stay where she is.

I said fine as long as rent is paid on time and told her I need the rest of the security deposit if she is going month to month.  She agreed to get it to me as soon as possible.  I know in my gut she can't pay and wont pay tomorrow or the 15th so how should I handle?  I told her my concern, that she's on unemployment and gets about $2000 month to live on from that but how is she going to pay $1750 of that for rent and utilities?  She said she was sure she could and it wouldnt be a problem.

My plan is to see if she pays these next two payments and if she doesn't then tell her she needs to move out and that we are not comfortable keeping her when she has no income and couldnt pay rent even when she did.  If she says no, then we will go through the formal eviction process with her. 

Any thoughts on this approach?  I know most will say "get her out now." but she is nice and she's trying she just doesn't have money.  We have an ok relationship and I think if I told her she has to move she would.
wallysurfr

Registered: 12/01/09
Posts: 29
Reply with quote  #15 
I looked into my state law (NJ) and it assuming at the end of this month she turns into a month to month tenant.  Can I give her notice that we will not be renewing her lease on, let's say, May 31st?  Basically stating she needs to be out by July 1st?  I notice that in the law it states that she does not have to move out see below because it doesn't make sense to me...

Ending a month-to-month lease. To end a month-to-month lease, or any rental agreement that does not have a specific lease term, you must give a written one-month notice before the month starts. You can then move out at the end of the month. Cite: S. D. G. v. Inventory Control Co., 178, N.J. Super. 411 (App. Div. 1981); Harry’s Village, Inc. v. Egg Harbor Tp., 89 N.J. 576 (1982).

For example, say that you have a month-to-month lease, your rent is due the first of every month, and you want to move on June 30. You have to give the landlord a written notice before June 1 saying that you will be moving out as of June 30, and you will end your lease at that time

Cite: N.J.S.A. 46:8-10. Just because you have a month-to-month lease does not mean that the landlord can get you out at the end of any month. You don’t have to leave just because the term of your lease is up. The law contains special rules for evicting tenants.

The ending or expiration of a lease is not a good cause for eviction. This means that, however long your lease, you do not have to move just because your lease has ended. It also means that, unless you or the landlord end your lease, all yearly leases and month-to-month leases automatically renew themselves. The only exception to this rule is if you live in a building with only two or three apartments and the landlord lives in one of the apartments.

So my question is, how is the landlord protected here?  If I want to end her lease and give her written notice that's not enough for her to move? 
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