March 2014 Q&A

The following are questions that our clients have posed for us and our answers.

Our tenant is being notified by the homeowners association of violations and is ignoring the notices.  The association is now fining the owner for the tenant’s violations.  Can we include the HOA fines in addition to anything else the tenant owes?

Yes.  You should also serve the tenant a 10 day non-compliance notice putting them on notice that if they don’t comply with the HOA’s declaration of covenants and rules and regulations and pay the fines incurred, they can be subject to an eviction action.

The homeowners association wants our tenant evicted because of high traffic in and out of the rental house and alleged drug activity.  Would this be grounds for an eviction?

No.  You would have to be able to prove that there’s actual criminal activity going on in the residence.  This is normally either a police raid, neighbors complaining of the smell of illegal drugs, etc.  You should contact the homeowners association and ask them to provide you the names of any witnesses they have and an assurance that if you file the immediate eviction, that the neighbors will testify in court.

The lease expires in a couple of months.  The tenant prepaid the entire lease term but is leaving early.  Is the tenant responsible for keeping utilities on through the end of the lease?

Yes, but if the tenant returns the keys to you, you should make reasonable efforts to re-rent the premises. The tenant remains liable for any charges until the lease ends or the premises has been re-rented, whichever comes first, subject to the landlord’s obligation to mitigate those damages.

We have a tenant that is “dumpster diving” and we are receiving complaints from other tenants.  Can we serve the resident a notice?

Yes, you should serve either a 10 day non-compliance or a 5 day health & safety notice to cease removing anything from the dumpsters or going into the dumpsters.  If the behavior continues, you can proceed with an eviction action.

The tenant let one of their friends stay in the apartment with them but did not add the person to the lease or have permission from us, the landlord.  Now the unauthorized occupant wants access into the apartment to remove his property and the tenants will not allow them in. 

You should not allow the unauthorized person into the apartment without permission and approval from the actual lease holder.  The unauthorized occupant will need to take whatever legal steps they deem appropriate to gain access into the apartment.  That will usually require obtaining a court order, but this issue is between the tenant and the other person and does not involve the landlord.

Our tenant took the signed copy of the lease out of our office without our permission and we do not have a signed copy – only unsigned.  The tenant is now not paying rent can we proceed against them?

Yes, you can.  This would be considered a month-to-month tenancy if the tenant does not produce the original copy of the lease.  You would still be able to evict them for non-payment of rent - you would just not be able to recover any late charges without a signed rental agreement.

We gave a 30 day nonrenewal to a tenant two or three months ago, and the tenant has not moved.  Can we still proceed on that prior 30 day nonrenewal notice?

Not if you’ve taken rent from the tenant in subsequent months.  You would have to start over with a new 30 day notice and/or a 5 day notice if they don’t pay the rent.

We have a tenant that has a bed bug infestation in their apartment, but they won’t get the apartment properly prepared for the pest control company.  What can we do?

Serve a 5 day health & safety notice and reschedule the pest control company for the end of the 5 day notice.  Also serve your tenant with an access notice of the date and time you will be coming in.  If the tenant still has not cooperated, then you should proceed with an eviction.

Do we have to post a sign that surveillance cameras are up and recording on the property?

No.  The placement of the security cameras and whether you tell your tenants you have them in operation is solely your decision.  You have no legal obligation to disclose this information.

We have a tenant that put in a verbal maintenance request.  Do we have to honor that when our lease specifically states that is has to be in writing?

If it is health & safety related, I would go over and inspect the tenant’s rental property to see if there is a legitimate repair issue.  I would though, serve the tenant either a written letter or a non-compliance notice that they need to do everything in writing in the future.

Our tenants are complaining because we have a chiller system and we have not converted it from heat to cooling.  They are threatening to sue or break their lease.  Can they do this?

No.  The Landlord Tenant Act only requires that you provide reasonable amounts of heating and cooling.  Because the cost to convert a chiller system is so extreme, you can pick a reasonable time that you would be switching from heat to air conditioning.  Most companies seem to switch around April 1.  You should be fine with using a date around that time period.