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Old 09-28-2005, 06:22 AM
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Default Landlord Tip of the Week

Deciding when a tenant is no longer in possession
of a rental unit can be simple or extremely
perilous. Decide wrong and you end up on the paying end of
a judgment.<br><br>The simple decision is when the
tenant hands you the keys and tell you he or she has
moved out. Then you have the right to enter the
premises and rerent it.<br><br>Other circumstances can be
much less objective. For example, say you have been
unable to get in touch with the tenant for a couple of
weeks and decide to check on the property. You attach a
notice to the door that you are going to inspect the
property in 24 hours (or whatever is required in your
state). The next day you go over, the notice is still
attached to the door, and you let yourself in. There
doesn't seem to be near as many possessions as the tenant
had when she moved in. There is no food in the
refrigerator or the cupboards, no cooking utensils. All that
is left is assorted personal possessions that don't
seem to be worth much.<br><br>What do you do? The
tenant has not returned the keys to you or told you she
has moved out, so you have no actual notice of her
abandonment of the property. The landlord/tenant law in many
states requires that tenants notify the landlord if they
will be gone more than seven days. Ideally after that
time, if it looks as if the tenant has moved, you can
consider the unit abandoned. Often it is that simple. In
the example above, you would probably be safe to
change the locks, clean up and rerent the
place.<br><br>What if all the tenants' possessions are still there?
Maybe they just went on vacation for a month and didn't
tell you. Then you have a couple of options. Remember
the rental application they filled out? It has the
names of personal references. Try to reach them to find
out what has happened to your tenant. One or more may
tell you the tenant is just on vacation and didn't
bother to tell you. Or maybe she is in jail, and
couldn't tell you. You have to decide what to do at that
point.<br><br>The second option is a "with-cause" notice. That says
that you have violated the terms of the rental
agreement, i.e., you left for more than seven days without
telling the landlord, you have 14 days to correct the
problem or move. If you have still not heard from the
tenant by the time the 30 days is up, you can remove all
the tenant's possessions, and follow the procedures
in the first part of this section. (The time frames
in your state may be different.)<br><br>Whatever you
do, document it at every step. Write down what you
did when, who you talked to, what notices you sent,
everything. Most state laws provide that after a tenancy has
expired (the lease has ended or the tenant has indicated
he or she will move) and the landlord reasonably
believes under all the circumstances that the tenant has
surrendered or no longer claims the right to occupy the
dwelling unit you have the right to assume that the tenant
has delivered possession to you.<br><br>The key word
is "reasonably." That's why you keep a record of
everything you do, so you have a basis for reasonably
believing the tenant has surrendered the
premises.<br><br>Most important, read carefully your state's
landlord/tenant law on "abandonment": every state's law is
slightly different. Know what is expected of you as a
landlord when you believe your rental property has been
abandoned.
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