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My Tenants are Finally Gone (and Lessons Learned)

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I thought hard about not writing an article today. It's a pseudo-holiday today*. Tomorrow is the 6-month anniversary of the Boston Bombings. And yesterday was arguably one of the greatest days in Boston sports history. Any time the radio announcer is reduced to just shouting out random words and 80's slogans**, you know something special happened:

... and that was before the Red Sox had one of their most improbable come-from-behind wins in the ALCS. However, it's late and I have a little time, so here's an article I've been wanting to write for a while now.

Nestled in all that is another piece of good news as you gathered from the title. A few months ago, I wrote an article My Tenants Won’t Get Out!. Now that they are out, I can finally write an update.

When we last left off, I was trying to get rid of my tenants who had carried a few thousand dollars in late rent for years. In hindsight, it's probably best to get rid of these tenants right away, but (as we'll learn) the eviction process is hell, and trying to work out the problem is always preferable. I was finally able to get them caught up on what they owed, which including them writing a contract to surrender their security deposit (the only way to bridge the gap of what they could pay and what they owed me). That process was about as ugly as it gets... my wife was seriously considering getting a restraining order a couple of times.

When it came time to renew the lease, I had decided it wasn't going to happen. It was still in a grey area of the month before the lease was over and when I was due to get the catch-up payment of a few thousand dollars. When I got the money, that time had narrowed to a couple of weeks and I felt bad about giving them such short notice about not renewing the lease. So I had offered to extend the lease for another month, giving them 6 weeks. They called foul and asked for three months. It was a big mistake, but I agreed to it. (I'm too nice.) When the three months came and went, they decided they wanted to stay another two months because it was an inconvenient time to move.

I stuck to the agreed signed lease and denied their request for a second extension. They said that they weren't going to leave. I was pretty confident they were going to leave because I had a signed agreement from them.

Funny thing about landlord-tenant contracts in MA. They are good in theory, but in practice they are a joke.

It turns out that even though I had the expired lease and he had no current lease, I had to effectively evict him. My tenant knew how to play the court system. It takes a couple of weeks to get the first court date. Then the tenant can file for discovery which creates a bunch of paperwork such as detailing every conversation we ever had over the 3 years he lived there. That pushes everything out another month. That's 6 of the 8 weeks he wanted anyway.

Then he played the trump card. He threatened to sue me for violating a disability act. He has son with type 1 diabetes that I understand to be well-controlled with an insulin pump. Nonetheless, one time he had a nurse come by and the property manager had to tell the nurse to fix her car because it leaked oil over the property. I didn't find this out until a week ago, but this was enough for him to claim that I didn't take action which prevented his son from getting medical attention. I understand just looking out for family, but using your child as a pawn to fabricate a nonsense lawsuit is just scum of the Earth stuff.

I was pretty upset by this and I'm very much a man of principle. I was going to see this out until I talked to my lawyer to talked me out of it. Turns out that no landlord ever gets the rent they are due in these situations, even when they win the court case. Not only that, but the case can stretch a year and cost well in the 5 figures in lawyer and court fees. My lawyer has seen people go into foreclosure and lose their home because the owner didn't have rent coming in to cover the mortgage payments.

The bottom line is that it was best for me to settle and get him to sign a court order saying that he'd be out when he wanted to be out all along. So one might ask, "Why did I go through the court and lawyers and all that in the first place?" It's a great question. The reason is that if I didn't, he could have stayed there until the end of Sept. and then I'd have to start the two month process.

The state of Massachusetts has some really messed up landlord-tenant laws. I got really luck in that I have a a great real-estate lawyer who helped me.

I do kind of feel like I got a bit of last laugh. I was doing a walk-through to make sure the place wasn't trashed and came across the property manager. We chatted for a little bit and he asked if I was going to get the locks changed. Since they had left, I didn't really think it was necessary. He then said that half the town probably had keys to the apartment. I didn't understand what he meant and asked for some clarification. He said the wife has a number of boyfriends. Ahhh... the Karma.

* I can't figure out what kind of holiday Columbus Day is. Seems like most stores are open, but government workers and the post office have it off. Then you read the horror stories about what Columbus actually did, yet he gets one of the very few holidays named for him. It's just a very weird situation.

** My new favorite phrase is "Unicorns, show ponies, where’s the beef?"

Last updated on February 7, 2014.

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10 Responses to “My Tenants are Finally Gone (and Lessons Learned)”

  1. Money Beagle says:

    Glad to hear you finally got rid of someone who had been giving you grief for a long time. I’m sure that felt good to close the door on that even though it’s a loss of revenue until you get a new tenant. Oh, and, GO TIGERS :)

  2. Steve says:

    Unicorns, show ponies, where’s the beef?! Congrats on getting rid of those deadbeets. My dad has been a landlord in MA and I’ve heard some pretty crazy stories.

  3. I plan on purchasing my 1st real estate investment property sometime next year, but not looking forward to choosing tenants because I know picking the wrong tenants can cost me unneeded time and energy. Glad that your headaches have finally left you.

  4. […] My Tenants are Finally Gone (and Lessons Learned) Lazy Man & Money usually has some very interesting posts and this one surely fits the bill. Read about his experience getting rid of deadbeat tenants in Massachusetts. […]

  5. Evan says:

    “The state of Massachusetts has some really messed up landlord-tenant laws.”

    It isn’t just MA…New York City is a DISASTER. Landlords are basically presumed scum until you prove otherwise. I go back and forth on becoming a landlord and stories like this don’t help lol.

    Notwithstanding CONGRATS! Have you found new tenants yet?

  6. Barbara says:

    Have you thought of renting without a lease?

    I had a 2 family years ago in MA. Our lawyer advised us against a lease, saying that renters could only be evicted for a lease violation, and some things bad tenants do are not in leases.

    I also learned to edit my application to include things I learned along the way, like “number and type of vehicle” after having tenants with a horse trailer and a motorcycle.

    The only downside of renting without a lease was that a few tenants left in less than a year.

    We had to evict one. The judge gave her two months and she stayed over that by four days. But she did leave, and the incoming tenant bunked with a friend nearby. Our lawyer was a friend, so he charged us very little for the hours in court. Ask your lawyer….

    • Lazy Man says:

      I’ve never thought about renting without a lease. One of my best friends is a real estate attorney and a real estate investor. He has leases with everything.

      In my experience with buying other properties they ask about the current leases. I can’t imagine that giving them a “we don’t have one” is the answer they are looking for ;-).

      It sounds like your scenario was very close to ours… two months before she left… so do you think it really helped not to have a lease?

      I’m trying to wrap my head around not having a lease and it seems like you couldn’t have a security deposit, nor could you enforce any violations, right?

  7. jim says:

    Wow! Thanks for the warning. We have been considering buying a rental property, but really didn’t like the idea of being a landlord. You just solidified our decision. No way in hell. Can’t stand deadbeats and stupid laws. Thanks much.

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