Questions about first evection, Garage tenant.

13 Replies

Hey BP, I was hoping to get as much info as possible about an eviction process I need to start on a garage tenant. The unit rented is on a residential property. Tenant hasn't paid me since December, and has no intentions to do so.  I reached out to him multiple times, with no response. And I stopped by his residence today to speak with him and try to resolve things civilly, no luck.  I just reviewed my lease with him, and as far as I'm concerned, it has me very well covered. The space is in Rhode Island, so laws are to follow RI evection process. Would it be considered commercial space as its used for storage? I'm under the impression that it should be much easier to get rid of a garage tenant than residential. I have NOT yet sent out my 5 day demand notice for eviction of non-payment. I suppose thats the first step? Is an eviction like this as costly as residential?  How is his stuff removed from the premiss? At his expense? Auction? likeliness of me getting paid my rent? Any light you guys could shed would be GREATLY appreciated! :)

Not sure about the eviction details however if it is only used for storage you change the locks and lock him out until he pays up. You can then give him access to remove his belongings.

You may want to beef up your locks, install a audible out side alarm and motion sensor lighting as he will likely break in and steal back his property.

Not sure on storage laws for your area, but you might also look at putting a lien on the items stored for non-payment.

If you search “Renting out garage”, I believe there is a thread that talked about the difference between storage agreement and residential lease, and how to deal with non-payment. I’ll see if I can link it.

@Matt Romano it won't surprise you that one strong recommendation is to consult an attorney, in this case one who specializes in commercial real estate.

It's a little unclear from your description what's going on, but it seems like the tenant was renting a garage space as storage only and not living there?

If so, yes my understanding is the same as yours, that it's easier to do a commercial eviction than a residential one.

In fact, looking at what I think are the relevant laws, I don't see anything at all about a 5-day demand. The section on delinquency in rent - repossession by ejectment has the following:

"If, in any case of a letting covered by this chapter, whether by writing or parol, the stipulated rent, or any part of the same, be due and in arrear for a period of fifteen (15) days, whether demanded or not, the landlord or reversioner wishing to repossess him or herself of the lands, building or parts of buildings let, or recover possession of the same from the tenant, or any person holding under him or her, shall, without the necessity of notice, institute a trespass and action for possession in the district court where the premises are situated, and in this action the court may award a plaintiff judgment for possession and for all rent due plus costs." (emphasis added by me)

I strongly urge you to consult (and use) an attorney to go through this process (in fact, if you own the property in an entity you'll have to use an attorney anyway), but at least to my layperson's reading of the law it seems much simpler and quicker.

(In fact, further down in the same section it says "All such court actions shall have precedence on the calendar and shall continue to have precedence on the calendar on a day-to-day basis until the matter is heard" - which sounds pretty expedited to me.)

I can't comment as to any items left behind, that would be something to ask the attorney. But it doesn't seem like the relevant laws mention anything about putting things into storage, having an auction, etc.

Good luck and let us know how it turns out of course!

Here is the link

https://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/52/topics/200861-renting-a-garage---what-do-i-need-to-know

Also, again I strongly recommend consulting with and using an attorney, but it seems pretty clear to me that RI laws prohibit just changing the locks as @Thomas S. suggested - see RIGL § 34-18.1-15. Right of "self help" prohibited, as well as a recent RI court case (2014) where the Superior Court discussed that prohibition against self-help evictions in detail.

@Thomas S. I actually already locked his stuff from the inside out, which is technically illegal (according to the attorney I spoke with). There's no paying up with this dead beat, his belongings have got to go. 

Just remember the (self help) you think might save you time and money could cost you dearly later on.

Courts tend to heavily frown upon landlords doing that type of stuff and not following the correct process by the law. You could get hit with massive fines that could easily eclipse any savings you might think doing self help.

No legal advice given.

Because the property is not being used as a residence or a business it is treated the same as a unit in a self storage facility. You can research storage property rights and will discover that locking of the unit is legal.

Regrettably many fear that in your country property owners have no rights. Your legal system appears designed to highly restrict property owner rights and has most investors making business decisions out of fear. 

I am guessing that the majority of investors would advise that you beg your tenant to come and take away his belongings since your laws appear to allow you no other option without having to pay for legal representation. 

Thanks everyone for the replies! @Anthony Thompson I do not have an LLC yet, but will absolutely hire an attorney anyway. I just wanted to get a feel for the process from anyone whom may have dealt with this type of situation first. Any suggestions on a great commercial real estate lawyer? I know Steve Conti is our go-to guy for residential evictions in RI, and I know he could do it. (he's the one that told me it's illegal to lock the tenants belongings in the garage). But if there are any other attorneys you guys could recommend for this I would appreciate it!

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