My tenant up and left, do i still have to evict?

16 Replies

I noticed a few weeks ago that my tenant stopped mowing the lawn, and apparently stopped paying their energy bill, because the local power company came over and took the meter and put a tag on it.  The first of this month came and she did not pay the rent. I left a 5 day notice on the door, and now- 5 days later it is still sitting there. I assume she moved in with her boyfriend.  The other renter (its a duplex) says he has not seen her in a month. I have been calling/ texting her, and she just ignores me.  I looked in the windows and she has a few things left in there, but not much.  Do I have to evict her even though shes not living there? Or can I just take back the unit, and put the couple things left behind in storage? I am in Wisconsin. thanks!

You should not have to evict, they abandoned the home which in your lease should state something to this type of situation.  

Change the locks, fix it back up and move on with a new renter.

You should consult with an attorney to verify how to handle this in your state.  According to mine in a similar situation you want to first determine if they left the keys.  If so, you're good.  Handing over the keys constitutes handing over occupancy.  If not, is there still stuff there?  Does it look like their possessions or is it left behind trash?  I was advised to video the property with another person.  In my case, it was just trash and cleaning supplies.  No clothing, electronics or food.  I did end up hanging on to the non-trash items for a while, then disposed of them.

Ashcroft Capital
A national multifamily investment firm
Three Reasons Investors May Prefer Real Estate
Read three reasons why investing in real estate private placements may provide several advantages.
Read More Here

I was just reading my lease, and it says if the tenant is absent from the property for 2 successive weeks, without notice, and without paying rent, the property is considered abandoned. So I think I will wait till the 14th, and then take possession. Thanks guys

Hi Matt,

Just REMEMBER that because a provision is in your lease does not mean it trumps landlord tenant law.

I have seen all types of things landlords throw in lease agreements that have been invalidated in court. So in one sense some landlords place things in there to keep the tenant thinking a certain way knowing it won't hold in court.

You need to be sure with the landlord tenant laws and personal property disposal laws of your state. It would be best to contact a local eviction attorney at least by phone for guidance.

Here in GA an eviction attorney told me one time if there appeared to be 500 dollars or less of personal property and It looks abandoned  then likely safe to re-key but document everything with pictures and video. If over 500 then still go through with eviction. Sometimes these tenants even though they have left sub-lease to other people for less money on rent. Example your rent is 800. A buddy gives them 300 for the month and they hand them the keys. They move in and you have to evict them. Other times they are just storing excess items there as free storage because they can't fit them at the other place they moved to.

If that's the case you don't want to not evict and be accused of self-help eviction and the tenant says their 500 junk is a 5,000 heirloom necklace grandma left them and now they can't find it.

No legal advice. If in question evict to be safe.

@Matt R.   If you do not have the keys and note message from the tenant that they have abandoned the property you should also check to see if the utilities are still on.  If they are not most people do not live without electricity and water so this would be another indication that the property has been abandoned.  Of course I would still check with an eviction attorney.

The lease I use is the one from a legal store- not one some landlord wrote up, it keeps up with all the new laws, so I am pretty sure its all legal. And it does state that all I have to keep is medications for 7 days. I am planning on just taking all the crap and sticking it in the basement. If she want its back- fine, otherwise I'll get rid of it when I have some time.  The power has been off for over a month now

My attorneys in FL and NJ write my leases, and I've had similar situations as you have. The utilities being turned off is a sign of abandonment, and nothing personal left behind such as clothing or electronics (and medications - good one!) was enough for my attorney to tell me to take photos and change the locks. It is my right to secure my property. And if food was left behind in the refrigerator with no power - take it outside and then open it.

Has first class mail been delivered to the address? If not, they likely changed their address or put in a forwarding order. I once had a tenant that was evicted ask me to forward all their mail - that was the only funny part of the eviction!

@Matt R.  

In my experiences, they are not coming back and are probably praying you don't chase them down. I would change locks, clean it up, and get a new tenant as once a day passes, you can't collect that days rent anymore.

Happy Investing!

Thats the thing I look at. Sometimes its better to take a "reasonable" approach than to go strictly by the law. And by that I mean, that if the tenant has all their furniture out and if the power is off, and if they haven't paid rent, then a "reasonable personal" would believe they probably aren't going to want to get back in the house any time soon.

The electric company doesn't take a meter when you fail to pay a month. She's probably so far behind on the electric that she has no choice but to move in with someone else. Again, one could reasonably believe that they have gone back.

The fact that she isn't responding to any messages. Reasonably believe they aren't coming back.

And what is the worst that could happen. She could come back and claim she still has the right to be in the house. Whats a judge going to fine you?  He legally cant force you to kick out the new tenants. So maybe he's going to fine you. And how much is he going to fine you? The cost of a hotel for them to stay at for a month - or however long it takes for the eviction of her to go through? :-)

And even if the judge rules in their favor, chances are he's going to be pretty lenient on any judgment given that you aren't really doing anything that obnoxious. Its not like you threw their stuff out while they were at work or something.

A reasonable person is going to believe that the house is abandoned and the tenant isn't coming back. Take the video and leave any important stuff in the basement or storage. Your risk of getting dinged might be 1% at best.  But even if you got dinged, I think you'll still come out in the end if your proceed as if she's gone instead of doing the eviction.  To me, if you do the eviction, it might just give the tenant the idea that she can move back in and throw some parties or something.

I had this happen to me the beginning of July. We told the tenant that we were not renewing her 75 days before the lease was up. The lease was up end of July. July 7th I got a letter from Nicor thanking me for a service call from June 30th (on the landlord plan with Nicor). Called Nicor and Comed and found out she stopped billing in her name as of June 30th. My landlord-tenant attorney told me NOT to post a 5 day notice, and to instead give 48 hrs notice via email of a health and safety inspection. Then she said if the place was empty during the inspection, which it was, to send a registered letter to the last known address (the rental since she never told me she was leaving or give an address) saying since the property was abandon we were taking possession and changing the locks that day, and if she had a problem with it to get a hold of us.  The letter got returned to us by the post office since she never picked it up from the post office. We immediately started getting the work done needed to get it relisted and got it on the rental market Aug 1st.

Speed To Lead
Buy hot seller leads w/o subscription
Buy daily seller leads that are actually ready to sell
Finally there's a place where you can buy leads that asked for urgent help selling their house
Sign up for free

Since she was obviously far enough behind on the power to have it shut off, who then becomes responsible for that bill. Will it follow the runaway tenant? Or is the landlord going to have to pay the past due amount?

I am dealing with WE energies here in WI, and the since power was in the tenants name,  the amount owed is her responsibility.  If she would have taken her name off the account, WE energies would have notified me that I was going to be responsible for the bill from there on out.  If she did that, and still wanted to live there (me paying her power consumption) I could get WE energies to pull the meter.

Once I transfer the service back into my name- WE energies will put the meter back and I will start fresh.

Here, the electric and gas follow the tenant. Water is attached to the house so the landlord gets stuck with that. For trash it depends on the city.

Did you get a deposit when she signed the lease? I guess she  figured you would keep that. 

You show alot of scruples by actually giving the disposition of her belongings a second thought. As a landlord you should have a plan for this kind of thing A few months ago a woman walked out on her lease and left all her belongings Her money mongerie landlord threw all her stuff in the dumpster Vintage vanity $2000; Russian made side table $800; 2 Flat screen tvs $500 each; Desktop pc and network $1000; and a whole house more!

There is a not for profit thrift store with trucks two blocks away.