Tenant alters lease

6 Replies

I just closed on a duplex that has tenants in both units. I sent them each a letter letting them know where to send the rent check, where their deposit will be held and the lease that reflects the same terms as the past landlord (as required by law). One of the tenants crossed out the references to late fees--like he's not going to pay them if he's late. He has paid one month's rent on time so far, so I don't know that lateness will be a problem, but where does this leave me if he is late, aside from sending him a pay or quit notice? His lease is up in April and he's not exactly a clean tenant, so I may only have to hold on until then. Any advice?

@Renee R.  

 - are you saying in NH you MUST issue a new (and identical) lease?  Seems like that's unusual - in all the locations I'm familiar with, you simply take over the existing lease.  Period.  

That said, if the law does demand renewing an identical lease then I bet it also provides a remedy for your situation.  Most logically, you'd be able to evict if the tenant refuses to sign what the law demands (though logic doesn't always apply, I realize).

You and the tenant have to abide by the existing lease.  If that contains late fees that you're just reiterating in your letter, the tenant can't just cross them out.  On the other hand if the existing leases don't include them you can't add them. if the existing lease does include them, the tenant is late and refuses to pay, start an eviction. 

I probably wasn't clear. The lease is a copy of the past landlord's lease that was previously signed by the tenant. I added a cover letter with a summary of the terms (with the payee and security deposit changes), which I asked him to sign and return to me. The summary included the late payments that are in the past landlord's lease. The tenant crossed that out on the cover letter and on the prior landlord's lease. If I'm understanding correctly he must abide by the terms of the past landlord's lease. He may not be a problem going forward, I was just caught off-guard and this is only my second property, so I'm still learning.

He has to abide by the terms of the lease.  Assuming that those terms are themselves legal.  While NH does not have a specific cap on late fees, it does have a statute that effectively allows a tenant to ignore a late fee in excess of $15:

 http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/LV/540/54...

So you want to be careful assuming that just because you don't see a limit on late fees, there is no limit on late fees.  The courts will also impose a reasonableness standard, of course.

But in general, he has to comply with the terms of the lease, including late fees.

If he signed a lease agreeing to late fees and then crossed them out of the extra copy you sent after you purchased it, then he is legally responsible to fulfill the original contract and his crossing out malarkey doesn't matter. It sounds to me like it most likely won't be an issue? If this is the case I would throw it in the filing cabinet and forget about it. If he pays on time for the rest of the lease then perfect. If he doesn't, remind him of his late payment obligations and again provide a copy of his original signed lease and demand payment of the fee's. If he attests serve him. This is most likely the way i would handle it. but there are certainly many many other avenues. Best of luck!!!

Thanks Everyone! This has been helpful.