9 Replies

I have my first problem with a tenant. 

My tenants lease ends on February 1st, however he has not paid January's rent.  Most of his possessions are gone and he rekeyed the locks.  He told me he would be back on the 12th which is today however, he has not returned and he will not return my phone calls.  What do I do.

Have you sent him the 3 day or 5 day late rent notice? Is he allowed to rekey your locks as per the lease agreement? Did you collect a security deposit from the tenant? 

@Joe Schwartzbauer  is right re: notice to quit. do your due diligence regarding AZ law.

I would get the unit listed if it isn't already. The same broker you might list with could help regarding next steps. Anyone in property management has probably seen this in the past.

I would have posted a pay or quit on the 5th and would have started the eviction on the 8th.  If you haven't done any of this, do it today.

Also on your to-do list for today is to speak with your attorney about the situation and get and follow their advice.  If you don't have a client/tenant attorney, add finding one to your to-do list, too.  In a similar situation was told to walk through the house with another person, video what I saw and, if its truly abandoned, start the make ready process.  But in my case the tenant had not changed the locks, so I was able to get in without breaking anything.

I collected a deposit, He is not allowed to rekey the doors, I have an eye witness that he packed up a moving truck and left.  There is only a rug and a couple of boxes of clothing and a small charcoal grill left behind.  According to the lawyer I have to send a certified letter of abandonment to the property for the property the tenant left behind, which the tenant will never see, as the tenant told me he was moving out of state.   Tomorrow I plan on getting a locksmith to gain entry and replace the locks.  So I can prepare the property and put it back on the rental market. 

Is there anything I am forgetting? 

Photos, just in case.

Check the cost of the locksmith.  Breaking a small window pane to gain access might be cheaper.  

Not sure in other states, but I do know in Texas which is a very pro-landlord state. We own our own portfolio of homes as well as manage about 400 homes and have been advised by not only our real estate attorney but a judge that unless you have complete and certain proof that they have "Abandoned" (Key word) the property you do not have a right to be in the premises. 

They call it the Rolex rule, unless you legally get possession of the premises back with a constable clearing the house and declaring that there is nothing of value in the property we have been advised not to go in. If we do and the tenant comes back and says not only was he not fully out but he had jewelry in the property and now its gone, we are liable and on the hook for it. And possibly be in court defending ourselves with a smart and savvy tenant. Our golden rule is that no matter if we think or don't think the tenant has vacated and abandoned the premises, unless they come into the office and we have a notarized document stating they have left we go thru the eviction and writ of possession. We do this on our own personal properties as well as ones that we manage.

If you do plan to go in, I would do as others stated and take as many pictures and full video of the home, I would also make sure to take pictures of the power being off (A red Tag) and the water or gas being off as well. Just a CYA to build your case a much as possible incase your ever called on the carpet to explain.

@Steve Rozenberg  

In 25 years as a broker/investor, I have never heard of the "Rolex" rule and even googled it to no avail.  While the law does not clearly define abandonment, a landlord is definitely allowed to consider the property abandoned and rekey, remove and securing the tenants belongings and go about the business of renting the property to a new tenant.  IMO, a Justice of the Peace especially in a bigger city, would not appreciate taking up the courts time when a property has been abandoned

My lease(TAR) and TAA leases clearly give the landlord/manager the ability to enter the property at any reasonable time.  Just cause a tenant claims jewelry gone doesn't mean a judge is going to make the landlord liable.  

FYI- much of the state now has smart meters so red tags are a thing of the past

Just out of curiosity, since the tenant's lease was ending anyway, why not just keep the security deposit in lieu of the last months rent?   That way you don't have to go through the eviction process, which could be costly.

At the end of the day, you would be out the cost of the locksmith, which is probably less than the cost of doing a proper eviction.  You aren't really losing any rental income because his move-out date was February 1st anyway, after which you are legally allowed to enter the apartment.

Anyway, just curious if that would have been a viable option.

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