Not sure how to handle tenant issue

9 Replies

Hello, 

Longer story-short, I have a tenant that put in a complaint about a furnace in March.  My partner, who was the PM at the time, who has since exited the picture, sent out a technician to repair the furnace.  Apparently the repair did not help.  Now we are here in May, the tenant is not paying rent because the furnace is brokebroke, and I'm stuck as the PM.  The bigger issue now is after an initial phone conversation with the tenant, I said I would get back to him with a repair time.  Since then, he has not responded to me.  I've tried calling him several times and texting now too.  No response.  Its been 2 weeks since I heard from him.  

He is delinquent 2 months rent and coming up in 3rd month delinquency.  

Should I try to send certified mail in an effort to contact him?  Start eviction?  What to do?  

Really sucks because my biggest mistake was a failed partnership.  Now I have to fix this mess.

Thank you for any words of advice.

@Chris Pasternak

You have bigger issues than a furnace not working when the AC should be on.

The tenant is using this to not pay you.  Start eviction asap.

Start the eviction process.  End the bleeding. 

eviction now!!!! Most states have a proper way to with hold . Document everything including the fact he's not answering!

Ok great thanks guys.  Bob, it's a bit warm out now for the furnace isn't it?  Elizabeth, you're right there is a proper way to withhold.  

@Chris Pasternak

It's my (non-expert) understanding that in some jurisdictions, e.g., Michigan, it is permissible for tenants to withhold rent if there is a MAJOR issue with the property. Not having heat would fall under this category. Though, there are usually hoops a tenant must jump though in order to do this in a defensible manner.

In states that allow this it this, it often takes the form of:

  • The heater (or whatever) goes out and the landlord isn't addressing the issue in a timely manner.
  • The tenant gets fed up, and fixes it himself (or hires it out) and then deducts that amount plus incidentals from his rent.
  • Then the tenant writes a letter to the landlord explaining that he's deducted from rent and why he has done so. 

This isn't permissible in all states. Connecticut housing judges usually frown on this kind of behavior from tenants.

Be careful, if your tenant's heat has gone out AND the temperature in the unit has dropped below a certain temperature (usually 65℉) the property could theoretically be declared uninhabitable. Granted, this usually happens in the winter months but it's still a possibility.

Stopping ALL rent until some major issue is fixed is usually forbidden. But, the judge could be sympathetic. Put yourself in the judge's shoes and consider the optics of the situation from his perspective.

All I'm saying is this issue it's not cut and dry. You should fix the heat and contact an eviction attorney and discuss the specifics of the situation first.

Good luck with your situation.

Thanks Jeff, good insight and appreciate the in depth response.  If it goes to court, I want it to be a slam dunk so I'll get this thing fixed and see if he pays.  

He would need to pay all previous months rents right?

Maybe you should ride by the house and see if he is still living there . 

Originally posted by @Jeff G. :

@Chris Pasternak

It's my (non-expert) understanding that in some jurisdictions, e.g., Michigan, it is permissible for tenants to withhold rent if there is a MAJOR issue with the property. Not having heat would fall under this category. Though, there are usually hoops a tenant must jump though in order to do this in a defensible manner.

In states that allow this it this, it often takes the form of:

  • The heater (or whatever) goes out and the landlord isn't addressing the issue in a timely manner.
  • The tenant gets fed up, and fixes it himself (or hires it out) and then deducts that amount plus incidentals from his rent.
  • Then the tenant writes a letter to the landlord explaining that he's deducted from rent and why he has done so. 

This isn't permissible in all states. Connecticut housing judges usually frown on this kind of behavior from tenants.

Be careful, if your tenant's heat has gone out AND the temperature in the unit has dropped below a certain temperature (usually 65℉) the property could theoretically be declared uninhabitable. Granted, this usually happens in the winter months but it's still a possibility.

Stopping ALL rent until some major issue is fixed is usually forbidden. But, the judge could be sympathetic. Put yourself in the judge's shoes and consider the optics of the situation from his perspective.

All I'm saying is this issue it's not cut and dry. You should fix the heat and contact an eviction attorney and discuss the specifics of the situation first.

Good luck with your situation.

 Brilliant and true.  I think I'd still go ahead and file for eviction immediately. Worst case scenario, is the tenant presents the facts regarding not having heat, and you present that a technician was sent out and that the temperature has not warranted heat for at least a couple months.  Then let the judge figure it out.

That would be the cheapest way to deal with the situation.  No need for a lawyer this way.  Then, just do what the judge says.

I don't know the laws where you live, but some states allow tenants to withhold rent if they made the landlord aware of a problem that made the place uninhabitable and the landlord did not fix the issue.  Some states require the tenant to pay into an escrow account, though.  

In your case, unless they let someone know the heat wasn't working after the technician went out, then they're SOL, first of all.  And, once the temps outside aren't winter conditions anymore, heat shouldn't be an issue.  But, unless you want to learn all of the specific laws for the jurisdiction your unit is in, I suggest you just go through eviction courts and throw yourself on the mercy of the judge.  

In my experience, judges are smart and fair.  Just explain that this was addressed with a technician, and you were under the impression it was fixed, and that heat should not have been an issue for at least the last month, and that you can't afford a lawyer and you trust the judge to be fair, and you'll abide by his/her decision.  They'll appreciate that, and treat you fairly, in my experience.

Your tenant has the right to leave if it's not addressed and stay in a hotel. They can deduct daily rent from the monthly rent. That's my understanding of CT law. 

Create Lasting Wealth Through Real Estate

Join the millions of people achieving financial freedom through the power of real estate investing

Start here