Tenant has disappeared, unreachable

26 Replies

Lets start with thanks for reading and I didn't think I would have this issue so early.

I have an 8unit apartment building. Tenant in #3 has disappeared. None of her neighbors have seen her (I believe this has much do to with the fact she stole the wallet of #5 and she was caught on camera using #5 credit card on camera)

I've tried to contact her and her mobile phone is no longer in service. Rent is due on the 1st and even thou she submit electronic form to have it automatically withdrawn I doubt she will pay it. 
What do I have to do legally here? She left clothes and pans in her unit but all furniture is gone, fridge is empty. Her neighbor in #5 says she hasn't seen her in a week, I haven't seen her in two weeks. I've tried calling her but I also don't feel its my job to be chasing a tenant up.
Do I wait 3days after rent is due and start the eviction process? Any help here would be great.

Nothing you can do accept start the eviction process. If you go into the apartment and remove her belongings before the eviction you are liable for her stuff. She can claim items missing. But you can try Skip Tracer just google it and pick a service provider, that may help locate her.

There is a process in Arizona where you post an abandonment.  The tenant has a certain amount of time to respond.  It is much quicker than an eviction.  Check to see if you have something like that in your state.

If you have her on camera committing a crime, I would forward her information and the video evidence to the police as well.  

No idea what the laws are in your state but there's almost zero chance she is coming back.  If you have to evict and have not done it before, I would use an attorney.  Good luck to you

Originally posted by @Steve Olafson :

There is a process in Arizona where you post an abandonment.  The tenant has a certain amount of time to respond.  It is much quicker than an eviction.  Check to see if you have something like that in your state.

 I love this.  I just checked for NC and this is what I found:

"For purposes of subsection (d), personal property shall be deemed abandoned if the landlord finds evidence that clearly shows the premises has been voluntarily vacated after the paid rental period has expired and the landlord has no notice of a disability that caused the vacancy. A presumption of abandonment shall arise 10 or more days after the landlord has posted conspicuously a notice of suspected abandonment both inside and outside the premises and has received no response from the tenant."

Source

I love this.

Fedrico, first thing you want to do is brush up on Ohio law to determine the eviction process and what you can and cant do in general, for your protection, lease, etc.  You want to know the process going in when the tenant is selling drugs, not complying w/ the lease, abandonment, non-payment, etc.  If there is nothing covering contact information or time away w/o notice, your next best bet will likely be the pay or quit.

Until she is late on rent, you can't really do anything.  Except learn what you can do if/when she doesn't pay the rent.  

This article says there are no laws in Ohio on how to deal with abandoned property, so if it's not addressed in the lease, it looks like you just need to act reasonably.  You can toss out what's obvious garbage, and they suggest you store anything that looks like it's of value for a reasonable time, and send the tenant info to come get their stuff by X date.

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/handling-te...

It looks like different cities and counties in Ohio have different court websites, and without looking closely, it looks possible the procedures may be different depending on where you are, so Google your city or county and "housing court evictions"

This one for Cleveland says you need to first serve a 3 day notice to pay or quit, wait 3 business days, then start the eviction through Housing Court.

http://clevelandhousingcourt.org/hc_fq_b.html

@Federico Gutierrez

You don't have to evict. If you have reason to believe that the unit has been abandoned you can start the abandonment process.

Examples of reasons to believe a unit is abandoned.

  • Tenant appears to have disappeared, 
  • Unit has been cleared out.
  • Utilities have been turned off.

You send out the abandonment notices via regular and certified mail. The tenant then has 10 days to contact you or the unit is considered abandoned. After that you can change locks and store their belongings for 30 days.

I would recommend you wait unit the following month to do this. IE she pays May rent wait until June 2nd with no rent payment. Do not start the process in May if she has paid May rent.

I always use a lawyer for these matters.  You should to. This is not the part of your business were it makes sense to try to do it yourself.

Also just an fyi. If you own this property with any partners or in an LLC you MUST use an attorney for all evictions. Cleveland housing court will NOT let an owner file an eviction if they own with partners or in an LLC.

@James Wise 

Thanks for the advice. I have been informed about the LLC issue. I do hold it in an LLC so will use a lawyer for this.

@Sue K.

I will wait till June 3rd, if I hear nothing and rent is not paid I will file the 3days notice and contact a lawyer immediately to get everything rolling.

@Federico Gutierrez

The abandonment procedure that James Wise is describing is authorized by § 375.10 of the local Cleveland ordinances. You can find the text of the entire ordinance here: 

http://www.amlegal.com/nxt/gateway.dll/Ohio/clevel...

As it is a City of Cleveland specific ordinance, it would not apply to any suburban property or other properties in Ohio. I'm not aware of a similar Ohio statute that would apply state wide (though admittedly I've never searched for one either).

I only advise my clients use it in very specific situations, as it is typically slower than eviction. This is because you can file for eviction immediately after non-payment of rent and the expiration of the 3 day notice period. In contrast, the abandonment process requires non-payment of rent for two months unless the tenant has intentionally terminated utility service to the property or expressly stated that he would not be occupying the unit after a specific date. If you were to use this process and make mistakes, the housing court may view your ultimate retaking of the property as a self-help eviction, exposing you to legal liability for the tenant's damages. As James said, your safest move is to have an attorney familiar with the process assist  you. 

You're welcome to contact me if you'd like further information and assistance.

This is one of the reasons that, at some point before a tenant moves in, you get a list of emergency contacts for the tenant. You might do that upon application submittal or upon lease signing, but having that list can get you in contact with somebody that can give an answer in situations like the OP posted. 

Originally posted by @Federico Gutierrez :

@Michael Noto

Oh don't get me wrong this is a win,  but as everyone says I have to go through the legal process to cover my butt and having anything come back on me.

 Well, honestly, I'd gauge what the odds were that this tenant might come back or care about the stuff that was left.  

In other words, I would probably not pay for a lawyer unless the tenant came back and became a problem.  I wouldn't spend money on an attorney, unless I had to.

Odds are really slim this tenant would sue you.  Just make sure they're really gone.  But, I don't think you need to waste money on a lawyer.

I want to give an update on this as respect to everyone who commented

Turns out she was in Jail for a week for protesting (I find hard to believe)

Rent was paid via eRentPayment on the 1st, come to later get an email from eRentPayment (on 4th) stating the funds are being returns as the routing/account number she provided were incorrect. So Technically she still has not paid rent.

Rent is late the day after the 5th. Sadly falls on a Saturday, so I even serving her a three day notice it won't start counting till Monday.

Originally posted by @Randy E. :
Originally posted by @Steve Olafson:

There is a process in Arizona where you post an abandonment.  The tenant has a certain amount of time to respond.  It is much quicker than an eviction.  Check to see if you have something like that in your state.

 I love this.  I just checked for NC and this is what I found:

"For purposes of subsection (d), personal property shall be deemed abandoned if the landlord finds evidence that clearly shows the premises has been voluntarily vacated after the paid rental period has expired and the landlord has no notice of a disability that caused the vacancy. A presumption of abandonment shall arise 10 or more days after the landlord has posted conspicuously a notice of suspected abandonment both inside and outside the premises and has received no response from the tenant."

Source

I love this.

 I think this would make the situation way easier. I'll have to check this out for Maryland.

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