Evicting Tenant after buying 3 Family (with Tenants)

23 Replies

I am in the process of buying a 3 family home with tenants in each of the units. I have financed this through FHA, so it needs to be owner occupied.

My plan when buying was to "figure out" each tenant as much as I could and choose one to evict so I can move in. Now that I have chosen one, with closing in less than 2 weeks, what is the best way to get that tenant out peacefully?

I know there are general laws and notices, etc which I am very familiar with, but what would be the best way to get them out. Should I just serve notices, talk to them about the situation,etc? I feel bad that they will have to move out so quickly, but there really isn't much that can be done. 

If I have to go to court, will the judge be more on my side since I bought the property with owner occupied clause, or is it the same deal?

Any insight would be helpful. Trying to figure out the best way to get them out with out too much trouble and costs.

State: Massachusetts 

Tenancy: At Will

Tenants: 2 adults and 2 teenagers

Wow. I am surprised FHA let the financing go through without any of the units being vacant. Do the existing tenants have leases or are they "at will"?

I don't think there is going to be any easy way to do this. If the situation were reversed, and someone told you that due to a coin toss (or some other arbitrary selection criteria), you were going to need to be gone in 2 weeks, you wouldn't take it well. 

What does Massachusetts law say about evicting people? Knowing the Northeast, it seems to me that you could be in for a long, hard slog if the tenants have any familiarity with the law. 

Originally posted by @Robert P. :

I am in the process of buying a 3 family home with tenants in each of the units. I have financed this through FHA, so it needs to be owner occupied.

My plan when buying was to "figure out" each tenant as much as I could and choose one to evict so I can move in. Now that I have chosen one, with closing in less than 2 weeks, what is the best way to get that tenant out peacefully?

I know there are general laws and notices, etc which I am very familiar with, but what would be the best way to get them out. Should I just serve notices, talk to them about the situation,etc? I feel bad that they will have to move out so quickly, but there really isn't much that can be done. 

If I have to go to court, will the judge be more on my side since I bought the property with owner occupied clause, or is it the same deal?

Any insight would be helpful. Trying to figure out the best way to get them out with out too much trouble and costs.

State: Massachusetts 

Tenancy: At Will

Tenants: 2 adults and 2 teenagers

 So, two things.

First, you're not "evicting" anyone. You have no grounds for eviction. Fortunately for you, you don't need to evict anyone, you can just not renew the month-to-month tenancy. You have to give notice, how much notice will vary by state law. Usually 30 days, sometimes 60. That works for you, because your FHA loan will require you to occupy within 60 days, not at closing.

Second,  you should not end up in court.  If you do, the judge magistrate will not care even one little tiny bit that you used a loan with an occupancy requirement.

You are not getting them out legally in 2 weeks.  If you try, you will get very, very jammed up.  So I would recommend shifting your thought pattern away from "evict" and toward "pay off."

The only way to get them out, legally, in two weeks is to pay them to leave.

Otherwise, 30-60 days from the end of the current rental month.

Don't try to get clever with this, or you could get hit badly.  Just give them notice as required by your state's law.  And then wait.

Originally posted by @JD Martin :

Wow. I am surprised FHA let the financing go through without any of the units being vacant. Do the existing tenants have leases or are they "at will"?

I don't think there is going to be any easy way to do this. If the situation were reversed, and someone told you that due to a coin toss (or some other arbitrary selection criteria), you were going to need to be gone in 2 weeks, you wouldn't take it well. 

What does Massachusetts law say about evicting people? Knowing the Northeast, it seems to me that you could be in for a long, hard slog if the tenants have any familiarity with the law. 

 Tenancy at will is month-to-month.  So if he is right about that, he can clear a unit by giving the required notice.  

Not within two weeks, though.

Originally posted by @Richard C. :
Originally posted by @Jd Martin:

Wow. I am surprised FHA let the financing go through without any of the units being vacant. Do the existing tenants have leases or are they "at will"?

I don't think there is going to be any easy way to do this. If the situation were reversed, and someone told you that due to a coin toss (or some other arbitrary selection criteria), you were going to need to be gone in 2 weeks, you wouldn't take it well. 

What does Massachusetts law say about evicting people? Knowing the Northeast, it seems to me that you could be in for a long, hard slog if the tenants have any familiarity with the law. 

 Tenancy at will is month-to-month.  So if he is right about that, he can clear a unit by giving the required notice.  

Not within two weeks, though.

 Whoops, right - didn't see the "at will" part at the end. 

Just as everyone said, massacusetts takes months...maybe 6-9 months to do an eviction. The judge's do not care about the landlord they are more concerned with keeping tenants in their current housing situation.

So saying that, I would say talk to each tenant to see if any of them would be willing to move out. You may have to pay "Cash for Keys" to get them out.

Mike

let me clear things up...

I am NOT trying to get them out in 2 weeks. I know that is entirely not possible unless I should up with 5k at their front door. (not going to happen!)

In MA I would have to give them a 30 day notice. Then if they don't leave, I would have to go to court which would be another 30-60 days potentially. 

I was thinking about talking to them and telling them the situation. Letting them know that I need to move in, and i have chosen this apartment to move into. Letting them know I will be serving a 30 day notice and possibly even offering them 500 bucks to move out within the 30 days. Thoughts on this?

**UPDATE** This is crazy but I just got a call from my realtor. The tenant who I want to get rid of did not pay this months rent and the current seller wants to evict. How does this play into things?

Can she start the 30 day process and me pick it up after change of ownership?

Originally posted by @Robert P. :

let me clear things up...

I am NOT trying to get them out in 2 weeks. I know that is entirely not possible unless I should up with 5k at their front door. (not going to happen!)

In MA I would have to give them a 30 day notice. Then if they don't leave, I would have to go to court which would be another 30-60 days potentially. 

I was thinking about talking to them and telling them the situation. Letting them know that I need to move in, and i have chosen this apartment to move into. Letting them know I will be serving a 30 day notice and possibly even offering them 500 bucks to move out within the 30 days. Thoughts on this?

 That is pretty much exactly how I would do it.

Originally posted by @Mike Hoefling :

Just as everyone said, massacusetts takes months...maybe 6-9 months to do an eviction. The judge's do not care about the landlord they are more concerned with keeping tenants in their current housing situation.

So saying that, I would say talk to each tenant to see if any of them would be willing to move out. You may have to pay "Cash for Keys" to get them out.

Mike

 Can you explain how it takes 6-9 months? What can hold it up that long??

@Robert P.

I have done one of these evictions in MA and there is a 'process' just like anything in Massachusetts. It goes like this.

1. Issue a Notice to Quit for 30 days (possible to do it for 15 days for non-payment). This has to be delivered prior tothe start of the rental period so if rent is due on the 1st it has to be delivered by the 30th or 31st. I would have a sherrif deliver it.

2.They didn't leave so you move on to Summary Process. You go to the court house to fill out paperwork for this and get a court date, you deliver this to the tenant again most likely another 3-4 weeks depending on how backed-up housing court is.

3. You get to court on your court date and assuming everything goes well you might actually win which means nothing. This is likely not going to happen because you missed something or messed up some paperwork so you would have to repeat the whole process. But on the off-chance the judge says the tenant has to move-out you still need to get the judgement. In that time frame you are waiting on the judgement the tenant can ask for more time. This is given in 1-2 month blocks usually. So whats going to happen is the tenant is going to ask for more time to move and the judge will allow this without even blinking.

4. Finally you get you judgement from the court house which you can then give to a sheriff to move the tenants belonings out. In MA you cannot physical touch the tenants belongings only a Sheriff that has been approved by the MA court system. It is very expensive and they have to also issue a letter to the tenant stating when the phyical move-out will be.

I kind of glossed over some areas but in general if things went 'well' you should at a minimum expect 4 months. If something gets messed up or the tenant cries in court (I have seen this) you will be waiting much much longer. Some things I didnt mention is Winter, judges dont evict in winter so good luck once it starts to get cold out or if they are sick or elderly, or have kids...I meand housing court in MA is unbelieveable.

If you are really interested in what happens in housing court if I was you I would go there to listen to a few cases and you will understand exactly what I mean, In Worcester I believe housing court starts at 9am on Thursday but check with them.

Generally, yes.

BUT, you may be required to re-file it once you take possession. Municipality specific.

Either way, keep your nose out of it, this is a responsibility of the current owner and you should be hands off. My opinion, the seller is stupid to try and evict someone in the middle of a transaction.

Originally posted by @Mike Hoefling :

@Robert P.

I have done one of these evictions in MA and there is a 'process' just like anything in Massachusetts. It goes like this.

1. Issue a Notice to Quit for 30 days (possible to do it for 15 days for non-payment). This has to be delivered prior tothe start of the rental period so if rent is due on the 1st it has to be delivered by the 30th or 31st. I would have a sherrif deliver it.

2.They didn't leave so you move on to Summary Process. You go to the court house to fill out paperwork for this and get a court date, you deliver this to the tenant again most likely another 3-4 weeks depending on how backed-up housing court is.

3. You get to court on your court date and assuming everything goes well you might actually win which means nothing. This is likely not going to happen because you missed something or messed up some paperwork so you would have to repeat the whole process. But on the off-chance the judge says the tenant has to move-out you still need to get the judgement. In that time frame you are waiting on the judgement the tenant can ask for more time. This is given in 1-2 month blocks usually. So whats going to happen is the tenant is going to ask for more time to move and the judge will allow this without even blinking.

4. Finally you get you judgement from the court house which you can then give to a sheriff to move the tenants belonings out. In MA you cannot physical touch the tenants belongings only a Sheriff that has been approved by the MA court system. It is very expensive and they have to also issue a letter to the tenant stating when the phyical move-out will be.

I kind of glossed over some areas but in general if things went 'well' you should at a minimum expect 4 months. If something gets messed up or the tenant cries in court (I have seen this) you will be waiting much much longer. Some things I didnt mention is Winter, judges dont evict in winter so good luck once it starts to get cold out or if they are sick or elderly, or have kids...I meand housing court in MA is unbelieveable.

If you are really interested in what happens in housing court if I was you I would go there to listen to a few cases and you will understand exactly what I mean, In Worcester I believe housing court starts at 9am on Thursday but check with them.

 How many evictions have you done?

Originally posted by @Robert P. :

**UPDATE** This is crazy but I just got a call from my realtor. The tenant who I want to get rid of did not pay this months rent and the current seller wants to evict. How does this play into things?

Can she start the 30 day process and me pick it up after change of ownership?

Did the seller already serve the tenant with a "Pay Rent or Quit" notice for July rent? If the tenant has not paid by mid-month then it is not likely they will. I would ask the seller for a price reduction on the sales price or another concession and relieve the seller of the headache. Anything is negotiable. 

After you close on the purchase of the property, offer "Cash for Keys" to motivate the tenants to move. An eviction, would cost you much more in time and money. Be polite, firm and fair when talking with the tenants. Make it a win-win. 

Talk with them about a move-out plan. First they need a place to go, second they need to pack up, third they need to transport their belongings from point A to point B. When we want someone to move-out quickly, we assess their motivation and ability to do so. In the past, we have even offered moving boxes (including wardrobe boxes), 3 mil thick garbage bags and paid for disposal of the garbage, and even a couple of moving guys and a u-haul truck with driver. Broom clean is fine with us in this type of situation. 

We don't talk with the tenant about the security deposit, but do be sure to get the tenant security deposits from the seller upon closing. We will use their security deposit to cover cleaning and damages, as well as deduct any other money owed to us for the time period in which they lived in the unit since the time we became owners. This will all be itemized on the final report on deposits. If the tenant asks about the security deposit, tell them you will refund any money due to them within X days (X =  whatever is required for your jurisdiction) after they have left the place broom clean, vacated the premises and returned possession of the property to you. If all goes well, they will give you the keys and also sign for you a "Return of Possession" form (which you can create or PM me if you'd like to see ours) to make the transition clean and formal.

Originally posted by @Marcia Maynard :
Originally posted by @Robert P.:

**UPDATE** This is crazy but I just got a call from my realtor. The tenant who I want to get rid of did not pay this months rent and the current seller wants to evict. How does this play into things?

Can she start the 30 day process and me pick it up after change of ownership?

Did the seller already serve the tenant with a "Pay Rent or Quit" notice for July rent? If the tenant has not paid by mid-month then it is not likely they will. I would ask the seller for a price reduction on the sales price or another concession and relieve the seller of the headache. Anything is negotiable. 

After you close on the purchase of the property, offer "Cash for Keys" to motivate the tenants to move. An eviction, would cost you much more in time and money. Be polite, firm and fair when talking with the tenants. Make it a win-win. 

Talk with them about a move-out plan. First they need a place to go, second they need to pack up, third they need to transport their belongings from point A to point B. When we want someone to move-out quickly, we assess their motivation and ability to do so. In the past, we have even offered moving boxes (including wardrobe boxes), 3 mil thick garbage bags and paid for disposal of the garbage, and even a couple of moving guys and a u-haul truck with driver. Broom clean is fine with us in this type of situation. 

We don't talk with the tenant about the security deposit, but do be sure to get the tenant security deposits from the seller upon closing. We will use their security deposit to cover cleaning and damages, as well as deduct any other money owed to us for the time period in which they lived in the unit since the time we became owners. This will all be itemized on the final report on deposits. If the tenant asks about the security deposit, tell them you will refund any money due to them within X days (X =  whatever is required for your jurisdiction) after they have left the place broom clean, vacated the premises and returned possession of the property to you. If all goes well, they will give you the keys and also sign for you a "Return of Possession" form (which you can create or PM me if you'd like to see ours) to make the transition clean and formal.

 Thank you! How much would you say is a fair amount for the "Cash for Keys" approach? Their monthly rent is $750.

Originally posted by @Robert P. : Thank you! How much would you say is a fair amount for the "Cash for Keys" approach? Their monthly rent is $750.

I wouldn't offer "Cash for Keys" at the start and I wouldn't name an amount. This would come out in the negotiations. We've never had to offer cash because we started off the negotiation with... "This isn't working for us.... Let's talk about a move-out plan.... You can  do [A] or you can do [B], your choice... Do you have a place to go to?.... How soon can you make the move?... What do you need to make the move sooner? We are prepared to proceed with the legal eviction process if necessary."

In the end, we would have paid people to leave, but never got to that point because they either left on their own, or accepted our offer to help them with the logistics of the move (packing materials, transportation). We've only had to evict through court action three times in 20 years of owning residential rental property (16 units.) All three of those times the tenants had no where to go and no money. Even if we offered money, they wouldn't have left. All three stayed until the Sheriff put them out.

I'd try other strategies first. If they don't work and the tenant is a suitable candidate for "Cash for Keys", let them make the first offer. I wouldn't pay more than $500 and I would start my negotiations lower, probably at $200. 

For your situation I would start with something such as... "You know and I know you did not pay rent for the month of July. That doesn't work for us. Listen, if you move within X days, we won't speak of it further and you can maintain a clean record with us. What would it take for you to move out by X date?" This will open the dialogue. 

If they back peddle and promise you the world, just politely tell them that won't work for you and that you wish them well, but they need to move. At that point, tell them "It's time we make a move-out plan." Your goal is to remain polite and have a productive dialogue with the tenant, get them to move out on their own, and leave place clean and without damages. You will need to be flexible and have resolve. Every tenant and every negotiation is different. Good luck.

Take a listen to BP Podcast #83 where I share some of our landlording strategies!

Originally posted by @Marcia Maynard :
Originally posted by @Robert P.: Thank you! How much would you say is a fair amount for the "Cash for Keys" approach? Their monthly rent is $750.

I wouldn't offer "Cash for Keys" at the start and I wouldn't name an amount. This would come out in the negotiations. We've never had to offer cash because we started off the negotiation with... "This isn't working for us.... Let's talk about a move-out plan.... You can  do [A] or you can do [B], your choice... Do you have a place to go to?.... How soon can you make the move?... What do you need to make the move sooner? We are prepared to proceed with the legal eviction process if necessary."

In the end, we would have paid people to leave, but never got to that point because they either left on their own, or accepted our offer to help them with the logistics of the move (packing materials, transportation). We've only had to evict through court action three times in 20 years of owning residential rental property (16 units.) All three of those times the tenants had no where to go and no money. Even if we offered money, they wouldn't have left. All three stayed until the Sheriff put them out.

I'd try other strategies first. If they don't work and the tenant is a suitable candidate for "Cash for Keys", let them make the first offer. I wouldn't pay more than $500 and I would start my negotiations lower, probably at $200. 

For your situation I would start with something such as... "You know and I know you did not pay rent for the month of July. That doesn't work for us. Listen, if you move within X days, we won't speak of it further and you can maintain a clean record with us. What would it take for you to move out by X date?" This will open the dialogue. 

If they back peddle and promise you the world, just politely tell them that won't work for you and that you wish them well, but they need to move. At that point, tell them "It's time we make a move-out plan." Your goal is to remain polite and have a productive dialogue with the tenant, get them to move out on their own, and leave place clean and without damages. You will need to be flexible and have resolve. Every tenant and every negotiation is different. Good luck.

Take a listen to BP Podcast #83 where I share some of our landlording strategies!

 Thank you for such detail! The only other thing I would add in here is that I am buying this property  and have not had a chance to build up any the of relationship with the tenants. Also, technically, they are late to the previous owner, and not myself. Would I have to wait until the next month to see if they are late or not? Basically, I want them out as quick as possible. 

I agree with talking to them first and feel that offering moving help rather than money might be a lot more valuable to them (I know it would be for me). Great insight on how to start the conversation, it's much appreciated! With this being my first property, I have a lot to learn. 

Would you recommend anything special for my case? (just acquiring the property and trying to get them out)

I'd be surprised if your loan will actually close without verification that one of the tenants will be out of the house and available for you to occupy.  If your loan does however close and you aren't in within 60 days you would be in default of your loan agreement and it could turn into a world of trouble for you before you even know it.

I just sold a duplex with 2 excellent tenants but some reason the new owner wanted the property vacated They did a lease buyout and paid the tenants the remaining months of their lease to leave .pick the tenant with the shortest lease and try to do this If the present owner starts eviction you would have no standing as  new owner and would have to start the process over

Originally posted by @Jeffrey Giffin :

I'd be surprised if your loan will actually close without verification that one of the tenants will be out of the house and available for you to occupy.  If your loan does however close and you aren't in within 60 days you would be in default of your loan agreement and it could turn into a world of trouble for you before you even know it.

 I think this would be true if I weren't trying to move in...but since I am and I need to get them out, I think they would be lenient

Your in a very difficult situation, but at this point if your legally able to move forward with eviction (meaning they are not in a long term lease) I would start moving forward with the eviction process. I've been through it and some people don't take it well they try and hide from the person trying to serve them. It took a while for the entire process to be completed because of this for me, but I live in CA. Hopefully you have a smoother process where your at.
Originally posted by @Robert P. :
Originally posted by @Marcia Maynard:
Originally posted by @Robert P.: Thank you! How much would you say is a fair amount for the "Cash for Keys" approach? Their monthly rent is $750.

I wouldn't offer "Cash for Keys" at the start and I wouldn't name an amount. This would come out in the negotiations. We've never had to offer cash because we started off the negotiation with... "This isn't working for us.... Let's talk about a move-out plan.... You can  do [A] or you can do [B], your choice... Do you have a place to go to?.... How soon can you make the move?... What do you need to make the move sooner? We are prepared to proceed with the legal eviction process if necessary."

In the end, we would have paid people to leave, but never got to that point because they either left on their own, or accepted our offer to help them with the logistics of the move (packing materials, transportation). We've only had to evict through court action three times in 20 years of owning residential rental property (16 units.) All three of those times the tenants had no where to go and no money. Even if we offered money, they wouldn't have left. All three stayed until the Sheriff put them out.

I'd try other strategies first. If they don't work and the tenant is a suitable candidate for "Cash for Keys", let them make the first offer. I wouldn't pay more than $500 and I would start my negotiations lower, probably at $200. 

For your situation I would start with something such as... "You know and I know you did not pay rent for the month of July. That doesn't work for us. Listen, if you move within X days, we won't speak of it further and you can maintain a clean record with us. What would it take for you to move out by X date?" This will open the dialogue. 

If they back peddle and promise you the world, just politely tell them that won't work for you and that you wish them well, but they need to move. At that point, tell them "It's time we make a move-out plan." Your goal is to remain polite and have a productive dialogue with the tenant, get them to move out on their own, and leave place clean and without damages. You will need to be flexible and have resolve. Every tenant and every negotiation is different. Good luck.

Take a listen to BP Podcast #83 where I share some of our landlording strategies!

 Thank you for such detail! The only other thing I would add in here is that I am buying this property  and have not had a chance to build up any the of relationship with the tenants. Also, technically, they are late to the previous owner, and not myself. Would I have to wait until the next month to see if they are late or not? Basically, I want them out as quick as possible. 

I agree with talking to them first and feel that offering moving help rather than money might be a lot more valuable to them (I know it would be for me). Great insight on how to start the conversation, it's much appreciated! With this being my first property, I have a lot to learn. 

Would you recommend anything special for my case? (just acquiring the property and trying to get them out)

Yep. I'm aware you are not yet the owner. You are correct that you would not have the conversation with the tenant until after the deal closed and the property was in your name. Don't worry about what the previous owner is doing about the late rent. You are going to start fresh with your tenants. Close the deal, get a concession from the previous owners for this headache if you can. Don't kill your deal by requiring the unit to be delivered empty.

The fact that the tenant did not pay July rent to the previous owner places a negative mark on their rental history. That would not work for me, would it work for you? Also, it indicates an uncooperative tenant.  It you use the words I suggested, the tenant will probably assume you expect them to "catch up" by paying July rent to you. The uncollected July rent is a loss to the previous owner, but not to you. Rent to you begins the first day you own the property. If the tenant believes you are letting them off the hook for July rent, it works in your favor as a negotiating point. Let the tenant believe they are getting a deal by moving out. You can even tell them if they do, they won't owe you any more rent. They can use the money they didn't spend in July to get into a new place; they are probably thinking along those lines already.

As with any new purchase with tenants in place, you need to introduce yourself to all the tenants, let them know your style of management, and let them know where to send the rent. You must follow the terms of the rental agreement that is in place until the end of its lease term. However, you can negotiate with the tenants to voluntarily move to your rental agreement sooner.

Since you need to move this particular tenant out, you can let them know you are the new owner and then proceed with reviewing their current rental agreement.  You could ask them if they intended to stay in the unit or were planning to move out. You could say, "Since you did not pay July rent I thought you intended to move. We need you to vacate the unit as soon as possible. Are you prepared to do so?" The suggestions I made in my previous post still fit your situation. Be sure the tenant knows the bottom line is that it is time for them to move and you want to make sure the move-out process goes as smooth as possible for them.

Sorry to bring up a 3 year old thread but in the exact same situation (and in Massachusetts) Just wondering how this panned out Robert. 

Even though the tenant is at will and in theory should vacate with 30 days notice , I doubt any lender will lend on it as owner occupied without the sale being contingent on the current owner having one of the units vacated. 

So basically I'm in a bit of a bind , as I doubt the owner will allow the contingency of the unit being vacant, but don't think I will be able to secure owner occupied financing without it.