Parent interefers in tenant lease

42 Replies

What would you do? 

We have an artist community here and I've had a new tenant (white) and her boyfriend (black) sign a lease last Friday. This is in a historic black neighborhood - it's important, you'll see. They gave me one month deposit. They were super excited to move in and pushed to be able to move in 10/28/tomorrow, instead of 11-1. Since I had 3 different parties wanting to do that and we were still renovating we were busting our butts this past week getting those 3 units ready for tomorrow. I had to even turn some people away, because we simply couldn't get any other units ready for Nov 1st. 

She did tell me on Sat that her parents disapproved of her boyfriend and that her father was in town and wanted to see the property. I told her to give him my phone number. I wrote her on Monday that he never contacted me. 

This afternoon I get a call from her father (she's 26), telling me that his daughter was not going to move into the property and that the area is uninhabitable and that it's unconscionable of me to even sign a lease in that area with his daughter. Now, he was never been in the duplex, which has wood floors, brand new kitchen cabinets, metal accent wall and all new lighting and painting etc. It's really nice. His daughter is certainly old enough to make her own decisions and I got so mad that I hung up and told him not to call me again and we can have attorneys deal with that and he responded that he'll get his 4 attorneys involved. He was trying to negotiate with me and , I guess, buy her out of her lease, but I don't want to deal with him. I don't like racists and he has no legal standing anyway. 

Technically, he doesn't have standing, because the lease is signed between myself and his daughter, who's of age, and her boyfriend. I can't take instructions from him. Furthermore, this is something called 'tortious interference with contractual obligation.'

Do I just pretend that I didn't get the call and go on like nothing happened and when she doesn't show up tomorrow, I'll ask when she'll come to pick up the keys and then take it from there?

Legally, I will keep looking for another tenant and give her back the difference of the deposit, if I find someone else. But as you all know, this is now going to be the tough part of the year when it comes to getting new tenants. I have already turned others down. So, I might be vacant for a while.

I agree that you should continue as though he had not reached out to you. Unless he is securing the lease somehow I too would default to the legal contract you made with a willing and informed adult.

I am so sorry that you're in this pickle. Maybe she will move in anyway? I would talk to her as soon as possible and let her know that she still has a lease with you. Then you'll get a feel for whether you should re-list the property

@Michaela G. She acted as an adult (because she is), signed the lease and paid a deposit. Don't deviate from the standard practice here. The dad has no legal basis to interfere (as you know) because he's not party to the lease. 

Treat him with respect if you do interact with him. If you talk with him and he veers into racist banter say that you're obligated to avoid discrimination in your business and end the conversation. Otherwise you can simply state that his daughter is an adult and he has no legal right to interfere as the contract does not involve him if he tries to challenge you.

It's easy to get wrapped up in the personal side of this exchange, but don't let that change your approach. If the lease is broken, follow your policy for any other lease being broken; if it isn't, great, you have the people you approved as tenants. Simple as that.

I agree, you should assume that she will be moving in until you hear other wise from her. But I would try contacting her and not just wait for her to contact you

Personally I would tell the father that I would not even discuss anything with him as the lease is between you and her and he has no legal standing to cancel her lease with you.

good luck

What I get from this is that although she said her dad wanted to see the apartment, you had no legal (or otherwise) obligation to show it to him. 

Perhaps in the future, we all will simply tell tenants who ask: "if your dad wants to see the unit, he can see it after you have have the keys. I can not entertain family members who are not a party to the lease. thank you."

You got yourself into this by being nice, and sometimes people that will take advantage of that. They assume because you are nice, you can be pushed around, or abused, or minimized. the lesson is to continue to be nice, but focus the nice, focus your efforts on those you have a contract with, and let the tenants and their families figure out their own issues.

Actually, the father never contacted me and never saw the duplex inside. We have an artist community here, that includes 6 duplexes and the whole block is fenced, with a gate. 

During the day the gate is open, so, he may have driven in or he may have just driven around the neighborhood. Granted, there are a lot of vacant and boarded up homes in the neighborhood, but we have our own little 'island' that is just for creatives. We've created our own comps and rents (higher than market in the neighborhood) and we're getting very different tenants than are normal around here. 

Sent her and her boyfriend an email early this morning, asking when they were planning to come by for the keys. No response.

The deposit is a deposit not rent.

Call, email, send a letter to confirm the apartment is ready, and need to know their intentions of when they will be moving in.

If you can get in contact and they say they are not moving in then you can discuss a lease break fee.

Otherwise let them know you will follow the state law in regards to the terms of the lease and will post late rent notices, Pay or Quits, and file for eviction if they do not honor the terms of the lease or agree to pay a lease buy out.

What's the standard of a 'lease buy out'? Their attorney just called me and started off that she sees several things in the lease that make it invalid and that the properties here are uninhabitable (she's in Kentucky and goes by the word of the father). I hung up. I simply can't talk when I get mad. I'm very proud of what we've created here and the present tenants are very happy and this tenant was very excited to move in.

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I wrote the 'tenant' that I don't want any more phone calls and any communication in the future has to be in writing. I don't even know who's attorney this is - the father's? I have not heard anything from the tenant. And the words the attorney used were definitely the father's. I will always push back when someone's trying to bully me. The lease is not invalid and the property is not uninhabitable (he was never inside). 

I have dealt with many tenant lawyer situations and in the vast majority of cases the lawyer is simply attempting to intimidate you into capitulating. I ignore all contact from the lawyer or give them my lawyers contact information. None have ever perused the case when they realise they can not intimidate me.  They know financially it is not worth the fight.

This sort of situation is common. You need to make a business. This will not necessarily be easy in your case based on how I believe you operate. Are you up to calling their bluff or not.

You must stay calm and make them look like the bad guy.  Use a dictation recorder and record the phone conversations.  Once they know you are recording the conversation they shape up and stop harassing you.  Disclose you are recording the conversation.  I had to do this for a divorce.  Saved my butt in court when the judge heard the recordings.

I'd move on, return the deposit and find someone else. 

Principle of the matter is great until you are evicting someone.   This is starting off wrong so I would exit the situation quickly.   Remember you a running a business. 

@Michaela G. I'm going to guess that your properties have to undergo an occupancy inspection from the city, so what constitutes habitable and safe is set by the city. If you have that done then the rest is, as others have said, idle threats. A property is not uninhabitable because of a boarded up property next door or on the next block -- that's just BS. Another question: If the father's lawyer is located in Kentucky are they even licensed to work in Georgia? Do they have any experience in real estate/leasing? Being a lawyer doesn't give you some magical purview of every legal field so I question their ability to discuss the legality of it in the first place.

In regards to the tenants: If they've paid a deposit but haven't responded to your requests to transfer keys and pay first month's rent, then you haven't transferred possession of the property yet. You may call them/send a message stating that if they don't reach you in X number of days you'll assume they've found another place to live, then ask for a forwarding address to return their deposit. After that period start showing again.

I'd also suggest that requesting all their communication with you to be in writing is unnecessary unless they're personally using the lawyer to interact with you. Treat them normally as going into defensive mode with them (again, unless they're actually using/referencing the lawyer) puts strain on your relationship. If they had considered moving in despite the fatherly interference restricting your communication options with them makes the place less attractive.

Part of the problem here is the whole legal aspect of it. Someone mentions a lawyer and everything becomes murky because you start questioning if you're missing a few toes or an entire foot to stand on legally. If you use standard contracts/have your lease reviewed by a local RE lawyer and you understand your state and city's RE laws, then you know your exact legal position. Then, when people start using the L word, you'll understand it for what it is (a joke) and offer them the appropriate chuckle. 

Our standard lease buy out fee was 2 months rent and security deposit returned as per condition of unit.

Obviously they didn't disturb anything in the unit yet, as they didn't move in so I would tell them send me 1 more months rent, sign this document per lease buy out agreement the fee is $$$  my money order or cashiers check, and get it back to me by .... or you'll file when appropriate for unpaid rent.

I'd try this first before getting a attorney involved.

OR just fold send the deposit back and start over.

Legally, you conduct the move in with this couple.  

Any suggestion about the wording of a 'lease buy out agreement'? I have never seen one and haven't been able to find any form online.

Buy-out fees for residential are illegal in my state.  One complex paid a big fine.  We have a duty to mitigate damages, which means that if I can find a tenant for the 15th of the month, I only charge them for half a month and return the other half.  Your state laws might be different.

Regardless, move on to the next renter and charge the deposit for the vacant period.  You'll never get another cent more than the deposit from them.

I did this when I was 22.  Paid a deposit and then when my parents saw the complex they freaked out and found me a better place.  Nothing to do with race, just bummy white people were hanging around.  Now that I'm a parent, I understand being protective.   I never expected the deposit back, but now I know they should have refunded part of it if they found a new tenant.

Google ,, Lease termination agreement, Mutual lease termination agreement.

Several to choose from ... Check EZ landlord, you'd have to make sure your state guidelines are followed but we had no problem with this in Minnesota. 

thank you, I'll search with that terminalogy

I would say that this couple is already too much trouble for you. 
When there is a controlling parent interfering with the relatioship it is more likely to go sour. This couple has a higher chance of break up so they won't stay long in your unit.
They are not responding because the girl is afraid of her father and not able to make a decision for herself. 
Let them go and call those other people who were interested in this unit. 

Michaela...If this helps....

I once had two young female applicants (ADULTS by the way) sign a lease for one of my houses.   Things were going smoothly until the mother of one of the young women showed up and claimed that her daughter was NOT going to live in that neighborhood.  The other young woman became upset (as she could not afford the rent on her own).  Unbelievably, the mother called this tenant the "b" word at which point I said "HOLD IT!" and I sat everyone down and explained how things were going to go (at that time I did not have a buy out clause in my lease).   It was difficult for me to get started at first as I was so angry at the mother I wanted to reach over and slap her teeth right out of her head for what she called the young woman.

I said a lease is a legal contract, however, if the first young woman did not wish to move in she needed to begin the job of finding a suitable replacement for herself.   The replacement would need to meet not only my credit/income requirements but would need to meet with the other young woman who would have to agree that she would be comfortable living with that person.  Until then both tenants would be equally responsible for the rent and failure to pay would result in a court order for an eviction.

I'll be darned if that first tenant did not put forth the effort to find a replacement for herself but continued to pay her share of the rent for the entire year.  On the other hand, her father was a veteran and she was taking advantage of his post 911 GI bill so the money she was receiving for going to school was not money that she personally earned.

Michaela, in your case I'm betting this claim that this lawyer from Kentucky is spewing that there are several things in your lease that make it "invalid" is, as has been pointed out,  simply an attempt to intimidate you into capitulating.  This is what attorneys frequently do.  It's likely this person is no more familiar with the landlord/tenant statutes in Georgia that you would be for those in Kentucky.

At any rate, this attorney is representing your tenants father.  He is not on the lease and plays no role in any of this.

And as an aside, buy out leases are legal in Georgia.  In addition, if they are in the lease that a tenant signs and the tenant chooses this option of say, paying two months worth of rent and the landlord finds another tenant the day after the first tenant moves out, they may still keep these two months worth of rent:

Can a Tenant Move Before the End of the Lease Term?

The answer to this question will be found in the lease. A tenant's ability to get out of the lease depends on the language of the lease and the willingness of the landlord to allow the termination. There may be a provision in your lease which allows the tenant to end the lease prior to its expiration. If so, the tenant will need to follow the terms of that lease provision.

Some leases allow tenants to terminate the lease early but require that tenants to give advanced notice and impose financial penalties for the early termination. If the lease does not allow for early termination, a tenant can be held responsible for payment of all rent remaining under the lease. The landlord is required to mitigate any damages by re-renting the premises. If the landlord does re-rent the property after the tenant moves out, any rent collected must be deducted from the amount the tenant owes. For example, if a tenant terminates a twelve month lease after six months, the tenant can be held responsible for the six months rent remaining under the lease. If the landlord rents the unit to someone else after four months, the tenant is only responsible for the four months rent while the unit was vacant.

However, if the lease has an early termination penalty provision, the tenant will have to pay the designated penalty even if the unit was immediately re-rented or if it was vacant for six months. Where the lease identifies an amount that must be paid if the lease is terminated before it expires, a tenant can be charged that amount. If the parties to a contract, such as a lease, agree what the damages for early termination shall be, the damages are said to be "liquidated." Both parties are bound by the liquidated damage provision in the lease. If the early termination penalty is unreasonable, the tenant should consider contacting an attorney.

Some landlords may release a tenant from the lease if an acceptable person is found to take over the lease. 


Gail

@Michaela G.   My first thought when reading your post was "is Daddy contributing to his daughter's existence?  If the daughter is self-supporting, then she needs to tell Daddy to butt out, live his life and let her live hers!"  Hope this works out for you.

Why in the world would you continue going forward with this tenant when this is what happens at the beginning? Get rid of them, let them go, whatever, find somebody new. This person is ALWAYS going to be trouble. Daddy is always going to play the lawyer game every time anything comes up. As soon as any tenant says anything to me about "their lawyer", it's time for them to go. Just booted one for similar behavior, got a demand letter from a lawyer which I wrote "return to sender" and put it back in the mail box.

Also, you say you were turning tenants away...now you are afraid you can't find another one? Something smells fishy here. If it was so popular yesterday then you should have no issue finding somebody else.

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