When is a tenant no longer a tenant?

4 Replies

I am a landlord of a condominium unit in Washington State, and the CC&Rs say, "Landlord is responsible for tenant damage to common areas and to limited common areas". A tenant of mine has snapped. She is being held on an involuntary civil basis in a mental institution. if released, I have reason to believe she will return to burn the condominium building down. The administrative staff told me, "We can't keep her forever."

I have filed for eviction. Let's say the judge finds in my favor and issues an eviction order and a writ of restitution. Does this deranged individual stop, at the moment of that court order, from being my tenant in the eyes of the law? Or, must the physical eviction actually take place, in order for her not to be a tenant?
If she does attempt to burn the building down, AFTER the eviction order occurs, but BEFORE physical eviction, is she considered a "tenant"? Am I then liable to the HOA for all the fire damage caused by her in that time frame to "common areas and limited common areas", consistent with the CC&Rs? P.S. This tenant is not in physical possession of the property, nor will she be if released, because the unit is red-tagged as uninhabitable by the fire department, on account of the damage she already did.

Contact your attorney. Due to the extreme nature of the danger to others, it may be possible for you to get an expedited eviction so you can remove her property now to storage, so she does not EVER come back to your property, I would be taking photos, and getting copies of police and fire marshal reports to give to my attorney. You may also want to obtain statements from the neighbors and/or HOA representatives as to the danger.

Alternatively, if she is calm, you may be able to get her sign a release to terminate the tenancy and move her belongings into storage.  Check with the social worker at the mental health unit where she was sent. This would be her best option.  She will avoid an eviction on her record, not incur further costs, and might prompt her to stay in the hospital longer.

We recently amended our emergency contact form to include a section of the form where the tenant gives permission to a person they name to remove their belongings from the apartment "in the event of their unanticipated prolonged absence from the apartment".  Our concern was that our elderly tenants would die without a will. but that would work in this instance also.

Do you get emergency contacts for your tenants?  If so, they or her family may be able to remove her possessions.

@Bettina F.   Thanks, I have never previously required emergency contact information of tenants. Good idea.

 My attorney says, "For Washington State leases, only murder by a tenant expedites an eviction." He said to file a 10-day lease violation comply or vacate notice and we did so. We served a 10-day notice on the premises and in the mail. She is institutionalized for the time being so it's unlikely she saw the notice. The notice period expired without her complying. Thus, her lease terminated. The eviction lawsuit is already filed ( since her stuff is still there).

My question is whether she's considered a tenant anymore, for liability purposes under the HOA CC&Rs. Her lease is terminated. She is not in physical possession. Her stuff is inside the unit. Her car is in the carport. No one, her included, may enter the building, let alone occupy it, because it is red-tagged. The police advised us to change the locks, and we did so. Am I not now in legal possession at this point and she no longer my tenant?

@Leighton Adams Is there a reason you don't trust your attorney? No one here knows or even can know the answer and I don't think anyone here will stand with you and defend you in court if you do things incorrectly. Be smart, ask your attorney or get one you trust.