Tenant abruptly moved out. Am I being Scammed?

14 Replies

Hello everyone,

I recently had a peculiar transaction with a tenant.  One of my units became vacant and I advertised it and found a new tenant.  This tenant had a 700+ credit score, no criminal background, and had everything in order regarding payments.

I collected the deposit and pro-rated 1st months rent and he moved in on the 20th.  I emailed him on the 21st to make sure he got settled in ok.  Yesterday (26th), he responded to me and told me that the apartment was nice, but that he didn't want to live in town after all.  He stated that he lived their for a week, locked the doors on his way out and left the keys on the counter.  He added that he would continue paying until I was able to get a new tenant to occupy the space.  (After all he did sign a 1 year lease and this policy was made clear prior to move-in.)

I'm scratching my head, this situation seems very odd.  Can anyone think of a way this tenant is trying to get one over on me?  Has this happened to anyone else?

Thank you,

Chris

Have you verified that the tenant has left? I would go over to the unit and look to see that it is indeed vacant. If you can get him on the phone also you may be able to find out what his situation is and that will give you a chance to feel him out and see if you think he's being genuine. 

Depending on the state laws I would think that if he turned over possession you can get another tenant in their and have the old tenant sign a lease addendum stating that he no longer lives there. But, without knowing your state specific laws I can't be certain. I would think an empty unit with keys turned in and an email from him stating he moved out should be enough to hold up in court if he tried to come after you, however I'm not an attorney so I can't say for sure. Hope this helps!

@Christopher Price This is a head scratcher, who knows why they moved out. I always tell people that they do not have any stories until they have had tenants. Tenants give you the best stories. All landlords could write a book on the stuff we put up with from tenants. 

In order to cut down the "stories", I use a tenant placement firm that does all the background checks and income checks and interviews before the lease starts. This is all they do and it helps me avoid "stories" of late. Best of luck to you! 

Very strange... As others have stated make sure you have at minimum an e-mail from him stating that he decided to move out and has left keys in the apartment so you are covered.....

If possible get him to sign a document stating that he has moved out and returned possession of the unit to you and is subject to any penalties and fees as per the lease for breaking the lease.

Please keep us updated as I'd like to hear what transpires

thx,

Chris 

Perhaps they are subletting or renting by the room? But then again I'm not sure why he would be so upfront about having moved out if he was planning on doing that.

you could very well be the luckiest landlord ever. Have a tenant paying for your place, while not causing wear and tear? good deal haha

I've been advised by my attorney (thslawfirm.com, relevant since you're in CO) that leaving the keys constitutes legal handover.  Accept he left and get it re-rented ASAP.

NEVER pro-rate the first months rent.  ALWAYS collect one full month plus the full security deposit at lease signing.  Pro-rate the second month.  So, in your case, collect a full month and deposit on 10/20, then a third of a months rent on 11/1.

I personally have never experienced this situation, but did live in a rental at one point (duplex).  An engineer moved into the other side and lived in the unit for 2-3 months and then moved out due to having to be closer to their family (elderly parents).  I spoke to the landlord and he stated the same situation as you are having.  The guy paid the rent until the next tenant was put in place.  Hopefully you can fill the unit and get them out of the situation they put themselves in.  Not sure of your price point, but if they were vetted by you, then you know they can afford the payment.

I would treat them like how I would want to be treated.  Inspect the unit and make sure nothing is missing or damaged and find another renter at your earliest convenience.  Return the security deposit when you are able if nothing is wrong and rent has been on time. 

I would think it depends on the signed lease.  Do you have a signed lease with this tenant?  In that case, even though he's handed the keys, he's still on the hook to pay rent, and since he said he will continue paying, try and find a replacement tenant ASAP just in case he doesn't.  And if he does...great; he's doing what he's supposed to under the lease, even though he never took possession.

If he's paying by check/money order they could be fake, I doubt it, but if you looking at possible scam it'd work.

I have had this happen to me before (varying lengths of time stayed).  Sometimes it just happens, there are lots of reasons for it which are unimportant.  However, if he left the keys, you're good.  You still need to change the locks just in case.  Get it re-rented.

Now, I've never had anyone tell me they would pay until I found a new tenant but I'd certainly take him up on it while not expecting it to actually happen.  Sometimes, the easy way is just easier.  Hold his deposit as you can turn that into income as a violation of the lease if you let him know that you're doing that by letter.  I'd say do this:  Tell him that you'll take him up on his offer and you'll hold his deposit until you know what the final tally will be and you can let him know if the deposit doesn't cover what he owes, he'll owe the difference (I'd cap it at 2 months total rent.  Any more and no judge would uphold that claim).  You may never get more than the deposit but it's better than nothing. I think you'll find that trying to go after him for more if he doesn't pay isn't worth your time and energy.

In my case, all my leases have a 2-month penalty for breaking them.  I send a letter saying you owe 2 months rent.  I let them know their deposit can apply toward that if they'd wish (if I don't have to use it for anything beyond normal wear and tear).  I then let them know what's owed after that.  After a month, I turn it over to the collection agency. They will take a % of course, but it's not worth my time to be the collector for that.  All I spend is maybe an hour and if the collection agency gets it, great, if not, ok too.

Now, I have a lot of units so if I didn't use that process, I'd waste too much time with very little return (I may collect 1 of 5 if I'm lucky).

Now the caveat is to check all your local laws around deposits and such to make sure what I said is allowed, but it is where I invest.

sound like he went back to his wife 😂😂 u didn't have to evict and he's following thru with his terms of the lease just find a new tenant 

I been doing rentals for nearly 40 years, and I had a few strange ones.

One turned out to be a police officer, who wanted a 1BR for himself. Nothing wrong with that. I had a rent box in the hallway, and I told tenants to drop the monthly checks in there. The first month, he dropped an envelope, all cash, different denominations, totaling $800.00 in the box. My box had a slit, but the fat envelope was sticking out, so I told him in the future, pay me by check. But he insisted that he had a side job which pays him in cash, so I have to make arrangements for him to call me the day he drops the rent in.

The strange thing was, about a month or so after that, 2 months later, he's making noises about not needing the apartment. I knew he lived with his mom prior, still goes there for home cooked meals, and even sleep there. So why this need to rent my apartment? Then he stayed.

So two years went by, he advised me he's moving. Where? Home to mom he says. OK, so I'm scratching my head figuring what's going on.

Back thing, I have an elderly neighbor who sweeps my sidewalk, take care of garbage cans, change light bulbs. But this guy is nosy and did a little digging.

Turns out this cop never lived, or slept, there at all. He and a group of corrupt cops were using the apartment to meet, and split payoffs, that they got in cash, and plan crimes. They play cards there.  That's where my rent money came from. The reason why he's leaving is he was caught and arrested. 

Funny thing is, he called 2 months after he left and asked if he can come back. I was surprised, a little lazy, haven't rented the place, and said "why not"? He stayed another year and then left, apparently convicted of what he did.

Originally, the bad signs were he made two appointments to see the place, never showed up. Showed up on the 3rd appointment and took the place.

The final insult was when he moved out, removed my carpet and took it. My wife did a walk through saw him taking the carpet out, yelled at him, and he took it back in. Apparently after the walk through, snuck back in, and stole it again. We didn't get around to changing the locks, and he had an extra key.

Still give me the creeps thinking about it. But you live and learn.

UPDATE: 

Hey everyone, I appreciate the advise.  I was very concerned with the behavior, but so far everything is playing out well.  When I went into the unit I was prepared for the worst.  I thought my brand new appliances were sure to be gone at a minimum, something the deposit would not have fully covered.  Fortunately this was not the case!

The tenant has continued to pay his rent and has been in close contact with me.  He was from a different state and wanted to move to live in the mountains.  He got to the town and just didn't like it, he knows he must continue to pay until we find a new tenant and has been very tenable about it.

Thanks again for everyone's help and advise!  Jon Holdman- You better believe in the future I will collect the entire first months rent!  Lesson well learned (and luckily learned without harsh consequences.

Originally posted by @Frank Chin :

The final insult was when he moved out, removed my carpet and took it. My wife did a walk through saw him taking the carpet out, yelled at him, and he took it back in. Apparently after the walk through, snuck back in, and stole it again. We didn't get around to changing the locks, and he had an extra key.

 Maybe I've seen Goodfellas too many times, but my imagination runs wild when it comes to what was on that carpet that needed disposing of. Great story!!

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