My tenant moved in last October and paid the year in advance. Her husband recently passed away and her house was paid in full, so she was able to pay using the money from the sale of her house. I've always had issues with tenants paying rent late, so i decided to take risk.
However, I've been receiving sewer bills for the past two months that are overdue. She hasn't paid a single one since she moved in, which leads me to believe she may not be paying others either. I'm going to call the utility companies and see if/how late she is.
My question is, if she doesn't agree to take care of the balances in full, should i start the eviction process?
I'm also worried that if I do start eviction she will try and get back at me (i.e. destroy the property). I am going to research laws in Missouri, but does anyone know how I would go about refunding the already paid rent if she does leave? Or if I am legally obligated to refund all of it before I assess any damages.
No judgements please. She put on a very good show regarding her personality and type of person that she was and I have paid the price for that financially and mentally enough already.
Thanks in advance
Is the property in Missouri? Do you have a written lease agreement? I would write her a nice letter enclosing copies of the unpaid invoices explaining that she needs to remit payment within 10 days or you will be forced to take action.
Of course, what action you can take depends on the circumstances and the terms of the lease.
I hope this helps. This is not legal advise, but rather my general opinion.
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The utilities are all in her name. The lease states that she is responsible for all of them. I'm specifically worried about the water and sewer, which are connected to the house, and which those companies have already threatened a lien on the property for past tenants who also never paid.
What has your tenant said about this? Have you spoken to her?
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I haven't spoken to her yet. I guess I was waiting to see if she would pay it before I had to, but this is the 3rd bill I have recieved with a past due balance.
Thanks, Alex. I was thinking of maybe amending the lease if she refuses to pay and giving her the option of paying me every month. Then starting the eviction process if it still goes unpaid. The only positive is that this tenant has a huge deposit, whereas the other tenants didn't, so I could use it towards the balance if she does leave.
@Carrie Nevins you are making the common mistake of failing to communicate with your tenant.
This could be a very simple solution. Your tenant went through the trouble of setting up her own utility accounts. Why would she do that knowing she wasn't going to pay them? Call and speak to her. I bet dollars to donuts she'll take care of it. I don't know many elderly people that pay some utilities but refuse to pay others but I do know a lot of elderly people that make innocent mistakes.
If she is just nasty and refuses to pay, let it go. The utility is in her name and she is 100% responsible. If she fails to pay, they will shut off the water and she'll either get with the program or move on.
The utility company has an agreement with her so they have to recover losses from her. There should be no risk of a lien on your home.
Not sure if it is available in your area but here we have a landlords policy with our electric company. Fortunately our tenants have been paying but if they were to stop paying we would be notified which would prevent many months going by without us being aware of a problem. This is a free service.
Since you are the owner I would contact each utility company and sign up for it if they have such a policy. If not at least call to find out the balance and then call the tenant and advise her that you have been informed that she is behind and remind her that it is part of her lease for her to pay all utilities. Then pause and see what she says. If she gets nasty then you know you have a problem and will need to start a court process. She may just say she is sorry and offer an excuse and will make it current. If so keep checking monthly eight he utilities to make sure she keeps up with it.
Sending a letter to her reminding her of her lease obligations and the overdue bills is an option too if you don’t want to call her. But I think calling her first is the best option.
@Carrie Nevins there has been some slight misinformation on here, in that there is no risk of a lien. In Missouri, at least in St. Louis, sewer is not a utility bill that "shuts off." In St. Louis, MSD would put a lien on the property at a certain point.
When I managed over 144 properties throughout the area, the biggest thorn was the sewer bill. Mainly because tenants really did have major issues with actually receiving the bill. I'm not sure if I understood your post correctly, if she moved in last October, or recently, but it was not uncommon for there to be a hiccup in getting the sewer bill in the tenant's name in the first 1-3 months. Once they did, it was not an issue.
This is so bothersome, that I know many landlords that simply keep sewer in their name. It's typically a very low monthly bill. Going forward, you may want to do so, and just absorb it into what you market for rent when you have your next vacancy.
In the meantime, no one can really answer exactly, as @John Spurlock pointed out exactly - we do not know what is in your lease. We always had it in ours that tenants had to keep utilities on. Why? Health, safety, and for the home. Heats not on, pipes freeze. Heats not on, tenants turn on all 4 burners on the stove top and the stove. Ask me how I know :/
I'd highly recommend reaching out to the tenant and having a conversation.
If you cannot get answers about utilities from the providers, schedule a walk-through, with property notice and per your lease, to confirm what is on or not.
Beyond that, check your lease, and either speak with your attorney, or seek counsel. You may be able to pay the utility, and charge the tenant. Then, due to non-payment, evict. If that is the route you choose.
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