tenant refuses prorated rent, hasn't changed utilities - chicago

13 Replies

Hi,

I have a tenant that moved in on August 16th; before she moved in I sent her a text telling her I would prorate the rent in September and that she had to pay a security deposit + one full month's rent to move in. The lease she signed stated that rent was due on the first of each month and penalties for non-payment began on the 5th.  

Two days ago I texted her the amount that she would need to pay September 1 is XX dollars and she balked, telling me she didn't know what prorating was and had expected to pay each months full rent on the 16th of each month, which she had "always done before". I pointed out to her that I had not only texted her about the prorated rent, but I had discussed it at lease signing and the lease said rent was due on the first of each month. She said she didn't have all the pages of the lease; that i only sent her the first page (with our signatures, the rent amount, lease dates, apartment inhabitants, some other info) however she did sign page 1 and initialed pages 1 and 2 (but not 3). The only page that required a signature was the first one.

She further stated that since I texted "pay prorated rent in September" without a specific date in September attached she was within her rights to pay on the 16th. I spoke with an attorney who asked if I really wanted to go to the mattresses over a half month's rent, and that eviction was messy, just let it slide. I should mention here that I live in the 3 flat where she also lives, so most of the rules about RLTO don't apply to me (only buildings of 6 units or larger apply)

From the RLTO

(a) Dwelling units in owner-occupied buildings containing six units or less; provided, however, that the provisions of Section 5-12-160 shall apply to every rented dwelling unit in such buildings within the City of Chicago

5-12-160 says no lockouts, threats of lockouts, seizures of property, etc. 

Then, earlier today I noticed she left the lights on all day (again) and got an inkling to call the utility companies and lo and behold, she hadn't changed the electricity over to her name. I had to remind her about the gas on the 22nd. I am a newbie and it looks like one slipped through on me, but i do have a security deposit from her and I know it is tougher to evict someone during the winter, so I am considering my options. She seems to be trying to get away with as much as she can, and with all this just two weeks in I have a hunch this will get messier.

I had intended to accommodate her wish to pay on the 16th, but now with the utility thing I think she is trying to game me. Thoughts? Sorry for the long post

Hi Jay,

So if you want to boot her over "not knowing what prorating means" you probably could try.

You could also offer to spread the prorate over 6 months added to the rent, and see if that option works.

Or you could eat it and keep her paying monthly.

(Some people do not know what that means, it might be best to lay out how it works before allowing them to agree to it.)

Good Luck!

@Jay Garrison Yeah.. You've made a couple newb mistakes but you'll learn from this. You came to the right place.

Tenants are just like a cross section of the rest of society. Some of them are responsible adults and will do everything to the letter of the agreement, and some of them will behave like children and test, challenge, and play you every step of the way.

Some of what I say next depends on your market and your tolerance for shenanigans. For those that behave like children, get them out at the first opportunity. No quarter. They will chew up your valuable time. You could be spending that time more effectively. Don't babysit tenants, ever. Just my 2 cents.

You learned a good lesson. I call the gas and electric companies prior to handing over the keys to make certain utilities have been transferred. 

If she wants to pay the rent on the 16th every month, let her. what's the long term harm in that?

The other issues are perhaps indication she's a "professional tenant" so be wary.

Does your contract state utilities need to be changed over? If so, she's in violation. Give her a "cure or quit notice".

Did you do a walk through of the property with her prior to her occupancy? If not, and she has done damage, you'll likely be on the hook for that too.

@Jay Garrison She sounds like she is pretty comfortable fighting her landlord on minor issues, which makes me think it’s not the first time. Did you call her previous landlord(s) and do a thorough background check as part of the application process? The best advice I can give you is to stick to your lease. If your lease says rent is due on the first, and she insists on paying on the 15th, hit her with late fees if that’s in your lease. Some tenants will test you to see how serious you are about enforcing your rules. Tell her there’s nothing to discuss and refer her back to the lease she signed.

For someone not moving in on the first, we require a full month's rent payment at move in (plus deposits, fees, etc) and then we adjust the rent for the second month. We clearly explain this up front and it's worked in every situation.
Regarding utilities, we just went through this with a tenant and it took a few months for it all to get squared away. They indicated they changed them over but hadn't. Next time, I'll require verification. We get smarter as we get older. I'm doing well on the older part but not so much on the smarter...

Originally posted by @Jay Garrison :

Hi,

I have a tenant that moved in on August 16th; before she moved in I sent her a text telling her I would prorate the rent in September and that she had to pay a security deposit + one full month's rent to move in. The lease she signed stated that rent was due on the first of each month and penalties for non-payment began on the 5th.  

Two days ago I texted her the amount that she would need to pay September 1 is XX dollars and she balked, telling me she didn't know what prorating was and had expected to pay each months full rent on the 16th of each month, which she had "always done before". I pointed out to her that I had not only texted her about the prorated rent, but I had discussed it at lease signing and the lease said rent was due on the first of each month. She said she didn't have all the pages of the lease; that i only sent her the first page (with our signatures, the rent amount, lease dates, apartment inhabitants, some other info) however she did sign page 1 and initialed pages 1 and 2 (but not 3). The only page that required a signature was the first one.

She further stated that since I texted "pay prorated rent in September" without a specific date in September attached she was within her rights to pay on the 16th. I spoke with an attorney who asked if I really wanted to go to the mattresses over a half month's rent, and that eviction was messy, just let it slide. I should mention here that I live in the 3 flat where she also lives, so most of the rules about RLTO don't apply to me (only buildings of 6 units or larger apply)

From the RLTO

(a) Dwelling units in owner-occupied buildings containing six units or less; provided, however, that the provisions of Section 5-12-160 shall apply to every rented dwelling unit in such buildings within the City of Chicago

5-12-160 says no lockouts, threats of lockouts, seizures of property, etc. 

Then, earlier today I noticed she left the lights on all day (again) and got an inkling to call the utility companies and lo and behold, she hadn't changed the electricity over to her name. I had to remind her about the gas on the 22nd. I am a newbie and it looks like one slipped through on me, but i do have a security deposit from her and I know it is tougher to evict someone during the winter, so I am considering my options. She seems to be trying to get away with as much as she can, and with all this just two weeks in I have a hunch this will get messier.

I had intended to accommodate her wish to pay on the 16th, but now with the utility thing I think she is trying to game me. Thoughts? Sorry for the long post

It doesn't have to be this complicated. Your lease has a start date, and their rent should be due on that date for a full month period. If they want to move in early, they need to pay the full first month of their lease plus the extra time. If they want to move in late, that's on them, they still owe the full month. Call ComEd and notify them to cut the electric as of that lease start date (can usually be done within an hour or 2), and do the same with people's gas (usually 3-5 days minimum). Nobody gets keys until the 1st full month + deposit/move-in fee is paid and lease is signed.

Why not just run the lease from the 16th through the 15th of each month? The attorney is right, you can try to sue over basically anything, but especially in this case your legal fees will far exceed what you can recover and your chance of having your legal fees paid (and actually collecting) is ziltch.

@Jay Garrison   I agree with the others about running the lease from the 16th-15th of each month.  As for the utilities, tell her she needs to get them in her name immediately and she's responsible for paying them as of the 16th when she moved it.  Easy enough to do if you had them in your name from Aug 1-20th, divide the total by 20 and multiply by the number of days she was there.  You could do a half day for the day she moved in or just let that day go.  I'd be tempted to tell her that if she doesn't know what something means, NOT to sign it.

You learn new things through your experience and my guess is next time, you will phone all of the utilities on move in day to confirm they have been changed over.

Thanks everyone for the replies. We are supposed to meet today to sign off on a "lease amendment" (there is a box on the lease for notes, I typed in the amendment and will have her sign and date it) that moves the rent due date to the 15th. The lease already specifically mentions utilities; if she doesn't pay them they are included in rent. I will mention this to her and I imagine she will put the electricity in her name. As for water, which she also pays, I cannot put it in her name but she will see her monthly usage and should pay that.

Lesson learned about the utilities and making sure that tenants understand what prorate means and they are signed up and all aboard with it. I also didn't do an itemized walk through beforehand, but I will do that with the other unit this week when I start showing it. 

You could still do the walk through on the already rented unit in its current condition. And I would recommend doing that. Have them note every flaw and defect and then you verify and both sign off on it. If it's not listed in the document at move out, it's something the tenants did during their stay.

Originally posted by @John Teachout :

You could still do the walk through on the already rented unit in its current condition. And I would recommend doing that. Have them note every flaw and defect and then you verify and both sign off on it. If it's not listed in the document at move out, it's something the tenants did during their stay.

Good idea, I will do this while handling a minor repair this weekend.

 

@Jay Garrison There are definitely some lessons to be learned here, but certainly don't beat yourself up. It's hard to know what you're getting when you rent out residential property in the Chicago area - I've had several clients that have had to evict tenants for failing to pay rent on time or violating a substantive portion of the lease agreement, but it can be a long road. If you do move forward with an eviction, you'll have to abide by the letter of applicable laws, which include the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure as well as municipal laws within the City of Chicago (or whatever municipality you may be in). It's a tricky process that will almost certainly require a lawyer (especially for a first-timer) and usually takes at least 3 months. 


Long story short, there's a lot of benefit to vetting your tenants with interviews, credit checks, and other research before sending a lease - and even more benefit to only renting out to people who you can work with in a landlord-tenant relationship.