Tenant in jail after closing

17 Replies

Hello BiggerPockets friends!

I closed on my first rental property about a week ago, it’s a duplex with both side occupied.

Few days after close I was made aware one of the tenants had been locked up in jail (6 felonies and many counts of domestic violence). I have no way of getting a hold of him and the rent has not been paid. I’ve served the eviction notice about 3 days ago.

I called the police that worked on the case and he refused to give me information.

I’ve spoken with his girlfriend (victim) and I can only go off of what she tells me, below is the info I have so far from her..

He’s been charged with 6 felonies, but at the preliminary the court was adjourned due to mental illness ( to me I feel this is a common strategy to push back the trail). He is now in a mental institute for 60 days to determine if he is mentally well enough to stand in trail.

Tenants girlfriend is now in domestic violence shelter and no longer wishes to go back to the property after she gets her things out. Her name was also never on the lease.

In the mean time.. what do I do? It has been a series of unfortunate events ever since I closed the property. Please help.

Questions-

-how do you evict someone when they are in jail/ mental institute ?

-How can I find out where he is and contact him? His lawyer? And what steps should I take when I can get in contact?

-Will the eviction be easier in this case or is it better to have him/his lawyer sign to release him from the current lease?( 10 months left)

- was the seller responsible for telling me the tenant was in jail and cannot pay rent? If so what legal actions can I take?

Thank you all for taking the time to read this, I know there are legal questions involved, but if anyone has had experience dealing with this, please share your thoughts and experience.

It would help if you would give the location of your property.  Different levels of difficulty for eviction in varying locales.  I am not aware of any disclosures a seller must give on existing tenants here in Texas.  Also in Texas, the eviction process is fairly straightforward but I don't know where your property is located.

NEVER trust the seller is telling the truth unless you look him in the eye. There is something called a tenant estoppel certificate. It is filled out by the tenant to tell the buyer that they are current, have not paid anything extra, they have security deposit and how much, etc so that you will know directly from the tenant as well as from the owner and there is no confusion 6 months later when they move out and they say they had $3,000 in deposit and the owner said they had $300. If your agent can not get those signed by the tenant, consider that there is no tenant in the unit and price it accordingly.

So what can you do?? I have an attorney speaking at our local meeting next who does evictions. BUT no one knows where you live because you have not filled out your profile. Evictions vary from state to state. What I would do in Texas is very different than what can be done in Florida or California. I guess I cant give you any advice on this point.

Originally posted by @David Niu :

-How can I find out where he is and contact him? His lawyer? And what steps should I take when I can get in contact?

I agree with the other posters - you probably need to talk to a local attorney who specializes in evictions and landlord-tenant law.

In a lot of places, the court records are online.  Sometimes they are free to search, but sometimes you have to pay.  If they are free to search, it might be useful to try to find your tenant's case in the records.  It may list the name of his lawyer.  You can for sure get the case number, which will be helpful when talking to your attorney.

You have to figure out which court it is (city, county, district) to find the right site to search, and then figure out which box his name goes in - some sites have a "search for this name in any case" function, but some require you to know if he's the defendant or plaintiff.  If he's been in court before, you have to make sure you have the current case.

If you have to pay to search the records - see how much you can get for free.  Sometimes it will at least give you the case number, which you should then give to your attorney.  If you can't get anything for free, don't worry about it - let your attorney do the research.  He or she will already have a subscription to all the local court records anyway.

@David Niu

Skip the eviction...this guy is a goner...go in the unit with the ex girlfriend...have her pack up her stuff and hire a guy to box up and move all of his stuff. Fix unit up and rent out again asap. Put his stuff in a $29 a month 8x8 storage unit for 3 months...if you dont hear anything just donate his stuff in a few months.

Don't waste $1 on an eviction and don't lose any sleep over it.

@David Niu You are not getting any rent from this guy at this point, I think you know that. The seller doesn't have any responsbility to you. Are you local to the property you purchased? Did you do a final wlakthrough and notice anything fishy?

Your focus should be on getting the woman out safely so she can move on and contacting a local attorney to see what the best way to proceed is. I wouldn't contact the tenant or the tenants lawyer without being advised by your own counsel first. 

@Michael Noto

@Matt R.

@Rick Pozos

@Mark Fries

@Scott Mac

Thank you all for your posts and sharing your thoughts. I contacted a RE attorney today and his rate was 1000 plus court fees to get him out of my hair. I will keep calling around for better rates.

Is there a way to get by this without eviction? I did think about the storage unit idea mentioned above but according to the attorney I’m not allowed to move his personal property unless the court ordered eviction and I’m there with an court officer.

Also, I found out his lawyers name. But I can’t seem to find any contact info on him, everything comes up in google is a case of the lawyer arrested for hitting a cop. Go figure.

If I do go the eviction route it will mainly eat up the 1400 in security deposit and I’m left with barely any money to clean up the unit.

Even if I’m able to contact him, since he is in a mental institution will he even be mentally stable enough to sign quit on the lease?

Just think.. Once this is handled, you'll have one of those funny stories that only a landlord can tell 😀

I probably would talk to my lawyer though - he may have a right to try and fight an eviction from jail. 

If so, he might be really willing to take a small amount of money to give the place up, given that he probably has legal bills to pay. 

Originally posted by @Mark Fries:

@David Niu

Skip the eviction...this guy is a goner...go in the unit with the ex girlfriend...have her pack up her stuff and hire a guy to box up and move all of his stuff. Fix unit up and rent out again asap. Put his stuff in a $29 a month 8x8 storage unit for 3 months...if you dont hear anything just donate his stuff in a few months.

Don't waste $1 on an eviction and don't lose any sleep over it.


 

Don't follow this advice. While the odds of this person coming back and causing trouble are slim, he can come back and claim you illegally evicted him. That's not the side of the law I wanna be on.

The fact that he is in jail, does not delay eviction process. You can still hire an attorney and follow through.
Now my suggestion would be to get contact first. Let him know that since rent is not paid, you can hire an attorney, and evict him. If he cannot pay rent while he is in jail, it is in his best interest to work with you. In that situation, get him to sign a statement that agrees to end the lease, and gives you permission to move everything into a storage unit (that you will pay for from security deposit). Then take a detailed video when you go in to clean it out and change the locks, just in case he claims theft.

The rent is past-due and the tenants have abandoned the property, right?  It's not a tough gig for landlords in Michigan, according to your state law.  And, here's a detailed description of what should be done by a PM located in Michigan.  It would be the same course here in Florida - and it is implemented on a regular basis.

http://www.royalroseproperties.com/property-owner-blog/maintenance-property-owner-blog/abandoned-when-the-tenant-is-justgone/

It's not what happens upfront that's an issue (just follow the steps fully), it's that when it's all said and done, the "tenant" is most likely entitled to legal aid who will then challenge everything you did.  So document the heck out of everything and send notice to the last known address (his attorney's office would probably be the best/logical place).

Good luck...sounds like this guy will be tied up for some time and you don't need to be held hostage by him.

Originally posted by @David Niu :

Hello BiggerPockets friends!

I closed on my first rental property about a week ago, it’s a duplex with both side occupied.

Few days after close I was made aware one of the tenants had been locked up in jail (6 felonies and many counts of domestic violence). I have no way of getting a hold of him and the rent has not been paid. I’ve served the eviction notice about 3 days ago.

I called the police that worked on the case and he refused to give me information.

I’ve spoken with his girlfriend (victim) and I can only go off of what she tells me, below is the info I have so far from her..

He’s been charged with 6 felonies, but at the preliminary the court was adjourned due to mental illness ( to me I feel this is a common strategy to push back the trail). He is now in a mental institute for 60 days to determine if he is mentally well enough to stand in trail.

Tenants girlfriend is now in domestic violence shelter and no longer wishes to go back to the property after she gets her things out. Her name was also never on the lease.

In the mean time.. what do I do? It has been a series of unfortunate events ever since I closed the property. Please help.

Questions-

-how do you evict someone when they are in jail/ mental institute ?

-How can I find out where he is and contact him? His lawyer? And what steps should I take when I can get in contact?

-Will the eviction be easier in this case or is it better to have him/his lawyer sign to release him from the current lease?( 10 months left)

- was the seller responsible for telling me the tenant was in jail and cannot pay rent? If so what legal actions can I take?

Thank you all for taking the time to read this, I know there are legal questions involved, but if anyone has had experience dealing with this, please share your thoughts and experience.

The fact that the tenant is in jail is more or less irrelevant. Focus on the meat and potatoes. You need to finish up the eviction process. When you get your court date the tenant will miss it if he's still in jail. If he gets out on bond maybe he goes. Either way he didn't pay rent so assuming you've properly filed the eviction you'll win and then you'll get possession back and move onto the next one.

 

Rather than worrying about storage, have him give written permission for someone to come and move his stuff out.  Make sure you have it in writing and confirm that the person who comes is the right person (simply ask for photo id).

Get yourself an attorney. Different states have different laws. Be aware that in many of them, there are laws specific to domestic violence and how you deal with the victim. The attorney should also be able to advise you on how to retake possession of the unit and how to deal with the tenant's possessions. In some places, doing this wrong could mean a lawsuit so make sure you understand what you can do. Inherited tenants can be a pain.