Tenant want to break lease due to “serious medical issues”

35 Replies

Hi All- I am looking for some advice on a tenant issue I encountered this weekend.

A little background first. I own 4 rental properties in a college town and rent to the students who attend the University. I have yet to have any issues with tenants as I like to think I do a pretty good job screening them or getting parent guarantors.

This weekend I had a mother text me saying that she tried to contact me two weeks ago and never heard back from me (I never received any calls/text/emails/or PM from this person). She proceeded to tell me that her daughter will not be living in the house anymore because she had to withdraw from the university due to “serious medical issues”. I said that I understand and am

Sympathetic, however there is a lease in place that her daughter is responsible for. I told the parent that her daughter either needs to find a replacement to take over her lease or she needs to continue to pay for her place in the house during her absence.

The mother was very short with me and more or less told me that I’m not hearing her correctly and the daughter will not be coming back. I do not have a lease with the parent, only the daughter.

What should my next steps be? The tenant is non responsive to calls/texts/emails, and the mother didn’t seem like she was willing to work something out. Just looking for some guidance as I have yet to deal with this type of situation. Thanks!

Is the daughter the sole occupant of the property?  If so, who has the keys?  Tell the mom that your contract is with the daughter and you need to hear from her daughter.  If the daughter gives you permission to deal with the mom, then you can do so.

Once you get notice of her breaking the lease, tell her you will do your best to get it rented and her daughter is responsible for fulfilling the terms of the lease until then.  I'd also check to see if all the belongings have been removed.

@Andrew Marzec I've had similar issues with our college student tenants. When something like this comes up (where one tenant wants out) we let everyone on the lease know that the tenants are "joint and severably liable" for the lease. Reiterating that if we have to file an eviction on one tenant then it will go on all tenants. 

Usually this is enough to get the other tenants to either find a replacement or the tenant to pay out their lease. 

While it's an unfortunate situation, and we'll work with the tenants as much as we can, it's a contract that needs to be upheld. 

Best of luck!

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@Cameron Tope Thank you for your reply. Unfortunately I purchased this house this past June. So I was unable to get 1 group lease of 5 students since groups find their housing for the year ahead in October-November of the previous year. So this house has a group lease with two friends and then three individual leases. She happens to be one of the individual leases. But to your point my other houses all have group leases and they all understand that they are jointly and individually responsible for the entire amount of rent each month. 

In all honesty, you shouldn’t be communicating with someone who’s not on the lease. In our state we post an abandonment notice if they have vacated the property and if the actual tenant has not told you they are out so that you can take possession and then hold them accountable for all of your losses under the letter of whatever lease you used. The lease and property code will outline was constitutes abandonment or surrender. 

Hi @Theresa Harris thank you for your reply. This tenant is 1/5 that live in the house. Her belongings are still in the house according to the other tenants. My contract is solely with the tenant, not the parent. I am going to try and contact the tenant and mother again tomorrow. Just not sure where to go with this if they stop communicating.

@Andrew Marzec  If her belongings are still there, you can use that.  Not to hold them, but to say that her belongings are still in the room and you require proper notice.  hopefully you can get a new tenant after her belongings are removed.  i know where I am we have some students who start in Jan.

@Michael Noto It has been just over a week. The other students in the house told me they were under the impression she was coming back next semester and the mother is making it seem otherwise.  The reason I believe it is the mother is because the phone number is the same as the one the student put down in the beginning of the year on her tenant information form. I always have them fill out a form with their parents name/cell/address, since most of the time the parents are paying The kids rent. I am going to try and have a conversation with the mother this morning after I get permission from the tenant, if that doesn’t go well I will have to proceed under my states laws. 

The tenant is homesick and cant handle school . Deal with the tenant only . Follow the laws of your state and file for non payment of rent 

@Leah Slaughter Legitimate question,how do you guys plan on collecting money from an 18 year old who doesn't have a job. In theory it's a sound idea but in practice how does this actually go? You say their parents are mostly paying rent but don't have them on the lease too?

@Andrew Marzec

Tenants age is irrelevant. If she doesn’t pay rent, you file for eviction and attempt to rent the room ASAP. As always, get everything in writing from the actual tenant.

Originally posted by @Matt P.:

@Leah Slaughter Legitimate question,how do you guys plan on collecting money from an 18 year old who doesn't have a job. In theory it's a sound idea but in practice how does this actually go? You say their parents are mostly paying rent but don't have them on the lease too? 

I doubt there will be any money collected.. for me I just let her out and re rent.. why waste all this time and effort on some one you will never collect from anyway.. I like the group lease that is a good one.. this one just needs to be tidied up and move on.. at least that is what I would do in the same situation.. 

I agree @Jay Hinrichs Trying to get $500 from an 18 year old Will most likely not happen. I have her security and last months rent. I’ll use that for The next two months and try to get a new student in for the upcoming semester ASAP. I would lose more money trying to file for eviction and going through that process.

@Matt P. I do not have the parent on the lease but on the tenant information form I have them fill out they indicated that their parent pays the rent for them. It’s in no way legally binding but it at least shows me I can try to have an adult conversation with them and explain how an eviction will impact their child’s future ability to rent.

You are renting room by room, tenant by tenant AND are renting as a group, in the same unit. You created that mess for yourself my friend. I would plan to make it a group thing after this round of leases expires - nothing to do until then but damage control. Sure, maybe the other tenants will help you find a person or, maybe they will be thrilled to have one less person and still pay the same rent!!! (I might!)

Medical issues are real, though sometimes they are not...but you handle them the same way, and don't even go down the road of thinking (speaking) they are lying about it. If this person is incapacitated, then it is natural their parents would step in to take care of their kids business. I would explain to the mom that you need to deal with the kid (leaseholder), and if they resist (by explaining its impossible), then make an EXCEPTION. I say it this way because it puts the parents in their place, which is a 3rd party working for the interest of their loved one, keeping them from becoming the steam-roller helicopter parent who thinks they are going to swoop in, throw their weight around, and all will be well, as it has and usually works for them, as-if their kid was still 5 years old - lol.

No matter what, the best way to handle this stuff is with calm, courtesy and a solution-based attitude - that will go very far when dealing with anyone/everyone - be sympathetic, but stick to business too.

Good luck!!!

Originally posted by @Leah Slaughter:

Odds are mother won’t want this on the daughter’s credit. Collect against tenant and mom may pay. 

ya you guys with this thought process are ruthless.. I mean let it go.. right .. who cares if they beat U out of 500 bucks.. 

This is why in college towns they get the parents to co-sign.  You won't get $500 from an 18 year old college dropout with no job.  You're gonna spend your money hoping that the mom will pay in case one day her daughter needs good credit for something?  With a mom like that, her daughter will never get anywhere in life, just let it go.  

When I was younger than her, my dad told me "if you ever get arrested, don't waste your one phone call on me, because I won't bail you out, I won't call a lawyer for you, I won't call a bailbondsmen."  That's why I'm rich.  Self reliance!  LOL

Dear Karen,

I have no idea who you are. I have a legally binding contract with (little Suzie). If she would like to contact me to discuss her situation I would be more than happy to have a conversation with her. I will not be discussing my tenants options with anyone except them. 

She has personal belongings in the house. There is no way I would be taking the liability of getting sued later because some helicopter parent decided their daughter should stay home and I threw out some trinket that had huge sentimental value. Now when little Suzie calls I would be very polite and work with her, but she needs to get her stuff out and she needs to get the place cleaned up. It is not a conversation to have with her mother. We are a college town and ALL of the landlords here collect the entire semester up front.