Advise for a non-responsive tenant

10 Replies

I recently purchased a 6 unit apartment building and I was inheriting a tenant who cannot be reached.  He is rarely at the apartment building and does not take phone calls or e-mails.  When I took over the property I mailed him a notice of the ownership change and the new information to send the rent.  I posted the same note on his door.  He has either not seen the note or just doesn't care and he keeps mailing his rent to the previous owner....but he is still paying rent.  I sent him an additional note about this and taped that to his door as well.  Nothing has changed.

I want to be 100% sure he sees the note, but I want to make sure I'm doing it within the law of Ohio.  My first idea was to change the locks with a message to contact me for the key.  I will post a notice to his door and mail him a letter with my intentions to do so 2 weeks beforehand.  I wanted to post here to get other ideas or to see if my plan is the best for this situation.

I appreciate the advise!

I would start by telling the previous Landlord to reject any mailings from your tenant. If he gets something in the mail, have him mark it "RETURN TO SENDER" and send it back. Then give your tenant one final chance:

DEAR TENANT,

I AM YOUR NEW LANDLORD. YOU ARE OBLIGATED TO PAY RENT TO ME, NOT THE FORMER LANDLORD. THE FORMER LANDLORD WILL NOT ACCEPT RENT PAYMENTS ON MY BEHALF SO YOU NEED TO SEND YOUR PAYMENT DIRECTLY TO ME.

IF RENT IS NOT RECEIVED BY ME IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LEASE, I WILL INITIATE EVICTION.

I EXPECT YOU TO CALL, TEXT, OR EMAIL ME WITHIN 72 HOURS ACKNOWLEDGING RECEIPT OF THIS NOTICE. FAILURE TO RESPOND MAY BE GROUNDS FOR EVICTION.

My lease is very clear that tenants must be responsive to my communications and keep their contact information updated with me or it may be grounds for termination. I'm available to them 24/7, they better be available to me.

Originally posted by @Nathan G. :

I would start by telling the previous Landlord to reject any mailings from your tenant. If he gets something in the mail, have him mark it "RETURN TO SENDER" and send it back. Then give your tenant one final chance:

DEAR TENANT,

I AM YOUR NEW LANDLORD. YOU ARE OBLIGATED TO PAY RENT TO ME, NOT THE FORMER LANDLORD. THE FORMER LANDLORD WILL NOT ACCEPT RENT PAYMENTS ON MY BEHALF SO YOU NEED TO SEND YOUR PAYMENT DIRECTLY TO ME.

IF RENT IS NOT RECEIVED BY ME IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LEASE, I WILL INITIATE EVICTION.

I EXPECT YOU TO CALL, TEXT, OR EMAIL ME WITHIN 72 HOURS ACKNOWLEDGING RECEIPT OF THIS NOTICE. FAILURE TO RESPOND MAY BE GROUNDS FOR EVICTION.

My lease is very clear that tenants must be responsive to my communications and keep their contact information updated with me or it may be grounds for termination. I'm available to them 24/7, they better be available to me.

Even as a small, local landlord, I couldn't agree with this more. Eviction for us is always a matter of a communications breakdown. They know I will answer the phone when they call, or they will be handed off to someone with full authority to deal with their issue and that I will follow up with them. I expect the same. That's the red line they know all about with us.

God knows what the former LL was like, how contemptuous, dismissive, or just plain lazy s/he was. I have met more unapologetically useless, wholly incompetent LLs in my life than I really want to think about. This tenant may take offense. That's OK now, as long as they open the line of communication. Once he sees that you give a damn, you may find this guy ends up being a great tenant.

Don't change the locks. I don't know the law in Ohio, but you can't do that in PA without an eviction.

 

Changing the locks would be considered a self-help eviction under Ohio law and would expose you to paying your tenant's costs in finding alternative housing as well as his attorney's fees.  ORC 5321.15.

I appreciate all the advice.  The tenant pays the previous landlord via direct deposit.  He said he was going to ask the bank if he could block the deposit moving forward, but I'm not sure how that can be done.  

I'll leave another letter as stated above, but I fear it will either not be read or ignored again.  I'll reach out to an attorney to see if there is a way to verify if that the notices I am sending are being read.


Thanks all.

It doesn't matter what happens to the money, because he isn't paying you your rent. I would send the letter that Nathan posted, certified, so you have a signed receipt. I would also post this notice on his front door (and any other entrance doors to his unit. Tape it over the doorknob, and tape one side to the door and one side to the frame, so its impossible to open the door without acknowledging the letter. Then, provide a notice to pay or quit at 8am on the first day you are legally able if rent is not paid. Its possible the old lease gives him a few days before late fees kick in, but by definition, the rent is late if it is not paid on the 2nd (some states give a grace period though).

A couple thoughts- is the guy actually around? Maybe he is out of the country? 

Also, the old owner can block the transactions, but this wont help you. 

I would look on the lease and find out who the emergency contact is for this person and give them a call. 

My concern is that something has happened to this tenant. “Direct deposit” means he set it up to pay automatically. 

The more I think on this, I would suggest calling the emergency contact folks, and the police for a wellness check 

Originally posted by @Mary Mitchell :

My concern is that something has happened to this tenant. “Direct deposit” means he set it up to pay automatically. 

The more I think on this, I would suggest calling the emergency contact folks, and the police for a wellness check 

@Ross Miller

Hi Ross,

 And if this is the case, YOU don't want to be the one who goes in there, just let the Police Officers handle the "Inspection".

And if there are Pets in there, make arrangements for next of kin to retrieve them, 

and put down some Purina and water for them until they are saved.

If there are no relatives who will take the pets you can use this servicehttps://www.nokillnetwork.org/

Good Luck!

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