Stuck In A Mess - Illegal Subletters, Please Help!

8 Replies

Here is my situation.

October 2020, Tenant A moved in.

Approx. April 2021, Tenant A sublets her apartment ILLEGALLY to Tenant B (no landlord approval, lease clearly states it's illegal to sublet).

No rent is given from Tenant A or Tenant B for months.

September 2021, we find out Tenant A was collecting rent from Tenant B but not giving it to us.

By a miracle, we end up collecting every penny that was owed from Tenant A.

October 2021, Tenant A's lease ends.

Tenant B is still in the apartment.

Shocker, they do NOT have good credit and they have a prior eviction on record.

If we want to get them out in today's difficult COVID-19 landlording world, how can we go about it?

Mistake #1 was you should have evicted when they sublet. In most places, the ban on evictions was basically due to non-payment. You could still evict for other reasons.

Allowing Tenant B to stay in the unit basically accepted them as a tenant. If you don't want them as tenants, you need to file for eviction if possible. That may or may not be possible given your location (example: are you required to renew leases in your area?). 

FYI, Tenant A could be on the hook for your legal expenses and lost rent since they were the responsible party. 

As always, consult a lawyer. The couple hundred you're going to spend can save you money, time, and trouble.

Originally posted by @Greg M. :

Mistake #1 was you should have evicted when they sublet. In most places, the ban on evictions was basically due to non-payment. You could still evict for other reasons.

Allowing Tenant B to stay in the unit basically accepted them as a tenant. If you don't want them as tenants, you need to file for eviction if possible. That may or may not be possible given your location (example: are you required to renew leases in your area?). 

FYI, Tenant A could be on the hook for your legal expenses and lost rent since they were the responsible party. 

As always, consult a lawyer. The couple hundred you're going to spend can save you money, time, and trouble.

The issue was we didn't know they were subletting for months. Tenant A was MIA for a while and we started the eviction process until they finally paid up at the end.

Tenant B hasn't paid any rent yet so I don't believe they are considered tenants just yet, if anything they would be tenants at sufferance.

But you're right, we will likely have to speak to a lawyer at this point.

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What city/state is the property in?  That may help some of the answering you get.  

Also, by the sounds of it tenant B has been paying rent since April 2021?  Or tenant A paid out of pocket?

@Scott M. We're located in MA, right outside of Boston. 

Tenant B allegedly paid rent to Tenant A, but Tenant A didn't pay us anything until we started the eviction process. By the time Tenant A's lease ended, they paid off their balance in full. However, we never directly collected rent from Tenant B yet and they are now occupying the apartment.

Tell them that the lease is not being renewed and they and all occupants must be out by the date specified on the lease. Deliver it and also post notice that you will be doing an inspection at a set date and time and then follow through.

You're in over your head. Stop asking strangers on the internet for legal advice, hire an attorney, and put an end to this immediately.

This should have been resolved the moment you discovered the unauthorized occupant. Or it could have been resolved when they stopped paying rent. You're "saving" the 10% management fee, but it's costing you a lot in time, stress, and money. You may want to consider a property manager that understands the law and how to deal with problems like this immediately.

Remember: cheaper doesn't mean you'll make more money.

You can start by going to www.narpm.org to search their directory of managers. These are professionals with additional training and a stricter code of ethics. It's no guarantee but it's a good place to start. Regardless of how you find them, try to interview at least three managers

1. Ask how many units they manage and how much experience they have. If it's a larger organization, feel free to inquire about their different staff qualifications.

2. Review their management agreement. Make sure it explicitly explains the process for termination if you are unhappy with their services, but especially if they violate the terms of your agreement.

3. Understand the fees involved and calculate the total cost for an entire year of management so you can compare the different managers. It may sound nice to pay a 5% management fee but the extra fees can add up to be more than the other company that charges 10% with no add-on fees. Fees should be clearly stated, easy to understand, and justifiable. If you ask the manager to justify a fee and he starts hemming and hawing, move on or require them to remove the fee. Don't be afraid to negotiate!

4. Review their lease agreement and addenda. Think of all the things that could go wrong and see if the lease addresses them: unauthorized pets or tenants, early termination, security deposit, lease violations, late rent, eviction, lawn maintenance, parking, etc.

5. Don't just read the lease! Ask the manager to explain their process for dealing with maintenance, late rent, evictions, turnover, etc. If they are professional, they can explain this quickly and easily. If they are VERY professional, they will have their processes in writing as verification that it is enforced equally and fairly by their entire staff.

6. Ask to speak with some of their current owners and current/former tenants. You can also check their reviews online at Google, Facebook, or Yelp. Just remember: most negative reviews are written by problematic tenants. The fact they are complaining online might be an indication the property manager dealt with them properly so be sure to ask the manager for their side of the story.

7. Look at their marketing strategy. Are they doing everything they can to expose properties to the widest possible market? Are their listings detailed with good quality photos? Can they prove how long it takes to rent a vacant property?

This isn't inclusive but should give you a good start. If you have specific questions about property management, I'll be happy to help!

Your choice is to go along with the scam Tenant A started and work with tenant B or get rid of tenant B is MA currently allows you to do that.  As they have been in there for months now, depending on MA law they may in fact have rights.  it is a bit of a mess as you said and I think a mess like this deserves a call to a lawyer.  With laws shifting constantly in this COVID timeline we are in, I think your time / money is best spent on actual legal advice.  In addition to COVID you have subletting, illiberal subletting, tenant been there for months, you were made whole etc....lots of spinning parts and a local legal expert is really needed to help you brake down the parts and find a path forward. 

@Steve DellaPelle your BP title states property manager, which is interesting given this situation you've allowed to develop.

1) hire an attorney

2) send a legal notice of termination, often called a 30 day notice, that can be used to start a court case.