Whether to evict or not

9 Replies

NJ BiggerPockets Family I need your help.  I bought a 3 unit in West Orange in June. It came with 2 great tenants and 1 tenant from Hell.  Based on what I found out after I bought it, she and the previous owner hated each other. I can definitely see his point of view.  It was to the point where he hired a property manager just to deal with her so he would have to be bothered.  The property manager quit!!! Again, I found all of this out after I bought the property.

Since I've owned it, I've done multiple repairs on her unit and a good portion of it was her neglect. Such as clogging the sinks (hair and grease) and letting the shower and sinks overflow to the point where the ceiling in bathroom on in the unit below collapsed from all of the water.  When the contractor went over to repair it he said the water came down like a waterfall. After that repair was done and the clogs were cleared, I got a call from units 1 and 2 one evening saying that their ceilings were leaking (again). I went over with my contractor and ran all of the sinks, the shower for 15 minutes and there were no leaks below. It turns out that she does laundry by hand in a basin and it tipped over.

There have been several other repairs causing me to spend month each month.  The kicker is that she is evil and belligerent. Every contractor, plumber, handyman that I've sent over all have said that she yelled or cursed at them while they were there.  They have all provided documentation on the condition of her unit and the negligence on her part. This is not the biggest issue. The unit is a 1-bedroom 582 sq ft space and 4 people are living there and 3 are adults. Only 1 of them is on the lease. She moved her elderly mother into the apartment sometime after moving in and she is basically an unauthorized tenant.  The other adult is her 18 year old daughter which I have no problem with since that is her child.

I served her with a notice to cease indicating all of her lease term violations.  It's been a month and the elderly mother is still there and she also will not give me access to the unit (which was another one of her violations), however, she pays her rent on time each month.  What would you do in this situation?  My thought was to offer her 3 options: 1.) Try to convince her to leave since she's breaking the city occupancy ordinance and if that doesn't work then 2.) Offer her cash for keys and lastly 3.) proceed with the eviction indicating to her that if we go that route she a.) will be forced to leave with no money, b.) she'll be out on the street, c.) she'll have an eviction on her record , d.) an eviction will make it hard to rent somewhere else.

Any feedback is appreciated.

Wow!  You are brave!!!

My first piece of advice is completely remove the emotion out of it.  I laugh as I write that because I am getting all worked up with emotion on your behalf just reading your situation!

The truth of the matter is, you have started down the right path, but you haven't followed through on any of your threats, so why should she take you seriously?  If you issued her a cure notice (notice of violations for her to "cure" within a certain period of time), and she didn't cure the items, then you have basically diluted your demands to her.

My opinion is that she DEFINITELY needs to go!!!  The way you describe it, she is not only costing you more in repairs than her rent covers, but she is also jeopardizing your relationship with the other "good" tenants, whether you realize it or not.  Trust me when I tell you that the other tenants are watching this situation.  If they don't see you act when necessary, they will lose faith in your ability to provide them a safe and desirable place to live.  It won't take many of those type of incidents to make the other tenants move.

The other issue is that you may be in just as much trouble with the city for the overpopulated apartment as the tenant if the city can prove that you knew about it and did nothing.  Most states require property owners to know what is going on in their properties, and be responsible for it.  If you have already issued her a cure notice for the extra people, but then didn't follow through, that could be an issue for you with the city.  I would look into that if I were you.

I would NOT offer her money to leave.  I would assume that the unit will be trashed when she vacates, so that won't change either way.  You have a legal way to get her out if she has not cured the violations.  So take it.  Having the contractors' statements just puts icing on the cake.  

Is she on a yearly lease or has it moved to month to month? If month to month just issue her a 30 day letter of non renewal of the lease. 

Thanks @Cara Lonsdale .  Unfortunately, NJ is very tenant friendly so my lawyer advised that I give her  30 days to remedy the violations. Yesterday was day 30, so now I must act.  I inherited the tenant and the city issued a CO to the previous owner with the mother there. I called the city and they are fully aware of the occupancy issue with the tenant so although there is an ordinance, they said that they could not support me if it goes to an eviction because they were aware. 

I don't have physical evidence that the mother is still there but I know she's there based on conversations that I've had with the tenants sister. That's another story. The tenant's sister handles her business affairs and basically acts as a go between whenever we have an issue.  During our lengthy conversations, she has confirmed that the mother is there.

@Michael Jones the tenant is on a month to month lease signed with the previous owner. I did not offer her a renewal. I'll ask my lawyer about the Non-renewal of lease you referred to but I don't believe that is part of the process in NJ.

Thanks for the feedback.  If you have any more thoughts please send them to me. I really appreciate it.

If you have followed the timeline for the cure notice, then you should be good to move forward.  It sounded like you had issued the cure notice and the deadline had past already and you hadn't done anything.  So, thanks for the clarification.

Honestly, any and all of these items that you can add to build your case will help you in court.  If the tenant is on a month to month, the renewal is assumed unless you specify otherwise.  I think that is what @Michael Jones is referring to.  I would second his advice to issue you an official notice of non-renewal.  This may be called something different in NJ, but basically, it gives the Tenant notice that you will not be renewing (or allowing for the auto-renewal), and giving her a 30 day notice that her lease will be ending, thus requiring her to vacate.

So with a cure notice that wasn't cured, and a 30 day notice of non-renewal, you eliminate her excuses in court.

Thanks again Cara. The additional feedback was helpful. 

On the phone with my Lawyer now. The next steps are to issue a Notice to Quit and a Demand for Possession which we’re going forward with. 

As an agent and landlord, I will tell you that all you need to do is give a timely notice, and follow up with a registered letter to your tenant. Document everything and if you need to evict, just go to court. My sister who also invests in multi family homes, has gone to court and the tenants hardly show up. If they don’t show, then they’re out, I.e. the judge will find in your favor.

Just remember that you’re running a business and as stated previously, you have to take the emotion out of it. When I owned properties in Rochester, NY, if the rent didn’t show up on the first, a letter went out the next day stating they needed to pay the penalty, and they had 5 days to vacate. After the 5 days, if I didn’t receive the payment, then a registered letter went out the next day. All my evictions took no more that 30 days. I never did cash for keys.

BTW. My sister rents in East Orange and Newark, NJ. I also have a client in Perth Amboy who I have consulted on a similar issue. His evictions take on average 30 days as well, and he never used an attorney. He handles all his evictions.

My point! Be stern, document everything, use registered mail, go to court. The judge will be on your side. I don’t believe in tenant friendly. If you have all your paperwork in order, then you’ll be able to get them out. All this advice I got from my attorney’s from 2004 up to now. Listen to your attorney. Also, as an agent, we need to know grounds for termination of a lease. You have grounds.

Wish you the best.

I've never evicted for anything other than non payment of rent (which unfortunately Ive done a dozen or so times). I wouldn't say NJ is "tenant friendly"....if they don't pay their rent they are out. They start every landlord tenant court session with a speech that it doesn't matter what kind of sob story you have....if you don't have your rent money, you will be evicted. You said she pays on time, so that doesn't seem like an option. I could see evicting for other violations might be tough. 

I wouldn't do cash for keys unless your lawyer says it would work. I'd be leery of the legal ramifications if she takes your money then changes her mind. 

The benefit of month to month is you can raise her rent. I would check if your town has rent control, and raise it as much as you can. If they don't have rent control, NJ law lets you raise it a "reasonable amount"...If you raise it and they don't pay the increase you can charge a late fee if your lease dictates. If you have a strong lease, rent includes; late fees, certain repairs etc. If she doesn't pay any of those things, then you have a non payment of rent case.

@Rob A. The rent increase sounds like a good way to go if she gives me problems with vacating in her own. Thanks for the tip 

Join the Largest Real Estate Investing Community

Basic membership is free, forever.

By signing up, you indicate that you agree to the BiggerPockets Terms & Conditions.