Inheriting new tenants, last landlord didn’t stick to lease

21 Replies

Hello BP, I am closing on a duplex today. We are inheriting two new tenants.

The previous landlord worked out a deal with the tenants on one side of the duplex. Their original lease was $750 a month and somewhere down the line the new deal and updated lease states that they would get a $50 a month discount and the reason for that discount was that the tenant shall cut the grass and rake the leaves. I recently found out this week that the tenant has not cut the grass in three months and he is still only paying $700 a month.

My question is since it states in their lease that he is responsible for cutting the grass and leaves in order to get that $50 a month discount is he technically in violation of the lease? When I take it over today I’m going to have to address this. If he’s not cutting the grass that’s fine but I’m going to need to get the full $750 a month. I guess the reason I need to make sure that he’s in violation of the lease is so that I can cancel that lease because he’s in violation and write up a new lease with our name on it for the $750 a month instead of the $700 a month. Hope that makes sense!

Enforce the lease, but rather than giving them a discount of $50, have them pay in full and then pay them $50 if the grass is cut and the leaves raked.  You don't need those done in the winter and this way they get paid if they do it and if they don't then you can get it done.

It could be argued in either direction. "deals" like this within a lease need to have clear requirements. The lease should include a frequency for when the grass should be cut OR a maximum grass length - otherwise it may be hard to prove violation of the lease if the tenant argues that he/she is cutting the grass quarterly - or when he/she sees fit. 


That is my official advice for making these sorts of deals with tenants. To address the current situation it would be worth sending the tenant a lease violation letter with a remediation plan (i.e. pay the additional $50.00 or cut the grass). Good luck! 

I would just have a polite but frank discussion with the tenant. You have a legal contract, and you can definitely enforce it. But, the old saying goes that you attract flies with honey, not vinegar. If they are a good tenant otherwise, maybe offer that you will get the lawn back to a manageable condition via lawn care service, then he can continue to maintain it for the $50/mo discount, or if he doesn't want to do it, he can just pay the normal lease amount. If he's a jerk and continues to only pay the $700/mo and isn't mowing the grass, he has violated his lease due to nonpayment, and depending on your local eviction laws you can start the eviction process of removing him, give him cash for keys, etc. Obviously keep your attorney in the loop as well, and a simple letter with letterhead is sufficient enough to prod a tenant into action. Good luck!

@Edward Holland that’s some great advice! I think I’m going to have a lite conversation with him and just go over the current lease that him and the last landlord had. If that doesn’t work I guess I will go with plan b and void the current lease due to breach and write up a new one with no lawn maintenance. Then just hire a crew to maintain it. Thanks again for the advice!

Josh

@Dave Poeppelmeier , thank you for your reply. I agree with all of this. Definitely going to have a conversation with him first and go over his current lease with him. I think if he still is unwilling to maintain the grass and leaves then I will try to let him know that he’s in violation of the contract and offer to write up a new contract without lawn maintenance involved with a higher rent. Both of these units are under current rent value by about $200/unit. I am going to try to raise rent in $50 increments per year as long as the current tenants stay in place. That should cover a company to come out for the grass.

Thanks again!

Josh

You can't just unilaterally void a lease because of a perceived breach of the lease. A breach of the terms within the lease simply gives you an opportunity to pursue legal means to obtain compliance or relief. In this case you would follow whatever you State notice requirement is, for example provide a 10 day 'notice to cure'. That give them the opportunity to fix the situation. If they don't, then you can enforce the original rent due, only after they refuse to pay that and you provide additional notice to 'pay or quit' THEN you can go to court for an a failure to pay the agreed rent and have the judge rule on the situation. Maybe you can go to court slightly earlier for a 'failure to abide by lease terms', but it isn't a strong case IMO. 

My point is you're jumping several legal steps because it seems you simply want a lease that is in your name. That's fine, you can get both parties to agree to that and that is another legal option since it is a bi-lateral agreement to end the current lease and re-execute a new lease. But if the tenant disagrees then you are several steps away from getting what you want. 

you cant just void a lease like this. My fist suggestion is for you to join your local rental owners association and take all LL classes they offer. You need to know the rules of the game you are going to be playing so you dont get sued.  

ok, i am editing this - what does the amended lease say about how and when the work needs to be done and how the deduction is taken? that is the important part

The tenant is clearly in violation if he/she has gone 3 months from cutting the grass. I always advise my client to be as detailed in the lease to avoid the least amount of friction with tenants. Good luck!

When does the current lease in question expire? I would look to utilize your own boilerplate for the new lease and avoid having to modify the current lease if the expiration is near.

@Matt Devincenzo great point of view, this is why I put it out there. I don’t necessarily want to change the lease just to put it in my name. I was more so wanting to change it to get this “deal/discount” out of it.

Thank you for the heads up on not being able to void it. The lease is up in April 2022. I’m meeting with the tenants tomorrow so hopefully we can get this cleared up just by talking. Than again! Josh

then basically you will need to come to terms with tenant and see if you can get them to agree to other terms.   pull out your best negotiation skills :) 

Originally posted by @Theresa Harris :

Enforce the lease, but rather than giving them a discount of $50, have them pay in full and then pay them $50 if the grass is cut and the leaves raked.  You don't need those done in the winter and this way they get paid if they do it and if they don't then you can get it done.

Yes, but depending on where you are in the country, you do need the leaves raked in the autumn, and the steps and walks shoveled, salt to be spread in the winter.

"so that I can cancel that lease".  Good luck with that. 

if I were you I would start in a much friendlier manner.  Introduce yourself, tell him who you are, where to pay, how to submit work orders etc...before you jump into I am going to cancel your lease cuz you are in violation.  

Take a day after you have your friendly conversation and then ask, don't accuse.  Just play dumb and ask.  Hey, I see this in the lease but it doesn't appear to be happening, then be quiet and listen. 

If you go in like a bull in a china shop you might not like what you break.  Work your way up.  

@Scott M. I didn’t mean to come off as I was going to come in like a wrecking ball. I’ve been a landlord for 13 years with just a few other houses. This is my first duplex. I normally get to vet my tenants and have always kept great relationships with them. Always on time payments and in return I have been extremely responsive in fixing any issues or problems I try to go above and beyond. I will always work to find a solution. I guess I was getting ahead of myself and trying to see what my options were going to be if in fact I did end up having an issue with this tenant. The duplex is in St. Louis, mo.

I basically needed to know if by the tenant not agreeing to do his part of the lease agreement is he in violation. I now understand that if I do end up having an issue that I need to go through a proper process before I can change anything.

Thanks for your insight!

Josh