Illegal immigrant tenants and lease termination

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Hello everyone,

I feel like maybe I’m being a softy, however I wanted some input from the more experienced landlords out there on how they would/have handled this situation.

So recently I closed and owner occupy on a 4-plex. The plex is occupied by 4 Latino families that have all been there 10+ years. I sent the month to month termination letter with one months rent (825$) and 3 months to vacate.

I received a call this morning from the tenants literally in tears and broken English asking

“why us?” And “we will be homeless, no where for us to go, please we pay more for rent to stay”

Needless to say My heart broke.

How would a professional manager go through with this?

Just say no.  There was never a guarantee that they could stay forever.  Whether they are legal or illegal doesn't matter.  They'll figure it out.  They will have a lot of resources, including their church, so they will figure out what to do.  

You're a kind person, but any tenant who doesn't want to move will beg to stay.  What helped me deal with this kind of thing was to learn some pat sayings and say them in a nice way, like "I really do understand, but the move-out date is firm, so you'll have to move."  "You're smart people, I'm sure you'll find the help you need."  "I understand, but if you leave the place really clean, I'll be happy to give you great references."  Or whatever version works for you.

And be prepared for them to ask for more time and how you will say no.  Sorry you're dealing with this, but it's part of the deal.

Originally posted by @Luke Dilorenzo :

@Sue K.

Thank you for the words of advise. I will do as such and let them know it is what it is. Which I have done. Thanks again

 I thought of something that might also help get them to move out without leaving a mess, which is what I did when I was getting rid of bad inherited tenants... I told them that if they left the place empty (and didn't just pile everything up outside by the dumpster) and clean and not damaged that on their move-out day when they gave me the keys, I'd give them their full deposit money.  You might even offer to give it in cash, if they don't have bank accounts.  Just get them to sign a receipt.  It's usually the moving money that's their biggest fear/obstacle.  Even though they won't have it until move-out day, it's still better than having to wait 21 days (in CA, anyway it's 21 days).  It would be easier to convince a relative to let them move in temporarily if they know they'll have their deposit more quickly.

We were forgiving of minor stuff and just counted our lucky stars if they at least mostly emptied it out and didn't leave a giant pile outside and it wasn't in unreasonable condition inside.  Oh, and I also promised a good reference, too.  Doing this deal kept angry tenants from trashing the place.  

On the day that they move out hand them each a letter of reference that says that they were great tenants for XX years.  However, you recently purchased the property and plan to update all the units so unfortunately they will have to find a  new place to live as the renovations will take w long time.  Make it clear that the renovations is not because they trashed the unit, but that it was not updated for decades.  A good recommendation will help them.

Originally posted by @Ralph R. :

@Sue K. You promised the tenant a good reference?? hope you didn’t throw the next landlord under the bus!! You weren’t even his land lord. The previous owner was! RR

 I was rarely ever called for a reference.  It always amazes me that landlords don't actually contact previous landlords.  But, I was always honest if I was called for a reference.  Most places now just give the dates of tenancy and when asked if they'd rent to them again the pat answer is, "If they qualified, then we would rent to them again," which says absolutely nothing.

There was a misconception by tenants who were asked to leave because of problems that they would have an eviction on their report.  They don't often understand that being given a 30 day notice to move out is not an eviction.  They were always afraid of having an eviction on their report and/or not being able to find another place to rent.  A tenant in that state of mind is more likely to figure "f" it and maybe trash the place.  So, I admit it - I fibbed to them, telling them I'd give a good reference, banking on the fact that I very rarely was ever called for a reference.

I never lied to a landlord who actually called me.  Funny story - I once rented to a couple young men techies from India who actually shared a really tiny studio apartment.  Companies like Google work the heck out of those guys.  They barely came to the apartment to eat and sleep on the floor.  

They always had other random young Indian men staying with them, but they didn't cause any problems and always paid on time, so I let them be.  But, eventually the original young men had left and I was left with a young married couple I'd never met.  I kept trying to get them to sign a rental agreement and they kept dodging me, so I finally gave them notice to move out, and they did.  They thought if they were paying the rent, that should be good enough, but I couldn't understand them not wanting to sign a contract, but they wouldn't, so I kicked them out.

Then, a couple months later I got a call from a landlord who wanted a reference for the married couple who had put me down as a previous landlord reference.  I cracked up and told him the story.  He asked me if I'd rent to them again and I said I never actually rented to them in the first place, and even though they didn't cause any problems and paid the rent on time, no I wouldn't rent to them because I know them to be dishonest and were unwilling to sign a contract.  He didn't rent to them and they never used me as a reference again.

But, yeah, I fibbed to the few tenants I inherited that I had to kick out who I was afraid might trash the place.  Shameless, I know.  But, they left without issue and left the place in acceptable condition.  Mission accomplished.  I never promised the Indian couple I'd give them a good reference, and nobody ever called me for a reference from any of the other tenants I kicked out.  I guess they all found landlords who didn't do tenant screening and then taught them that they should :-)

Originally posted by @Luke Dilorenzo :

@Theresa Harris

Yes just one unit.

Since you're a good guy with some savvy, see what you can do to find a place under or at 1k a month for the family of the unit you will be occupying. There's no harm asking around, using the internet and your connections etc. to help them out. Ask them what location they would prefer. That would give options to people who otherwise don't have them with communication barriers. 

I don't know how you know they are illegal, but I also don't know how that's pertinent to the discussion.

You purchase the property with the intent to occupy one of the units. As long as you were treating them honestly and fairly, and in accordance with the lease and the law, I don't see that you were doing anything wrong. Even if they were legal citizens, they are still required to vacate and I think your offer is more than generous.

Originally posted by @Luke Dilorenzo :

Hello everyone,

I feel like maybe I’m being a softy, however I wanted some input from the more experienced landlords out there on how they would/have handled this situation.

So recently I closed and owner occupy on a 4-plex. The plex is occupied by 4 Latino families that have all been there 10+ years. I sent the month to month termination letter with one months rent (825$) and 3 months to vacate.

I received a call this morning from the tenants literally in tears and broken English asking

“why us?” And “we will be homeless, no where for us to go, please we pay more for rent to stay”

Needless to say My heart broke.

How would a professional manager go through with this?

 Your loan requirements is why you have to move into the property.  Where do you currently live?


I’m not trying to solve their problem at all.  I’m an investor I want more money tomorrow than I have today. All while providing a quality home for people to live in.  

Can you “rent” them all the unit minus a closet and that be your “residence”.  Is this your first property?  
Could they move into one of your other units?  Do you think they will leave?  If they don’t leave it is not going to hurt your loan requirements. Can’t move into something that isn’t vacant. 


good luck. 

@Luke Dilorenzo I have never been in a situation where I bought owner occupied multifamily but I’m curious as to how would a bank know if you indeed occupied a property? If they were legal residents and this went to the court and judge ordered you to goner the current lease that does not end for another 11 months, how would that effect the term of the loan? I know I’m posing more questions then answer but the last one, what if you “occupied” that units and turned all utilities under your name and then decided to Air BNB type short term lease to current tenants, including utilities in the rent while you are traveling to look for other investment properties and conveniently staying close to area you are looking to invest while you are searching or doing due diligence? However your primary home for tax purposes is the fourplex you bought? Just a thought...

@Dennis M. Ew. They are humans. Have you no heart, as obviously this new landlord does? While the law is on his side, we should all strive to treat fellow humans with dignity and respect. And we all need a roof over our heads. That’s the business we’re in - providing that basic human need.

Originally posted by @Luke Dilorenzo :

@Nathan G.

They disclosed this information to me. Literally told me they are undocumented and cannot find another place and no living relatives in the United States.

 I don't know how that would even keep them from getting a place where you are. In MA you can't even ask about that or you'll get sued. In the end, it is a crap situation but giving them 3 months is more than fair. I assume the other 3 families living there are all in the same circumstances too? Did you just pick an apt number out of a hat or you liked that one more? Just curious 

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