How do I get rid of these tenants quietly?
January 17, 2011 12:11 PM   Subscribe

Texas Landlord Filter: How do I inform generally troublesome tenants that their lease will not be renewed without risking retaliation?

I have a set of tenants who are consistently childish, ignorant, combative, and either thick-headed to the point of impairing their functioning in society or plain dishonest (I'm really not sure which). I am not willing to deal with these people once their lease is up in several months, so I won't be renewing it.

The thing is, I don't trust them not to either do something stupid or just make my life a living hell for the last month. I realize that it could bring them a world of trouble if they did something dumb enough, but I'm not sure they're capable of thinking that far ahead and would rather not deal with the hassle such a backlash would cause. I have to notify them a month in advance that their lease won't be renewed. So what do I tell them?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Something that is Not Your Fault.
Like: rats or mould or radon or something.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:17 PM on January 17, 2011

Not just Not Your Fault, but Harmful To Them. If they're as ignorant and thick-headed as you say they are, they probably won't bother getting an independent inspector or whatnot.

However, don't make it too harmful, otherwise they might get litiguous.
posted by griphus at 12:23 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Per the terms of the lease, just tell them you aren't renewing it. I don't think you have to say why, especially in writing. What you definitely don't want to have said, either in writing or verbally is something that could be taken to be you're refusing to rent to them because of race, religion, color, sex, national origin, disability or familial status. When in doubt, consult an attorney.

If it is a house or condo, and they ask, tell them you're selling it. Or your sister is moving into it. If they come by next year and there's another tenant living there, you changed your mind or the deal fell through. But they won't care they'll have moved on.
posted by birdherder at 12:28 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Times are tough and you will be moving into your own rental unit to save money, or you have some family who will be moving in. They can't really argue with either of those.
posted by meepmeow at 12:31 PM on January 17, 2011

Sweeten the deposit return with an extra $100 if they leave the property in good condition. Even the worst tenants understand money.
posted by raisingsand at 12:32 PM on January 17, 2011

Sweeten the deposit return with an extra $100...

I advise against this. Offering them cash means that you have -- like in the old Winston Churchill quote -- begun negotiation. Unless you're willing to go through that mess, I'd keep money out of it.
posted by griphus at 12:36 PM on January 17, 2011 [9 favorites]

I like the white lies about renovations or you reoccupying the unit.

I have found in my dealings with people who are dim or uncooperative that clearly stating expectations over and over while keeping your tone polite does work, to a point. Let them know a month out, at 15 days, and then a week before their last day that NO they will not being staying, they must be out at EXACTLY X o'clock on X day, and that they must clean items X, Y and Z to the condition they were in when they moved in if they want their deposit back. Sure, it's all in the lease anyway, and they can still screw you over/damage stuff, but that is what the deposit is for, right? Short of burning the house down, there shouldn't be any surprises. They don't clean or they steal the microwave, you keep their money, everybody knows it.
posted by slow graffiti at 12:42 PM on January 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

It would probably help if you told them more than a month in advance. If they want to wreck the place, a month is more than enough time. More advance warning gives them time to get used to it and plan ahead. They may be the sort of people who need more than a month to wrap their heads around having to move.

Also, they probably wouldn't damage the place too long before they leave, anyway -- who wants to live in an effed-up place?

I would give them warning long in advance, so they can't say it was sprung on them, and give them an excuse that has nothing to do with them. By the time it's time for them to move out, they'll have forgotten they were angry.
posted by musofire at 1:37 PM on January 17, 2011

I wouldn't offer them a bonus, but as part of the letter, maybe a reminder of standard moveout procedure, remind them that you have their security deposit and they have to be decent or they don't get it back. Of course, this doesn't work as well if the security deposit is $200 and they're pissy enough that it's worth $200 to give you a hard time. Much more convincing when you're waving their $1000 around.

Dear Tenants,

(Tell your little story about renting it out, tell them their lease won't be renewed.)

As your lease will be ending on (March 31), I expect that the property will be vacant at (time) (date). At (time) (date) I will do a final walkthrough and property inspection, which you are not required to be present for (this can be the deadline date/time, or the next day, or whatever). As agreed at lease signing, the security deposit of $N will be returned to you by (April 30), if the property is found to be (whatever you need from them - clean, in good condition, undamaged, etc.).

Please sign and date one copy of this letter and return to me at (address) to indicate your understanding of these terms. The second copy can be kept for your records.


Address for mailing security deposit: __________
sign: ________ date:________
posted by aimedwander at 1:59 PM on January 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

No story is needed. Just tell them you're not renewing.
posted by vespabelle at 2:22 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

It was my impression that simply letting a lease expire does not mean the tenants have to leave. Of the tenant/landlord laws I know, they all state that a lease converts to month to month when the lease expires. You have to give them a formal eviction notice (30 or 60 day depending on jurisdiction) to get them out of the house.

I'm not a landlord or a lawyer, just an informed tenant. You should consult a lawyer to verify these laws in your own jurisdiction.
posted by ShootTheMoon at 2:47 PM on January 17, 2011

Yeah, what ShootTheMoon said. You have to notify them in writing at least 30 days ahead that you want them to move out; you can't just expect them to plan to move when the lease ends. I've lived in several places for years after the lease expired - it just went month to month and the landlords couldn't be bothered to get another lease in place. It's nice to give people more than 30 days notice; I know you don't like these tenants but still, giving them extra time to plan a move is good karma. Send a very short registered letter - you don't really have to give a reason; the asshole landlords who suddenly kicked me out after 7 years of good tenancy certainly didn't - and expect a hysterical phone call or two but then, well, that's it and they'll be out of your hair.
posted by mygothlaundry at 3:05 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

A lot of helpful opinions here, but you really need to read your state and city laws. In Oakland, I don't think thirty days is enough; I think you have to have Just Cause (as the ordinance is called). Check your own local housing laws about leases and evictions. They're usually online and fairly clear.
posted by salvia at 4:12 PM on January 17, 2011

If you want them to play nice, give them as much notice as you can. Only having 30 days to find a new place and move is a huge pain in the butt, but having 60 or 90 days makes things much easier, and will make it much less likely that they will do anything nasty.
posted by markblasco at 4:15 PM on January 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

From experience: make sure that once they're out and turn over the keys that you change the locks immediately, and possibly even station someone there that night to make sure there's no sneakin-back-in and breaking/stealing shit.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:06 PM on January 17, 2011

This is why people ask for significant security deposits--just in case someone decides to act out when their lease isn't renewed. Since we don't have a time machine for you, all we can do is encourage you to notify them in writing in the time frame stated as necessary by your state/county/municipality's laws and hope for the best.

You're going in a different direction with the property. You're looking at some changes and some different options. You're thinking about showing the property to some real estate brokers. You know, all of the "it's not you, it's me" stuff, even though it actually is you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:11 PM on January 17, 2011

I mean, it actually is them, not you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:57 PM on January 17, 2011

Sweeten the deposit return with an extra $100....

It may seem like a bad idea, but it's a pretty practical one recommended by Nolo among other landlord guides as an eviction alternative. Sure, as a landlord, you might think they've already stiffed you a month's rent or ruined your front door or whatever, but offering them half a month's rent to get out by the 15th is something more tenants will accept than not and you save the court costs (process server, filing, lawyer if you need it, etc.).

I wouldn't offer it, though, unless they balk at the moving, and I would tie it more to a date than to condition.

As a landlord, I've seen tenants trash a place when ordered out, and it's something that just comes with the business. You take a security deposit to cover that when it happens. For these folks, I would kill them with kindness.

Really, not every lease is renewed, and bad tenants have probably had their share of non-renewals before. If you just present it as factual and non-confrontational, sort of a Ned Flanders "Hideyho tenant, when do you think you'll have hte place cleaned and vacated?" they're less likely to take offense than if you give them a stern "You folks are jerks and I can't stand having you a minute past your lease expiration".

If they've signed a check-out form and given you the keys, somebody coming in that night and trashing the place would be cause for a criminal complaint (trespass/vandalism) whereas trashing it prior to eviction is almost non-prosecutable. Keep that in mind. But yes, change the locks.
posted by dhartung at 11:29 PM on January 17, 2011

I don't understand this question. What do the laws and regs in your jurisdiction say? THIS IS YOUR ONLY CONSIDERATION.

In CA, tenants become month-to-month after the first lease term expires, and I know many places in the US are like this. Refusing to renew will not free you from this situation if the law is similar in your jurisdiction, and especially if your tenants figure to google their rights.

Find out what the acceptable reasons are for you to refuse renewal and give notice in your jurisdiction. Needing the unit for yourself or a family member is usually a valid reason, provided you or a family member doesn't already reside in another unit on the premises.

If you are intent on misleading your tenants via this method, you'll need to keep the unit off the market for a month or two. Do not advertise your vacancy in the meantime! Perform some renovations while the unit stands empty. Change the locks the second these folks are gone.

Hopefully you'll get away with it. But you are taking a chance if you go with any advice besides "follow the law for your jurisdiction."

As a landlord, you should already know the law.
posted by jbenben at 2:26 PM on January 18, 2011

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