How to handle humanely the end of a tenant relationship
February 26, 2017 12:18 AM   Subscribe

My tenant can suddenly no longer pay rent on the apartment I rent to him. This is not a temporary cash shortfall, and he is finding other housing. How can I navigate the end of this relationship in a humane way, while still making sure that I protect my family's interests? There are some complicating factors below.

I have a condo in Washington DC that I have rented out to the same tenant for the past 4+ years. My tenant (Adam) has developmental delays and lives independently using an inheritance and by doing odd jobs around the neighborhood. While Adam signed the lease, most of my communication has been with his brother (Eric), who has power of attorney and was a trustee of Adam's inheritance. When Adam first started renting from me, his rent was paid by a lawyer from a trust. Two years ago, they let me know that the lawyer was untrustworthy, and that the rent would not be coming from his office anymore. I had no issues with this, and the rent continued to be paid promptly. I was not clear on if the trust was somehow dissolved, but it seems that it was.

Over the past six months, Adam has had trouble paying his rent on time. Rent was generally coming about a month late after multiple reminders to both Adam and Eric. I didn't charge any late penalty, even though the lease allowed it, because up until this point Adam had been a very good, reliable tenant. Adam's lease was up in October, and he resigned for a year. I insisted that Adam set up an automatic payment at that time, which Eric told me he would help Adam to do. I have had increasing difficulty with on time payments even since then. Eric told me that he has not been able to get Adam to set up the auto payment, and he is two months behind.

This morning, Eric called to tell me that he had to get police to do a welfare check on Adam, as he couldn't be reached. Apparently, though Adam won't confirm it, he gave his money to woman. All of his money that was meant to last the rest of his life. It certainly seems like he was taken advantage of in a callous and awful way, due to his developmental challenges and inability to make fully reasoned decisions. Eric told me that he will cover the two months' rent and that Adam will need to leave the apartment by March 1.

This situation makes me so sad. I need advice about how to navigate the end of the lease. I want to be humane because Adam is a nice guy and has been a good tenant for most of the time that I've known him. However, he is leaving me in a tough situation, without any time to prepare the apartment and get a new tenant without a gap.

Should I charge the lease break penalty (specified in the lease)? Should I find a way to give more time for Adam to find a new living situation, even though it would put a lot of financial pressure on me and my family?

I know this is a business relationship, but the details of what happened to Adam make me heartsick. What would you do or recommend in this situation?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Contact Adult Protective Services ( about the matter, immediately, no matter what else you do. Something is not on the up-and-up here.
posted by the Real Dan at 12:44 AM on February 26, 2017 [41 favorites]

Unless I'm missing something, there doesn't seem to be much point in charging the lease break penalty if you know that the funds simply aren't there to pay it. But perhaps there's more to the financial situation than I'm grasping.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:14 AM on February 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

Sounds like Eric is handling the situation with Adam's housing - that is not your concern, you've been told he'll be moving out on the 1st so handle that as you would handle any lease coming to an end.
Don't charge a lease break penalty (if you can afford to absorb that cost) as it sounds like they've both been through enough.
posted by missmagenta at 1:15 AM on February 26, 2017 [10 favorites]

It sounds as if you've already gone over and beyond by putting up with all the late payments, as a landlord myself I'd not have renewed the lease in October after the rent payments stopped being on time. Focus on finding a new tenant and turning round the place as quickly as possible to minimise your losses.

It seems Adam's family is stepping in to help him. If you want to do one last kindness and can do so without causing yourself financial hardship don't charge the penalty and only retain any deposit if there is real damage as opposed to some of the other items you may be entitled to charge per the lease/local rules for such things.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:25 AM on February 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

Contact Adult Protective Services ( about the matter, immediately, no matter what else you do. Something is not on the up-and-up here.

I would be wary of Eric in these circumstances:
-Adam's money was in a trust
-Eric was a trustee
-The money is gone

I don't think there is much you can personally do here, but getting Protective Services to check his case sounds like a good idea.
posted by Azara at 3:57 AM on February 26, 2017 [48 favorites]

If Eric had power of attorney over the inheritance, how did Adam manage to give it all away? Something about this doesn't seem right, but ultimately it's not your problem, as much as you might feel for Adam. Your family has to come first. Unless Eric reneges on the agreement on paying you the last couple months of rent, don't get involved.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 4:34 AM on February 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

I agree with Azara. Eric's "woman" story sounds like BS. The red flag is that the lawyer suddenly exited the picture two years ago, and now there is no money - sounds like a classic case of an abusive sibling taking over control.*

Rent wise, you can't put yourself and family at risk - seems like you have to go ahead with March 1st date. Lease break penalty - more of a grey area. Depends on how much financial hardship that causes you.

* Speaking as a child of two trust and estate lawyers, and after hearing way too many disaster scenarios
posted by pando11 at 5:28 AM on February 26, 2017 [11 favorites]

Does Adam even know he is moving out?
posted by jbenben at 5:52 AM on February 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

In your situation, I would not charge the lease break penalty for now, but I wouldn't commit to forgiving it. If Adam is out on time and leaves the place in good shape, I'd let him know that it has been forgiven (maybe when you return the deposit, if applicable).

I wouldn't give him extra time to move out rent free, since it would be a hardship for you. You have been very generous by allowing late rent payments penalty free, and it sounds like Adam will have had sufficient time to find a new place. If he can't find something with two months' notice, an extra month or two is not going to help - it would just delay the inevitable.

Also, I think calling APS is a good idea. They will investigate, can provide referrals to resources Adam/Eric may not be aware of, and may even be able to refer the brothers to an agency to go after the woman if appropriate. If the story about her is true, she probably could be prosecuted for financial abuse of a dependent adult and perhaps some money could be recovered. If it isn't true, Eric may have abused his financial powers and someone may be able to recover money from him.

Also part two - if Eric has a financial power or attorney it means he can act for Adam. It doesn't mean that Adam can't also act for himself, so it is totally possible that Adam did give someone all his $$, especially if it's no longer in a trust.

posted by insectosaurus at 6:55 AM on February 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

Maybe notify Adam and Eric that the penalty is owed you, but that you are not going to pressure them to pay you while the funds are not available. That way, if, somehow, there is a crime that is remedied and somehow the money comes back, you will be on the list of people to be paid.

Definitely get officials involved if possible. The brother sounds like he's somewhat at sea too; he may not even realize that he needs help.
posted by amtho at 8:23 AM on February 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would not make any noise about the lease break penalty until such time as you have the 2 months rent already in hand, because Eric is probably not legally obligated to cover Adam's debts, and Adam apparently has no money left. If you make it seem to Eric that he owes you more than the 2 months rent he's already paid, he may back out on paying even those two months. 2 months in the hand is way, way better than a lease penalty in the bush.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:37 AM on February 26, 2017

I think you would be doing Adam a mitzpah if you were to call Adult Protective Services. It sounds like he might need an advocate. if not, you've done the humane thing. Also, perhaps they can word with Adam to the point of helping him with his rent and finding him a job, which would improve his self-esteem and allow him to more independent (especially if there's an issue with Eric.)

I can't quite parse where you actually stand on the lease (probably my failure to read.) Have you given him 30 days notice? You are legally obligated to do that, and that should be enough to see if anything can be done. If you have, I might be tempted to extend another two weeks, in writing, with the understanding that he MUST be out, simply for the sake of charity. If APS can do nothing, then I would suggest you forgive the deposit, in the manner that jacquilynne suggests. Perhaps it would help if you could help him move.

Beyond that, you need to protect yourself, your family, and your investment. With luck, something will work out for Adam. If not, you can be assured that you have done as much as you could. I'm hoping your area is such that rentals are filled quickly, and that your next payment will be as good as Adam (and more prompt to pay on time.)
posted by BlueHorse at 11:16 AM on February 26, 2017

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