Rent never came. And you find out your tenant is in jail. What do you do? What steps do you take? Brian and Deni break down what landlords should do when their tenant is locked up.
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Brian: Hey, guys! Brian Davis and Deni Supplee here from Spark Rental.
Deni: Hi, everyone!
Brian: Happy Tuesday or whenever it is that you’re listening to the podcast recording. Super glad to have you with us. Last week, Deni interviewed Courtney Poulos about flipping during this environment. You know, there is a lot of uncertainty about interest rates where housing markets are headed, whether there’s a recession coming. All that good stuff. Today we’re driving a little bit more niche into a question of what happens if your tenant goes to jail, which I’ve actually experienced this before myself. Deni, have you have you had this personally happen to you?
Deni: I did.
Brian: Yeah! It’s weird. So as you guys join us, let us know where you’re tuning in from. Fire questions at us. It’s an interactive podcast, video broadcast. You guys are just as much part of the show as Deni and I are.
Brian: On that note, Deni. Let’s start with the basics here. What do you do if you suspect that your tenant has been incarcerated?
Deni: Well, let me clear something up. If you are just suspecting but the rent is coming in and everything else, I don’t think I would do anything. At this point. I mean, housing, rents, right? I mean, unless there’s other things going on like you see, you know, drug deals or whatever hanging out in the front. Right. But other than that, I would just leave it. Leave it go. Because you can’t just…
Brian: What if the rent is not coming in.
Deni: Now if the rent’s not coming in or there are other issues or you just hear through the grapevine as we all do, first of all, you don’t want to call family or friends or anything and say, yo, is so-and-so in jail? You don’t want to do it. Can actually get in trouble for it. What you do want to do.
Brian: Though, it’s public information if someone gets it is.
Deni: But there is something there are legal ramifications in certain instances where a family could say different things. And then if you go ahead and try to evict, say not so much based on nonpayment, but say there is issues like damage to the unit or people hanging out or something like that, then you could get into some hot water. So it’s best not to just you know, you could call them and say, how is so-and-so? I haven’t heard from them. I’m a little concerned. But, you know, stay away from the circumstances.
Brian: You can ask if they are still residing in the property.
Deni: Yeah. Just be vague and say, oh, are you behind bars? And then Shani Dixon, this has happened to someone I know. I think that if you’ve been in this business long enough, it probably has happened. I was lucky. Ironically. The person who, you know, the situation I knew he was on work release, so he continued to pay for his rental and his family took care of it and made sure the heat was on, trash was out and all that stuff. And they came to me, so I wouldn’t have known, but so that was a little bit easier of a situation. Now when you have another situation where they’re not paying rent and whatnot, there are several ways that you should handle this. In most states, we as landlords have the obligation to secure the unit. So what this means is maybe there was a raid and windows are open and the doors left open or something like that. You do have the right to go in and secure the the place and everything else. Or what if it’s in the middle of winter and the heat’s turned off? You can do what you need to do to make sure that you’re not going to frozen pipes and all of those things. But you can.
Brian: Do this even if the tenant is paying the rent, right? Like if you think that they’ve been.
Deni: If it’s abandoned. Right. Well, if you see any signs of abandonment, you know, where you feel that your property is in danger, then you have the right to go in.
Brian: Like if the place is freezing and they don’t have the heat on or…
Deni: Right. Now say you go in and everything’s out of there. There’s nothing in the refrigerator. All the furniture is out. Maybe the family came in and took everything out. You can then go through the normal eviction procedures and. You know.
Brian: As an abandoned unit.
Deni: Right. You’re probably not going to have too much. When you start eviction procedures, make sure that you are following your state’s letter of the law, the notices and everything else you would send them to the unit unless you have another address for it. But for the most part, you would send it directly to the unit. Yeah. Really? Oh, maybe. Yes. Mail forwarded there. But anyway, so you want to do that? A lot of times you’d be surprised. You know, people have family taken care of. Even if they’re not paying the rent, they you’ll still maybe see a girlfriend, boyfriend, somebody going in and out and they might get the mail and get it to them. So you want to mail your notices as you would at any other time. Right. There is also I mean, if you wanted to I don’t suggest this, but it is an idea you could actually, you know, if they reach out to you, if he say they reach out to you, then incarcerated tenant, then you can actually say, look, I’ll come down if you want to release and relinquish the apartment and give me the permission to allow your family to come in and clean it out and all of that. I can come down there and then you can have him sign him or her sign a document and then close it out right there.
Brian: For an early lease termination, you mean?
Deni: Yes, yes…
Brian: Why don’t you recommend that?
Deni: I mean, I don’t know. I just, you know, going to the prison, getting all that done, you really should get it. Load of rice. So you got to bring somebody else or a witness. And I mean, do you really want to take your day and go to the county jail?
Brian: But it might be worth it to to close out that lease contract cleanly.
Deni: Right? Oh, right. And if it’s that easy, like if if this tenant is contacting you and then it’s not that far, you’re not driving 3 hours to do this, right? Then it probably makes sense to do it.
Brian: But you can always send like, you know, your deadbeat nephew to the prison to get this signed. Right.
Deni: And send Greedo? No.
Deni: Anyway. So those are the things that you want to do. You want to start eviction if you need to. If the rent is not coming in. If the rent’s coming in, I would just leave it. Just make sure it’s not abandoned. You don’t want to harass anybody. And I’ve heard stories of people doing that. And that’s going to come back to bite you in your butt. You definitely don’t want to do that. You don’t want to go into the unit for any other reason to take their stuff. Don’t do anything with any of that stuff until you have permission written and…
Brian: Until the sheriff goes with you. Right?
Brian: Or hand back possession to you.
Deni: Even then, you have to be careful and handle the property as per your state’s regulations. And there are some states that make you hold it for 45 days…
Brian: Yeah. And some cities there are some very tenant friendly cities with anti-landlord laws that we talk about all the time that have just crazy regulations on this side where the tenant can abandon their junk and the property and you as the landlord still have to pay to store it even after the eviction for months afterwards. And that can certainly apply here if your tenant is imprisoned.
Brian: These are reasons to avoid areas with anti landlord laws. You know, it’s funny. So Shani Dixon says that for the person that it happened to, that she knows, she says I happened to see it in the online newspaper. By chance, owner had no idea that their tenant had been arrested and incarcerated. Wow.
Deni: And I mean, generally, you’re not going to know if everything is is good and if it’s the middle of the month, you’re not going to know to rent do again, unfortunately, unless you have some kind of inkling or like I had maintenance people that would tell me if an apartment was abandoned or whatnot. So, I mean, it’s kind of. Oh, my goodness. He was for murder!
Brian: Yeah. In the comments. For anyone even listening, Shani said that the tenant had been arrested for murder, unfortunately.
Deni: So chances are he’s not going to have work release.
Brian: Right. Well, I suppose that’s true, Deni.
Deni: So I guess, yeah. That’s all I have for today. Again, don’t throw away their stuff. Don’t take anything if you have to inventory it. He never came back. Shani Dixon just said. I would assume so.
Brian: Yeah. But, yeah, the bottom line here is you really have to follow your state and city eviction laws to the tee. Document everything. You know, C.Y.A. right. Because you may be challenged later either by the tenant when they get out of prison or by their family members. So you really have to Cover Your Ass here and just document everything, cross every t, dot every eye when it comes to your state’s eviction laws and city eviction laws.
Deni: And the legal ramification that I was talking about, like, if you ask a family like say, you know, this guy is is in for murder, technically until he has his court hearing, he’s not a murderer. So if you act upon something like that without, you know.
Brian: Oh, yeah, yeah, you can’t evict someone for alleged crimes that they have not been proven guilty of. Even if your lease has a clause about criminal activity in it, you really have to. You can only evict people for violations of the lease agreement.
Brian: All right. On that note, we will see you guys next Tuesday. Stay in touch. Let us know what you want to hear about in the coming weeks and we will catch you guys. On the flip side.
Deni: We are and I’m going to be a grandmother tomorrow. I’m very excited. Another grandmother, my 11th. Thank you. Yeah. Yeah.
Brian: Well, congratulations again, Deni, and we’ll see you guys soon!
Deni: All right. Bye.