I have already blogged about this subject. I blogged about this messy scenario the very last time I blogged about anything. Yet, another homeowner came to me with this same issue, and when we got to court, the personal property left at the home, almost played against the homeowner. The homeowner left personal property in a basement area and an attic area, and the tenant seemed fine with this arrangement right up until that he quit paying and was about to be ousted; then those personal items became a huge issue.
The homeowner’s personal property had been there at the very beginning and throughout the lease without any complaint from the tenant. Ever. Yet when the tenant stopped paying and got served with a dispossessory, he went nuts about the homeowner’s personal property taking up all his space. He said that he had never had the entire house that he rented because there was “stuff everywhere.” Even more bizarre, in pictures of the home that the tenant brought for evidence of the inconvenience, it became clear that one of the personal items left in the house, a television, was such a detriment to him that he had to move it to his bedroom to watch it. That’s right. This guy had moved the homeowner’s television from the basement to upstairs, so he could use the television throughout his lease. However, when this victim quit paying, and he got called on it, he complained that this television had interfered with his rights to the proper use of the house. There were several instances of this lunacy with several pieces of property in the house. I caught the tenant in this game when I reviewed his pictures and scared him into negotiating. This guy was trying to counter-sue the homeowner for prorated back-rent for entire portions of the house that he claimed he could not use during the lease. Pay attention to that. The tenant tried to ask for partial monthly compensation for his so-called loss for the entire 12 month lease. He had not even paid his rent on part of that lease, yet here he was demanding to be reimbursed. Seriously. Had he not messed up and brought pictures showing he was enjoying the homeowner’s property, she could have lost much of the value of that house, and likely, she would have had to pay up to the deadbeat. I have seen it happen to other people in various courtrooms. Luckily, it did not happen to my homeowner this time.
This is how personal property could hurt you; I will use my homeowner’s home as an example. This homeowner has an upstairs, a main floor, and an unfinished basement. She left property upstairs and in the unfinished basement (I stress that unfinished parts of the house are still part of the house.) In extreme cases, a judge can award the tenant who starts objecting to that situation, up to 2/3 off the rent that the homeowner has been charging – three floors of home with two floors containing personal property becomes one fully usable floor of the home (again, it doesn’t matter if it is unfinished space). This devaluation can happen despite the terms of the lease; despite the established precedent that the tenant has been paying full rent until he decides to quit; despite the tenant using the personal property for enjoyment. None of that matters.
I will say this again. Do not leave any personal property in the house; do not leave a television, a picture on the wall; a paper cup in a window sill. Do not do it. It could cost you big. A judge could cut the value of your lease by the percentage of entire area, an entire floor of your property, if you leave anything there that the tenant chooses to complain about. Protect the value of your rental; take your stuff out of the house. Period.
Did You Leave Personal Property in Your Rental Property? What Were You Thinking?Get Your Stuff Out of That House Right Now!
A couple of weeks ago, my eviction crew went to a house and emptied it. They secured the
home, gave me a call to tell me it was done, and I gleefully called the property owner to tell him
that the house was empty of people and things. I awaited his joyful response to this news
only to hear him say – What? What? But some of my really expensive tools and lawnmowers
were there! It turns out that he had left all sorts of things there, things that were supposedly off limits to the tenants. After weeks and weeks of talking to this property owner, he says he has had personal property in that rental home. No prior disclosure was ever made to us about that property, and his belongings were now sitting outside for the taking. Luckily, he got to the house in time to rescue his equipment.
So, maybe you think, well Joe, he did make a mistake, and he did not end up losing his tools. True on both counts; however, he could have lost thousands of dollars worth of items by commingling his property with the tenants’ items, either through misuse and theft by the tenant or by set out and theft after the eviction crew performed the eviction service.
Do not risk leaving anything of yours at a house you are renting out. Do not do it. And if you
have done it, plan to show up at a very difficult scene - the eviction set out - to tell the sheriff
what’s yours. And I ask you, who wants to do that?
If that is not enough to scare you out of leaving your mechanical items, tools, or even cars
behind, consider this. If something goes wrong while your tenants are - um - let’s say
borrowing your stuff, they can sue you for damages and medical expenses simply because the
item they were using belongs to you.
Protect yourself. Do not leave any personal property at a home you are renting out. Do not do
it. You could lose your stuff, get sued, or have to show up later at a contentious move out to
claim your things.
What Do You Mean My Eviction Has Been Delayed? Another Hang Up? Blame All the Other People Who are Being Evicted Too.
When we get your Writ of Possession, we schedule with the Sheriff’s Department to have your tenant evicted as soon as possible. We have our move-out crew schedule with the Sheriff directly because that provides the quickest route to get your property cleared of people, pets, and personal belongings. Clients sometimes feel a bit frustrated because despite their urgency for us to remove the tenant, we simply cannot get it to happen immediately. Why? Most Sheriff Departments stay inundated with evictions, and law enforcement officers can only handle so many properties per day. Each officer who goes to the eviction with the eviction crew must stay until the entire eviction process is complete; sometimes this process is really fast, but sometimes there are animals and people in the home. Animals must be retrieved by local animal control authorities, and people must be removed by another officer. All of these issues can stall out an eviction for hours thereby bumping your eviction to another day. Be assured your eviction will be handled as quickly as it can be handled legally.
We have had our clients try to expedite the process by calling the Sheriff themselves, only to find themselves placed back in line – at the back of the line. So, as I have said many times to many clients - be aware; be patient. Nothing moves as quickly as we would like, but we must keep perspective, and we must keep it legal.
After we have your writ of possession, you would assume we can get these people out of your house immediately. Recently, we had a case where our writ of possession (yes, we already had it) had to be extended because at the last minute the tenant filed for an appeal, and the appeal paper trail did not catch up with the issuance of the writ. That appeal managed to hang our client up for another six weeks. I was livid. We were stuck – because of a paperwork shuffle at the final hour, and it was all legal.
A Writ of Possession is granted seven days after the judgment evicting your tenant – unless – the tenant appeals the decision within the seven day period. That Writ of Possession means the Sheriff has a court order to remove the people, pets, and things in the home and put them out of the house. And if your tenant files an appeal at just the right moment, that Writ of Possession may get stopped. The tenant can file the appeal, have that filing accepted and begin paying rent into court, even if the judge already ruled against him. And when that appeal process starts, the case moves from Magistrate Court to Superior Court where you will need a lawyer to represent you. Every court case may be appealed with a few exceptions in Georgia where that option may be closed off during mediation. And the appeals in Superior Court can go on for months while you get no rent money until the appeals run out and the court then turns the rent monies paid into court over to you (if you win).
Be aware that an appeal can happen to you simply because the law allows the possibility. An appeal can happen to you when the judge has already ruled in your favor. Read that last sentence again. An appeal can foil your eviction – even after the Writ of Possession has been sent to the Sheriff. Be aware. Be prepared for anything. Be patient.
What is Landlord’s Insurance?
I have walked into some heartbreaking scenes after evictions. Renters can wreck your property, and I mean make your property unlivable, unfit - damaged beyond anything the security deposit covers. Some unmanaged properties look like anything from war zones to versions of Animal House. Often, a home owner will rent out a property that he or she could not sell immediately because of a move, or because of being upside down in a mortgage, or both. Becoming a long-term landlord (more than about a month) is not always an investment choice; it is the only choice the owner has to avoid foreclosure, and those unplanned circumstances set the stage for big mistakes. One of the biggest mistakes I often see - not changing the type of insurance on the property being rented.
When your home becomes a long-term rental, your insurance coverage must change. The established time frame that defines a long-term rental varies by insurance company, but most carriers have three versions of a landlord insurance, called dwelling place policies, to cover a rental home. DP-1 covers basic events like fire or vandalism. DP-2 covers weather related damage, fire, and vandalism. DP-3 covers “open peril,” which may not be everything, but the important aspect of a DP-3 policy lies in its reimbursement to the homeowner at actual cost to replace not at some prorated value. Other polices exist to augment dwelling place policies and fill in the gaps, such as loss of rental income (only used if the rental must be vacated for repairs – not eviction losses), and liability coverage.
The big question about Landlord’s insurance – does it cost more than regular homeowner’s insurance? The simple answer – yes it does. But, believe me, you need this insurance. You really do.
If you have a question about whether you need this insurance watch this video to help you make up your mind.
Source – Bankrate.com
Often we see the misplaced expectation of getting money just because a tenant faces dispossessory action. We understand that expectation. We get it.
You had everything in place. Your lease terms were specific and flawless. You have rights to your property and that rent money, to say the least. You even have things set up where you can charge them for rent, late fees, court costs, and attorney’s fees – practically everything you can think of. And buddy, they owe it all. And now you are going to collect! Um…or not… Why?
The main factors that keep you from immediately getting your money are: the deadbeat renter who doesn’t have the money (at least they are not giving it to you,) and the legal system, which despite your needs, enforces the dispossessory through a judge – a judge who acts as he sees fit, and what he sees as fit may not fall in line with what you expect. The judge may tell the renter he owes you the money, but he may not tell the renter that at all. It depends on the circumstances of your case (to include your behavior toward the renter during the period leading up to the dispossessory). And if the judge says that you, the property owner, are entitled to money from the renter; you have to start new processes to actually collect that money because most nonpaying, soon to be evicted renters won’t suddenly come up with all that money.
It’s called an eviction for a reason. We file a dispossessory warrant for a reason. The reason is to take possession of the property – to get the house back and to get that nonpaying tenant out. Your focus needs to be on moving forward with your property and getting a new renter who will pay. The dispossessory is a tool to get that person out of your house first and maybe be granted the right to pursue them for some of your lost funds second. The money judgment at the dispossessory gives you the right to start collection proceedings, and that is an entirely separate pursuit.
Eviction is an emotional pursuit, and you want to made whole. But getting there takes time and multiple processes. Set your expectations accordingly.
Has it been a while since you received a rent check? Are you thinking that you may want to accept at least some of the rent? After all, you are losing money, and your renter does, in fact, owe you money. Right? As tempted as you may be to try and get any bit of money from a renter who has stopped paying, do not take a partial payment. Don’t do it.
In fact, if you have a direct deposit system set up for your tenants, I recommend you reconsider having that convenience because you cannot stop a renter from dropping off partial payments into the account. If your renter gives you a partial payment, send it back (never, ever hold a check). Georgia law states that receiving a partial payment during a rental period defeats a claim for non-payment of rent for the balance of the rental period. That means you have to wait until the next rental period for non-payment to evict. Moreover, if you have established a habit of accepting partial payments and late payments, you may end up voiding that portion of your lease.
Let me say this again. Refuse partial payments; make your tenant pay all or nothing, or you may be stuck with them until their payment gets missed entirely – next month. You cannot even begin eviction for nonpayment of rent until there is no rent. Consider that a partial payment one month gives them another month to miss, then an eviction process that could take weeks. Do yourself a favor, don’t drag out the process of getting someone out over less than the full amount owed; it will cost more in the long run.
Are You Able To Start An Eviction?
You cannot just evict someone. Nope, you can’t. Yes, it is your property, but there are specific things that you, the landlord, must do to conform to Georgia’s legal requirements before you start an eviction. Georgia law clearly defines what must happen to evict a tenant, but often, I run into landlords who have never met the most basic conditions under set forth by Georgia law to start the eviction process. Don’t be that landlord; don’t slow yourself down.
So, this seems like a no-brainer, but it isn’t; you must actually have a landlord/tenant relationship in effect to evict someone from your property. That relationship stands out clearly when someone who lives in your property pays you or your agent monthly rent, even in the absence of a written lease. However, if you have a lease-purchase agreement with a tenant, the tenant may claim to be the owner of the property because he is paying rent to you which he considers to be a type of mortgage. That claim seldom works in court, but it can.
Moreover, you have to tell your tenant that you intend to begin eviction proceedings before you do so. Georgia law defines grounds for eviction (dispossession), and you must state why you plan to evict the tenant. Did your tenant fail to pay rent? Did he violate his lease terms? Did he fail to turn over your premises when his lease ended? Did he create a breach in the lease or violate the terms of the lease? What? Familiarize yourself with the terms of your own lease. Understand it. Make sure you complied with your own lease and then make sure you say why you need them to leave. Proper notice and termination is crucial. And yes, it can be verbal if you want to do that, but written word cannot be misheard or denied. And even if the tenant agrees to leave, you need the coverage of an actual demand letter. Sometimes a tenant expresses the intent to leave just to get you to go away, to put you off, and then they do not move. Demand that they go in a way that you can prove. And do it before starting the eviction. It’s the law.
Finally, understand that Georgia law requires that specific timelines apply to specific types of notice and termination. If your tenant reaches or is about to reach the end of the lease, you must demand that the tenant move after lease termination but before you file the eviction. If your tenant did not pay you, you must demand that the tenant move out after he is late on rent but before you start the eviction. It’s the law.
Again, I recommend getting everything in writing. E-mail is just ok. It is not great. What is better than email? Try an old fashioned letter by certified mail. I often send this letter for my clients and get the certification receipt back simply to start my case against the renter. Sometimes a letter is all it takes for them to leave, sometimes not. But if you have established your relationship, have a reason under the law to evict, and keep your evidence to support that reason; your eviction timeline could stay reasonably short. Keep yourself ready to defend your property. Establish who you are to your tenant; notify them of their breach under the law; write your demand letter; keep records.
Now you are ready to evict.
For more information visit OCGA § 44-7-50
If you have a bad tenant, I know you want them out, but please keep it legal. All Georgia landlords have to be patient enough to go through all the legal processes and the time that it takes for those processes to work. Do not be tempted to take shortcuts to facilitate the process, or you could end up breaking the law.
So, what am I saying? In Georgia, self-help evictions will get you in trouble. What do I mean? I mean you cannot threaten folks in any way, obviously. Moreover, you cannot flush them out by turning off the water, turning off the power, or turning your back to ignore a broken heating system. Even when the tenant stops paying, until due process is completed, you are required to keep everything running and repaired just as if the rent still came in on time. Under Georgia law, turning off any utility can get you fined up to $500. And no, you cannot keep the tenant out of the house, either. Don’t go changing locks or barring windows. And no barring the doors either. Unfortunately, during the eviction process, right up until the sheriff goes to oversee the removal, you, dear landlord, have to treat your squatter like a renter.
It’s frustrating, but protect yourself by being a model landlord even when the tenant has become a deadbeat. The law works for both sides, so know how to keep yourself out of trouble, even though you are at the end of your rope.
For more information check out OCGA § 44-7-14.1
All posts coauthored by
Evict Them For Me and Southern Real Estate Services DO NOT provide any legal advice. We have lawyers to whom we can refer you, or you may seek your own legal counsel.
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