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tenant is late on rent and unreachable…

Posted by annechang


Q: my tenant has been late on her payment for over a month now and I have not been able to reach her. I’ve emailed her, called her and left her voice messages. Her belongings are still in the apartment. Per my knowledge, she is back to her country and may have some visa issue. The lease expiration date is in a few months.

Q: Can I clear out her belongings and re-rent the apartment? what can I do?

Answered by Lucas A. Ferrara, a real-estate attorney and professor at New York Law School http://www.nfllp.com/Attorney_Profiles/Lucas_A_Ferrara.aspx

A: Unless it can be shown that a tenant has unequivocally surrendered or abandoned an apartment, it is never a good idea to evict a tenant without a court order.

Speculating as to the reasons for a tenant’s absence is fraught with peril, as it is very possible that the tenant could return, at any time, seeking to be restored to the unit and/or to recover her personal belongings.

And if the tenant were to later sue, and a judge were to find that the eviction was “illegal” or wrongful, the landlord could get hit with substantial monetary penalties — “treble damages” — and might even be ordered to pay the tenant’s legal fees.

The owner would be well advised to consult with an attorney, as soon as possible, to discuss the best legal options available given the unique factual circumstances of this case.