Real Estate Law (esp. Landlord-Tenant)/Gift of Renter's Property

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Nathan Gesner Question

My strange rental saga is much too long and far too bizarre to waste your valuable time recounting all of it. There's a lot more to this story but I'll just list the (current) major points and maybe you can tell me how I should handle this situation.

I live 200 miles away from my rental home in South Carolina and am unable to visit it often.

My attorney's adult son has been renting my S.C home for the last six months at a drastically reduced rate while he tried to sort out his drug and legal problems. For the first three months, he was living there for free in exchange for doing some work on the property (such as filling in the pool and clearing the back yard). Despite numerous promises, the work has still not been completed after all this time and he's $1400.00 behind in the rent.

My attorney has verbally guaranteed his son's rent to me on several occasions but has yet to pay a dime of it.

My attorney's son is the Master Tenant and had two sub tenant roommates living with him but there was a falling out between them and both roommates are currently being evicted. The two roommates are convicted criminals on parole and relapsing drug addicts and are experts at abusing the rental system. They have told both me and the son that they will use every legal loophole they can find to stay as long as they can and make the eviction process as difficult as possible. They are doing exactly that. They are spending the night somewhere else now but refuse to return the keys and move out and still have their belongings in their bedroom. They have locked the door so no one can enter and have another eviction court date scheduled in ten days.

The son's sub tenants have deliberately damaged my property (kicked holes in two different doors) and my attorney says they will be sued for the damages and back rent they owe. As you know though, a judgment isn't necessarily the same thing as collecting the money.

I have no written rental contract with any of these people, including the Master Tenant. I've never even met the sub tenants. The Master Tenant has no written contract with the sub tenants either. My attorney never could "find the time" to prepare any contracts for his son.

The attorney's son (Master Tenant) has now decided to move out, owing me $1400.00 and leaving me with his subtenants belongings, damaged property, a partially unfilled pool, and a storm ravaged back yard.

The son says that of course, he will send all the back rent to me as soon as he earns it and will also complete the work just as soon as he gets a chance. He says that his father will pursue the lawsuit against the sub tenants and there's no doubt that I'll be paid; it's all going to work out perfectly for me. Great.

Per my request, son also says that he spoke to his father about all this and his father says that the son will have to work all this out with me because hey, this has nothing to do with him. Since I've asked my attorney twice for the rent already, I suppose you can guess how likely I am to collect this 'guaranteed' rent from him.

The son has several furniture items that he isn't interested in taking with him and wants to leave behind, a couch, microwave, an armchair, etc.

Considering the circumstances, I'm sure that you can understand that I'm concerned about the possible legal ramifications should the lawyer father decide later to declare his son's gifts to me 'abandoned property'.

Since these crummy items could be all I ever get out of this mess, I guess I should take them as they would help in renting the house to the next ne'er-do-well renter who won't pay me either. I made it clear to the son that I would not accept any items in lieu of any money owed to me but I'm not willing to rely on anymore of these self serving verbal contracts my lawyer enjoys and I'm not sure how to phrase the release form or even if I should try. The son is probably telling the truth when he says that he's leaving his stuff because he wants to be helpful but he could be following his father's advice and just setting me up for a future lawsuit or a legal advantage if I should sue him for the unpaid rent.

There must be tenants that willingly sacrifice their things rather than move them. Is there a standard contract that covers this scenario? After reading the rules and penalties regarding tenants 'abandoning' their belongings, I don't feel comfortable allowing the son to leave his items without some type of release form.

Can you help?

Answer
Terry,

There are a hundred things to address, but only one that really matters. Cut ties immediately! Do it now, do it in writing, and DO NOT negotiate with the tenant, his crooked attorney father, or the parolee evictees. Do not accept their "gift" of furniture. Do not accept work in exchange for moneys owed or the promise of something else in the future. Get them out, legally, and move on before you dig yourself deeper.

You need to move them out, cut your losses, and stop letting people take advantage of you by accepting promises in exchange for rent. Find a couple property managers in the area and interview them until you find one you are comfortable with. Tell them your situation and see how they would handle it. Let them manage your home so you can make some money and stop stressing over it. A decent property manager will make you some money and protect your property. A great property manager will INCREASE your bottom line and protect your property. Even if you make less money, at least you are protecting your property, reducing your headaches and making something!

Here's a guide to help locate a property manager: http://landlords.about.com/od/BasicsOfPropertyInvesting/a/How-To-Find-The-Right-

Sorry for the lack of detail but you are in a bad situation and the only true solution is to cut your losses and run. Make sure you only communicate in writing and make the tenant (and his father) do the same so everything is clear and tracked.  

Real Estate Law (esp. Landlord-Tenant)

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Nathan Gesner

Expertise

Questions regarding Landlord/Manager/Tenant relationships, contracts, improvements, breaking a lease, rent increases, pet policies, discrimination, Americans With Disabilities Act, and more. I can also handle problems between tenants.

Experience

I am the largest property manager in my area with 130 rental units that include apartments, town homes, single-family homes, and a few commercial units. I have nearly 200 adult tenants and average 40 new contracts per year. If you have an issue3 with a Landlord, Property Manager, or another Tenant, I've probably seen it many times.

Organizations
Director, Northwest Board of Realtors National Association of Realtors Institute of Real Estate Managers Veterans of Foreign Wars

Education/Credentials
B.S. in Psychology/Sociology, Excelsior College AAS in Information Systems Technology, Community College of the Air Force

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