Tragedy at College Station reminds landlords that evictions are a hostile process

by Mirania 28, November 2012 17:12

Recently , we all heard about the tragic shooting incident at College Station. I came across an article about it on Chron.com.

The tragedy was a shootout incident at College Station that killed three people including a constable leaving a Houston woman seriously injured amongst the wounded. This unfortunate incident seems to have happened because of an eviction notice. This noxious incident has rocked College Station and its neighboring areas including the extended Aggie network.

Brazos County Constable Brian Bachman brought an eviction notice for Alton Caffall, and as a result of being served the notice a confrontation took place between both of them. The heated argument between the two sparked a gunfire exchange killing and injuring people. Both of them were later pronounced dead at a hospital. Bachmann who was killed in the shootout was a law enforcement officer for about two decades. He took the office as a constable last year in January 2011. According to sources, deceased tenant and shooter, Caffall had relocated to College Station early last year.  As a landlord, this incident will hopefully remind landlords to protect themselves and their property by following these steps.

Landlords should consider that this tragedy would have been difficult to predict, but it does not mean a landlord should not make to find the best tenant possible. 

Things to consider:

Screen your tenant:  Before renting out a property, you should conduct a thorough tenant screening. Besides checking the credit history of the tenant, it is equally essential to review for criminal history or history with previous landlords. There are not always signs that these kinds of tragedies will happen, but any clues that a tenant may not be a positive prospect should be considered before making a decision to rent to them.

Keep correspondence professional and clear: Finally, please remember that you should conduct your activity as a landlord in a fair and consistent manner with the lease. Keep correspondence polite, concise, and clear. Try to avoid increasing the hostility by increasing the emotional nature of the situation.

Document Incidences and Consult Legal Help: As soon as you get enough evidence about the violent activities or criminal activities of a tenant, you may be required to send an eviction notice or an official warming  to state no tolerance of violence or illegal activities. However, if it comes to an eviction for these reasons, then this process should be conducted with the help of an attorney.  The landlord tenant law has processes and procedures that must be followed for a legal eviction, and if you fail to follow those rules then you as the landlord could also be facing fines and punitive damages for an illegal eviction.  Landlords have to cognizant of fair housing rules, Americans with Disabilities rules, landlord and tenant law, etc; so navigating those waters with legal counsel maybe appropriate.

Tragedies like what happened at Texas A&M are a rare occurrence, but it does provide an important reminder that being a landlord can have momements where you will face a confrontational moment (late rent, tenant  damaged the home, etc). It is important for landlords in Houston, Dallas, or anywhere to conduct themselves in a professional manner consistent with the law.

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Landlord & Tenant Disputes in Dallas and Tampa

by Mirania 8, November 2012 15:25

Several landlord and tenant disputes make news every week with incidents covering a broad variety of strong conflicts taking place between landlords and renters. We will discuss some of the most notable incidents of landlord-tenant disputes.

1)  In February 2012, Dallas police had arrested a landlord who had shot a tenant at a condominium in the 5200 block of Bent Tree Forest Drive off the Dallas North Tollway in far north Dallas. According to Dallas police, the landlord Gabriel Abraham, was trying to evict Daniel Sipes, his tenant when there was some sort of argument. Finally, Abraham shot his tenant multiple times leaving the victim in a critical condition. Abraham was arrested by police on the spot. (Click here for the story)

2)   Another incident took place in Florida in September this year when a Tampa resident was stabbed several times following a tussle with his landlord. The landlord was taken into custody by police and the investigation is underway. (Click here for the story)

How to avoid Landlord and Tenant Disputes?

Such incidents of landlord and tenant dispute generally arise due to disagreement over a rent increase, return of security deposit and responsibility for repairs. To avoid such disputes both landlords and tenants should know their rights and responsibilities under federal, state, and local law. Also, the landlord and tenant should ensure that the terms are precisely mentioned in the rental agreement. It is also important to keep copies of each and every correspondence that takes place between the landlord and tenant and make notes of conversations about problems, if any.

A responsible landlord and a good tenant should always follow these tips in order to avoid conflicts with each other and to co-exist better with each other. If a landlord is having a problem with a tenant for nonpayment of rent, then they should refrain from engaging in personal attacks and focus on following the eviction procedures as outlined by the letter of the law in their state and local area.

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The Shining: Horror that many people have to deal with

by jay.raman@ashokalion.com 4, October 2012 23:18

The Shining is a 1980 horror movie that was based on the Stephen King novel, that was directed by Stanley Kubrick and starred Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall. The story is about a young family that is taking care of an isolated hotel that is haunted by a demonic presence. The hotel's demonic element slowly begins to turn the father and drag him into insanity. In the end, the mother and son flee the deranged father as he tries to kill them.  Now, fortunately, in our time as a property managers in either the Houston or Dallas area, we have not faced a tragedy on that scale, but we have come across tenant's whose lives are marred by family violence. Unlike this movie,  where the family is trapped together till the very end when they escape, the Texas property code does allow tenants to terminate a lease without reprecussion when dealing with incidences of family violence.

We advise tenants to put the request in writing, so our property managers can document the incident. Additionally, our property management company policy is to request tenants provide us copies of police reports or restraining orders to help us document the incident further. As the property manager, we still have to relay information to our landlords and owners; and the written documentation will help us in explain what is going on at a property.  Additionally, in those situations with the appropriate written notice and supporting documents, our property managment company will not report the incident as a broken lease or evict a tenant for moving out.

Normally, we like to be joke and tease about movies relating to our lives a property managers. However, the Shining is a movie that too often hits home for too many families in Houston, Dallas, Texas, and everywhere. We hope that tenants will not face horrorifying situations in their family life. If they do have to deal with this horror, then please remember to document and provide proof to your landlord or property manager to not compound the personal tragedy with an eviction or broken lease.  I am sure that many property management companies or property managers will be understanding.  If you do get a broken lease or eviction due to those circumstances, then you have to sometimes deal with a hassle to remove those items from your record.

The Shining, a classic movie, whose horror hits too close to home for too many people.

 

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Can you Evict a Tenant to Help Sell Your Rental Property?

by jay.raman@ashokalion.com 6, August 2012 00:34

As a real estate investment property management firm, we often come across landlords in Dallas and Houston area who are curious to know if a landlord has the right to evict a tenant or remove a tenant who is under a lease agreement before selling his rental unit. A landlord no doubt has the right to sell his rental unit but he should abide by some regulations set by the law and legal precedent in order to avoid unnecessary issues.

According to the housing laws in the state of Texas, a landlord cannot evict a tenant to simply assist with selling his rental unit. Tenants with active rental agreements can be evicted only for a genuine cause. The factors mentioned below will explain why a landlord cannot evict a tenant while selling his house and how you can convince your tenants to evict your property without causing any disputes.

  1. You cannot evict your tenants till the end of the tenancy agreement. A rental agreement is signed by you and your tenant for a specific period; thus as a landlord or a person inheriting a tenant at a investment property you do not have the right to evict your tenant before the end of the term mentioned in the lease just because you want to sell your rental property.  Even if you end up selling your rental property, the buyer must allow the tenant to stay in the property till the end of the lease.
  2. Renters who are staying in the rental unit on month to month  contract can be asked to leave if given appropriate notice (usually 30 days) and if they do not agree to leave in a timely manner, then they can be evicted for failure to leave.
  3. As a landlord, if it becomes essential for you remove your tenant to assist the sale effort; then the best option would be to discuss, negotiate, and sign a release from the lease agreement with your tenant requesting him to leave the house within a specific period of time for some compensation or agreed upon term. You may wish to consult appropriate legal counsel to draft a release or agreement in such a manner to avoid confusion or disputes from a poorly worded agreement.
  4. As a landlord, you have the right to sell your rental unit, but  your tenants should be informed well in advance to avoid disputes and insure that showings of the property can occur with minimal push back. Selling a property with tenants becomes a hassle-free endeavor only if the landlord does not violate the rules and regulations set by the housing laws and reduce the impact on the tenant's right to quiet enjoyment of the property.

 

Tips to Dealing with Difficult Tenants

by jay.raman@ashokalion.com 25, July 2012 22:56

'A tenant slashes his landlord across the stomach when the latter got into an argument with his tenant while collecting the rent’.

You may have come across such threatening stories about violent situations occuring between tenants and their landlord. Not all tenants behave this way, but obviously, landlords sometimes face aggressive situations or difficult situation with their residents. 

As Investment Property Managers, we often come across landlords in Houston and Dallas facing the problem of evicting difficult tenants. Our eviction team has handled several eviction hearings and has assisted several distressed owners in Houston and Dallas to carry out the eviction process smoothly. The following tips would help you to deal with or avoid hostile tenants:

It goes without saying that proper background checks (criminal, eviction, and credit) and reference checks are highly essential before renting out your property to a new tenant. You should be assured that you are leasing your unit to a responsible and qualified person who will not be a threat to you or his neighbors. It is imperative to conduct proper screening of your prospective tenants before leasing your property to prevent all future calamities.  Often times,  prospective landlords will feel our criteria as their property management company are too difficult and strict, but our goal is to reduce risk that a tenant who may not be a quality individual obtains the keys.  Many owners do not realize that a eviction is a prolonged process that can cause a lot of heart ache and anger, and therefore preventitive measures in screening are preferable to having to deal with evicting a tenant.

Once a tenant has moved in, the steps to follow include:

Inform the tenant:
The first step is to inform your tenant that he/ she is violating the terms and conditions mentioned in the lease. Ideally, they should be informed over the phone and this conversation should be followed by a letter along with the copy of the lease. Don’t forget to highlight the violation in the rental agreement.

Settlement with a tenant: Foreclosures through out America have forced many banks work to remove occupants of a property through settlement (Cash for Keys) programs. This is done to avoid the scenario escalating with prolonged legal issues and reducing property damage. If you believe that the tenant will move out with minimal issue, then you may want to negotiate a relet fee or way to obtain your property with minimal.

Notice For Eviction Process:
If a phone call does not work as a reminder, then you may have to initiate the eviction procedures. For example, if your tenant has not bothered about paying the rent, then provide them a notice to vacate giving him/her appropriate notice to pay the rent or vacate the house (these terms are governed by your lease and state law) by certified mail.

Let the law handle the eviction:  If you feel unsafe during the proceeding, then let the legal process play out and stay away from your property during the eviction process.  Often times, you can file a  “Writ of Possession” after the eviction period,  if you are unsure that the tenant has vacated the premises, and a Sherriff can accompany you to the property to gain access. Do not try to circumvent the process by illegally locking the tenant out, cutting of utilities,etc, as it is both illegal and will only escalate the hostility.

Know your legal obligations: The best way to deal with violent tenants is to know the law of the land and to be aware of the terms mentioned in the lease. While making a rental agreement ensure that it specifies the time when the tenant should pay the rent, additional late fees and activities that are not allowed in the unit.  You should know if working with a tenant for a minimal payment may negate the eviction proceeding.

The following video cites a horrifying incident about a violent tenant who bit off one of the fingers of his landlord after an argument.  Being a landlord does not always have to end in violence or negative situations, but it is something to understand that it can be difficult.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lI-WiotRN5o

Once they get the keys, it can be too late for a property owner.

by jay.raman@ashokalion.com 16, September 2010 19:29

Landlords who own investment property property always want to fill their properties as quickly as possible. However, you must realize that once a tenant moves into a property that there is an inherent risk that they will not be able to honor the terms of their lease. If there was no risk in rental property, then everyone would be a real estate investor ( Author's Note: Well, we know that a few years ago everyone tried to be, but we can see where that got us.)

The risks that are inherent in a bad tenant are numerous and include:

1) The tenant is unable to pay their rent.

2) The tenant is able to pay rent, but the tenant will not take care of the property.

3) The tenant may be carrying out illegal activities at your property.

For example, in Dallas, a landlord had leased a property to a tenant who used the property as a group home for developmentally challenged adults. However, he had not disclosed this at the time of leasing the property. The landlord had not screened the tenant's previous rental history or verified with previous landlords if this issue had arisen. There is no guarantee that the screening may have detected this, but there is a good chance that other landlords had evicted his business from previous properties.

This is why our property management company constantly works vigilantly with our tenant screening process. Our process includes requesting that tenants provide:

1) Copies of ID to verify against lease application information

2) Copies of Payroll Checks to verify against lease application information

3) Copies of old lease to verify the identity of the previous landlord or property managers and confirm that the tenant was in good status

Our screening process entails running a professional report that runs credit check, criminal history, and a search for judgements filed against the applicant. Even with a thorough background check, a tenant's situation can change after they have moved in. This means that a background screening will not be able to remove this risk, and with today's economic issues, it is likely that it could. This is why owners must fully appreciate the risk in the rental management business. Owners should confirm that they are financially secure enough to take on the risk of carrying a mortgage payment without a tenant's rent payment or have excess cash to handle repairs or issues that may arise with their property. With our help in property management and/or leasing your property, we aim to reduce these risks in owning investment property by making a diligent effort to screen a tenant's background.

 

 

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