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Tenant Not Moving Out on Time: What's The Right Thing to Do?

Published on September 13,2023 by Chris Thompson

I just read a very insightful article today from FAR (Florida Association of Realtors) that tries to explain the very unique and weird market we are currently in – both here in Florida and across the U.S. This article explains that headlines across the nation seem to be all over the place – Good Market to Buy/Sell, Bad Market to Buy/Sell, Prices are falling, Prices are rising, Lowest … Highest… Ever!. The article explains that each article is basically touting statistics that are all right… and they are mostly talking about different metrics. For example: Median Sales Price is different from Average Sales Price.  

Let me break this down for you in very easy terms: I tell my clients every single day: Don’t trust the headlines. They are designed to get an emotional response out of you – that is it. They are not designed to HELP YOU. Here is the bottom line from your local real estate expert (Team Thompson): We are in a ‘transaction crash’ currently. That is all. Year over year we are seeing far fewer homes selling than last year. Why?

Understanding Holdover Tenants

When a tenant stays in your property beyond the lease expiration without your permission, they become holdover tenants. There are two types of holdover tenancies: Tenancy at Sufferance and Tenancy at Will.

Tenancy at Sufferance

If a tenant stays put after their lease has ended without your consent, it’s known as a tenancy at sufferance. Typically, landlords resolve this through a formal eviction process. During this, the tenant must adhere to the lease terms, and you need to provide them with a notice to leave.

Tenancy at Will

Tenancy at will is an informal agreement between both parties. It occurs when you allow the tenant to stay without renewing the lease. Rent payments and lease terms continue, and either party can terminate the agreement with proper notice.

However, remember that the terms of tenancy at will are often defined by local and state laws. The previous lease may transform into a month-to-month agreement, but other landlord-tenant laws still apply. You must provide proper notice before eviction and refuse rental payments during this period.

Accepting Rent Payments

If you accept rent payments after the lease expires, it creates an informal lease agreement. This agreement persists until either party terminates it.

Dealing with a Tenant Who Won’t Leave:

  1. Understand Their Reasons: Before jumping into eviction proceedings, try to understand why the tenant is hesitant to leave. Clear up any confusion about lease terms and consider finding a mutually beneficial solution.

  2. Review the Lease Agreement: Always refer to the lease agreement for guidance. It often outlines the steps to take when the lease expires, including the notice period required.

  3. Check Local and State Laws: Familiarize yourself with local and state laws regarding holdover tenancy. These laws may dictate your rights and provide leverage in the situation.

  4. Ask the Tenant to Leave: Start by politely asking the tenant to vacate. Explain the lease terms, local laws, and the notice you provided. Mention the possibility of eviction if they refuse.

  5. Cash for Keys: If asking doesn’t work, consider offering a “cash for keys” deal. This can be an incentive for the tenant to leave voluntarily, saving you from legal action.

  6. Eviction: If all else fails, eviction may be the last resort. Ensure all paperwork is in order and consider hiring an attorney to navigate the legal process.

What Landlords Should Avoid

To maintain a legal and ethical approach, avoid:

  • Changing locks without informing the tenant

  • Harassment, threats, or forceful tactics

  • Neglecting property maintenance

  • Cutting off utilities

  • Unauthorized entry or removing tenant belongings

  • Self-help evictions

  • Retaliatory rent increases

In conclusion, dealing with a tenant who refuses to vacate can be challenging. However, by following state laws and lease terms, you can navigate this situation effectively and legally. If you’re struggling, consider contacting us or seek legal advice.

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