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Ask the Eviction Attorney | Landlord Tenant Law Q&A

Q&A with John Reno, Eviction Attorney

The Landlord Protection AgencyThe Landlord Protection Agency® is proud to introduce John Reno, Esq., a highly experienced Landlord - Tenant attorney based on Long Island, NY.

Mr. Reno has engaged in Landlord / Tenant practice in the District Courts of Nassau and Suffolk for the last 30 years. He prides himself on prompt legal action and direct client service.

"Over ninety percent of our practice in the Landlord Tenant courts consists of evictions of tenants, primarily for non-payment of rent. We also assist landlords in preparation and/or review of leases and consultation on other matters affecting the Landlord - Tenant relationship.

We find that Landlords who contact us have often waited too long to commence an eviction, usually in an understandable effort to resolve problems amicably. Landlords need attorneys who will not compound the problem with unnecessary delays or expenses. For this reason, our main priority is immediate action. In most cases, we commence an eviction within 3 days of being hired and have our client's cases in Court within 7 to 10 days of being hired."

If you are a landlord with a tenant problem you'd like to ask a question about, please feel free to e-mail me your question.
Please Note: Mr. Reno is an active practicing attorney with limited time and will do his best to respond to relevant questions. If using an I-phone or mobile device, please use full sentences and punctuation so we can understand you. The high volume of e-mails may require the LPA to enter your question into the LPA's Landlord Q&A Forum.

If you are a landlord with a tenant problem you'd like to ask a question about, please feel free to e-mail me your question.

Submit a landlord / tenant question for Mr. Reno
Please try to keep your questions as short and to the point as possible.

John Reno also does Mortgage Loan Modifications (Nationwide).
(Mention The LPA for a 10% discount!)

If you are a Landlord on Long Island, NY, and wish for Mr. Reno to handle your landlord - tenant case,
please provide your contact information: e-mail Mr. Reno (


Published 2014-04-17

Dear Mr. Reno:
I have just found out that my new tenant smokes (outside).. My rental ad boldly stated No Smoking. So, my question is this: Can I raise his deposit $500, in order to cover painting (refundable, ofcourse) in the event he should decide to move anytime soon? I know I will need to paint entire house again (it was painted 1 yr ago) due to the smell. From past experience even if a tenant smokes outside, the smell is still on him, his hair and clothes and carried inside.
thanks for your comments.

Joanne, California

A: No, No, No, you can't raise his deposit. Does your lease say you can raise his deposit when he violates? No, it doesn't.

But this is why I go with a 6 month or month to month lease, just for starters. You don't like your tenant- now your stuck with him until expiration. (I hope it's not a 2 year!)


Published 2014-04-16

Dear Mr. Reno:
My wifes father passed away on July 17th 2013 and he had renters in an efficiency in his basement. We thought we were being nice and let the renter stay until we had the belongings removed and some upgrades made on the house. We issue a notice in March that we would like the premises vacated within 2 months, at the time she agreed. April 12th, she notified us that she would not leave willingly and we need to evict her. Lets also take into account that she doesn't have a current lease agreement with the head of the estate (my wife) and the one she had with the previous owner is from years passed. Also note that the payment set in that lease agreement was not what she was paying us and she even stated to us a different amount. What are our choices in getting rid of this tenant? Would we have to go to court? Does she even have any right to still be on the premises without a current lease agreement?
Thank you for your time!

Jeff D. from Maryland

A: No can do. She's in possession. You'll need court. No short cuts. Sorry Jeff.

Dear Mr. Reno:
My son who is 23 soon to be 24 told me when he turns 24 he legally has a say of what is allowed in the house. My friend, who is moving in with her boyfriend for 1 month will be staying with us until their house is ready. He says we don’t know him and when he turns 24 he would not allow this. Is this true?
Thank you.

Carole W., NJ

A: That is ridiculous. I've never heard of such a thing. Tell him, he better get with the program, or start packing. He's wearing out his welcome.


Published 2014-04-15

Dear Mr. Reno:
Question is my mom passed away & was renting an apartment her rent was 800 & 600 was paid. The land Lord changed the locks on the 10 and she was not buried into the third. Also she was on section 8. the Housing Authority said I hade tell the end of the month to make sure all the belongings were collected. I really need your help and your advice. thank you very much have a good day

Frankie from Colorado

A: He's giving you a chance to get your stuff. Why aren't you doing it? Yes he jumped the gun. He shouldn't have changed the locks like he did, but you would have to be appointed Administrator of the estate to have standing to sue. What's the point?

Dear Mr. Reno:
Do I need workers compensation insurance if I pay a tenant to mow the yard in the summer and do infrequent odd jobs (like help move out an old washer dryer and replace with new)?

Dave K. (member), Minnesota

A: If you got it for that, you'd be the first!

Dear Mr. Reno:
My tenant installed wall to wall carpet over my hardwood floors I clearly told her I was not funding carpets. She is being evicted for non payment of rent. She is refusing to pay now because she says take the cost of carpets out of what is owed. I am afraid of damage if she rips them out. What are my rights as landlord?


A: The question is "what are my rights as landlord" Answer, same as any landlord. You can evict for nonpayment. You can deduct damages to the floor from the security. Any questions?


Published 2014-04-14

Dear Mr. Reno:
Is trial advantageous to evicting a bad tenant? Is there any way to protect my property from damages done by tenant before leaving, spiteful damage..


A: All landlords worry about vandalism when they evict or "spiteful damage" as you put it. But in reality, it very rarely happens. When tenants get that first eviction notice, they're number one priority is "where the hell am I gonna live & how much time to I have?". Punishing the landlord further is not a big priority. I have practically never seen it.


Published 2014-04-11

Dear Mr. Reno:
My mother has been living with us for a few years and she's getting out of control, verbally abusive mainly. My dad owns the house, and has been letting her live with us, and they are divorced. I've tried researching, but I've only found answers relating to landlords and tenants. Would the process be the same? 30-day eviction notice, etc. etc.

Wynter, Louisiana

A: That would be the place to start for sure. She may try to fight it, drag it over to divorce court, but I don't think she can stop it. They're already divorced. So she's just a guest, and an unwelcome one at that.

Dear Mr. Reno:
My husband and I are separated but live in the same house. I'm not on the lease. Can he evict me?


A: Probably not. Isn't that covered in your agreement? What does it say about the marital residence? Anyway, if he starts an eviction, you start a divorce. That puts the KA-BOSH on his eviction until the divorce is settled. Take my wife... (please!)


Published 2014-04-10

Dear Mr. Reno:
My question pertains to my my mothers house. My youngest brother, who is 22 years old, still lives with my mother. He has a girlfriend and two children who all live in my mothers back room. She has asked them to leave many times and the refuse. There is no lease, no rent being paid no anything, simply freeloading. They live in north west ohio and my mother is wondering how to get them out legally. She attempted to make a "notice to quit" but asked lease questions, if there is no lease how can you input a lease date ect. Does she need the 3 (or what ever is necessary) day notice? If so how do we handle the "lease date" options?

Rochelle, OH

A: Give one month notice.
Lease Date: 5/1/14
Move out (Quit date) 5/31/14
Start Holdover Eviction: 6/1/14.

Good Luck!


Published 2014-04-09

Dear Mr. Reno:
My tenant has not paid rent for three months. I have issued a notification letter to pursue eviction. I have discovered that they have moved from the property but still have a large amount of personal belongings in the house. They did not leave any contact information. What is my path to remove the belongings and reclaim my house ?
Thank you

Mike M., Union, Kentucky

A: What means "large amount"? Back to the age old question: Are they out or aren't they? If their clothes are there, then they're there. Got wide screens? computers? If their valuables are still there, then they are still in possession and you're cruizin' for a bruzin'.

Dear Mr. Reno:
Tenant and I had verbal week to week rental agreement. Tenant got mad and gave verbal and texted notice to be out the following weekend. They left property here after being asked numerous times to get it. They gave their notice March 10th. they came once and retrieved property but did not take it all and have not shown up or called when they said they would be back to get it. Sent them notice via email that they had until Friday April 7th to get things out of my home and they did not. Can I get rid of the property now

Lenora C., Tennessee

A: Can you wait 30 days from when they vacated?

Dear Mr. Reno:
I have a tenant who moved in and then I found out he had felonies from F3 to F6, I also have two lease one is to revise somethings one the lease, however, the tenant(s) both signed the old lease, but both tenant(s) did not sign the second lease. Do both tenant(s) have to sign in order for the lease to be valid? and can I evict the tenant for having felonies and not disclosing them. The question was asked on the Rental Application.

Patricia, Arizona

A: They're in- they have a lease. Can't change your mind now. Too late for that. Is the lease (the "old lease") expired? If not, you're stuck with him until it expires, or until he doesn't pay.
Have a little faith. Just because he was a criminal (maybe still is) doesn't make him a dead beat. Maybe he'll pay. We'll see.


Published 2014-04-06

Dear Mr. Reno:
While I have property insurance on a rental property, is it necessary to have liability insurance as well?


A: Who knows if anyone ever needs insurance. It's an impossible question to answer. But is it normal? No. Renters usually only have renter's insurance (on property) if they have insurance at all.

Dear Mr. Reno:
In the state of South Carolina. I’m trying to evict my brother and his wife out of our family home, which my brother is also on the deed. His step family (are trying to take over our home) has a criminal history, they pay no rent and have physically assaulted me. If our other siblings do not sign or agree to have him and his step family evicted. What can I do to gain possession of my family home back?
Thank You,


A: You've got big troubles Lula. If he's on the deed, you can't evict him like a tenant. One owner can't evict the other, at least not in L/T Housing Court. You're going to need the next higher court, a real estate lawyer, and mucho dinero. Good luck.

Dear Mr. Reno:
We have a tenant on a month to month lease, after his one year lease expired. The house is in Long Island, New York. He has called us to let us know he is looking to buy a house, and will be leaving as soon as he does, presumably in the summer. Based on this, we listed our home for sale. He is now refusing to allow our agent access for photos, or showings. We finally got him to agree, in writing, to an open house, and he is now threatening to cancel, and lock up the house, after it has been scheduled. We do not live in the state. What recourse do we have, other than 30 day notice, followed by eviction? He is threatening to draw out the eviction for as long as he can if we pursue one. What rights do our real estate agent have to show the house without his consent? We have tried being as accommodating as possible to his concerns. Thanks,

Lisa , LI, NY

A: This sounds like a lost cause. He's a real jerk. You can try telling him if he refuses to cooperate- you will serve a 30 day ending lease on 5/31/14. Maybe he'll see the light- but I doubt it. You should call me at 667-RENO. I'm in your area.


Published 2014-04-04

Dear Mr. Reno:
Hi. I have a verbal lease with my landlord to rent a room from him as do my two roommates. In early March we found out that in the end of February our landlords house was sold in a sheriff's sale and is now owned by the bank. I was wondering,
1: Is rent still due to our landlord?
2: Do you have any information or advice as to how to handle this, and what may be the best course of action to deal with this?

Austin Ellis -Pennsylvania

A: Stop paying and start packing Austin. You'll be getting a notice to vacate any day now. You've got another month- maybe two. (Three if you're lucky.)
You can ask the bank if you can stay & pay- but I doubt they'll be interested.

Dear Mr. Reno:
I hope you can shed some light on something. We finally got to the stage here in Chemung County, NY where we got the constable to hand deliver garnishment of wages, the form to the employer. After several weeks we got a letter back from the Constable that she does not make enough for garnishment of wages. What recourse do we have now as she apparently makes just $114 a week but we were not shown proof of that but just received a letter from the Constable whom we trust but we don't trust this ex tenant.

Is there any other thing we can do to get our money back? I believe our judgement was for $1825.00. She made so many promises that we would get money from her tax return, etc. but it took 2 years for us to get into court and now we won't see any money. I find it hard to believe that she is only making this wage but if it is indeed the truth, is there any other recourse we may have? Sure would appreciate any and all information you may have to help us. Thanks.

Elaine W., NY

A: In France in the 1800's they had a prison called the Bastele. It was mostly a debtor's prison (people who owed went to jail.)
So we made a decision in this country that you won't end up in prison for most debts. I agree with that philosophy, but there's a cost. Some people, you just can't collect from.

Dear Mr. Reno:
My mother is ill and needs help, she has a roommate that needs to be evicted. Can i do so without my mothers consent?

Jared G., Texas

A: Without her consent?
Probably not. What would be your authority? Maybe if you had a "durable" power of attorney which lets you act while the person is sick. Some court's (not all) will allow you to evict with that. Give it a try?


Published 2014-04-03

Dear Mr. Reno:
I have a rental property that I elected to rent to own to a couple, two years ago. They have not paid me in the last 6 months. I have found out they are separated (though not legally) the wife has said, she would pay me, in full all of the back rent, if I can find a way to legally get the husband off the lease. Can I evict them both (technically) and then legally start a new lease agreement with her? Does he need to be a part of the eviction (I do not know where he is)?

Lynnette Shuster

A: GET RID OF THESE LOSERS NOW. If she wanted the lease, she should have paid the rent. evict them both, out, completely. If she wants to come in herself thereafter, and she's got rent & 2 mos. security- that's fine. But you can't sort this out and evict the bad one & keep the good one. That's going to create legal issues that will delay your retaking possession. If she can pay the arrears up front, that's one thing, but otherwise, start the non-payment proceeding. You've waited way too long already.

Dear Mr. Reno:
I am a first-time landlord renting out one single family home in Maryland.  My tenant has chosen to move out on 4/7/2014, well before the lease expiration of 7/31/2014. 

  I know I have the obligation to re-let the property as soon as possible and I have had the property listed with a real estate agent and active on the market since 3/16/2014.  I will continue to do as much as I can to get the property re-let in a timely manner.

  My questions are as follows:

  -There are two clauses in the lease  indicating tenant can be held responsible for my costs of re-letting the property if the lease is broken.  I’m assuming her leaving early is a form of lease default.  Under these lease clauses, am I entitled to bill tenant for the real estate agent’s commission (one month’s rent), as this is my cost of re-letting?  In this area, it is hard to get a SFH rented for fair market value (in a timely manner) if it is not listed on the MLS.

  -Utilities:  is tenant responsible for the utilities after she has moved out until the end of the lease term/until a new tenant moves in, or is she entitled to take them out of her name when she turns in her keys?  If she can take them out of her name, can I recoup  the utility costs for the vacant property as damages under a broken lease?

  -Maryland states I have 45 days to return security deposit, less damages.  Is this 45 days after she turns in keys and vacates, even though that’s almost four months prior to lease end date?  What happens if I have returned security deposit and she fails to pay remaining rent or re-letting expenses? 

  I’m just trying to do everything by the book and any guidance you can provide would be helpful.
  Thank you,

Christina M., MD

A: All those items are damages flowing from the breach, and the tenant is liable, the question is, can you deduct it from security, and that's a whole separate issue. I'm a little leery about advising you there because so many states have enacted strict laws on returning security and the landlords are getting their butts sued off. As a general rule, security is only to cover damage to the property. Period. So if your lease doesn't specifically allow these deductions, you're on thin ice.

Dear Mr. Reno:
Just signed 12 month lease with tenant for 1 bedroom apartment. Young man (unemployed) was with Tenant when she previewed the apartment, I asked if he would be living in the apartment, Tenant said No emphatically, that he was just a friend. Tenant is only name on lease, lease allows for guest to stay up to 7 days. Young man has been in apartment since Tenant moved in…now 6 days. I suspect that this young man is living in this apartment…. How do I legally get rid of him?

Debbie Nix, South Carolina

A: You have to send a Notice of Default and terminate the lease, provided the lease says you can. Otherwise, you may have to wait the year & not renew. Does the lease provide provisions for terminate? Check it out.


Published 2014-04-02

Dear Mr. Reno:
I hope that you can help shed some light on our problem. Years ago my parents rented an illegal apartment which is on the ground floor of the house. My mom has asked the tenant to vacate and they have said to her no I have a child her and until I can find a place where we are comfortable we are not leaving.

Ok now here is the twist. The tenant is his brother and his family. My parents brought them here to this country as legal residents and now they wont leave my moms house. My dad recently passed away and asked them to leave before his passing as well. Then to top it all of her brother (my uncle) has brought his daughter and her son (both legal residents) to stay there as well. The apartment is only a one bedroom and my parents told them it was only temporary until they got their feet on the ground. Its been a total of 10 years and almost 2yrs with his daughter and now they wont leave.

They have no lease and pay no utilities just a marginal rent. Please advise how we can go about getting them out and what would be the repercussions for the illegal apartment if we had to go to court. Thanks.


A: You didn't mention rent. (I'm assuming they're freeloaders.) They each get a thirty day notice (60 to be safe.) And then evict as holdover invitees. It can be done- (You'll need a lawyer. This is tricky.)

Dear Mr. Reno:
Just a week ago my roommate and I signed her off our lease, she had 8days to get the rest of her things out of her room. She technically has had almost 4months, since dec8th 2013 when she moved out. She failed to pay rent for the last month she was on lease March and back owes me 4months utilities. How long do I have to keep her belongings? Her old bedrm, will now be my sons new bedrm and her not getting her things has slowed this process. Plus who knows if she plans on coming to get her things...?

Andrea Orlowski, Indiana

A: You've waited long enough. She left in December. Time for the dumpster, garage sale, or bonn fire.

Dear Mr. Reno:
Any advice when a tenant listed on a lease attempts to "dodge" being served? I have already provided written 30-day notice (given it is a Kentucky lease, "month to month"). Is it typical for a tenant to hide - with success - being served? If so, what do you suggest?

My second question surrounds a dog at my unit which violates the written lease agreement. They deny it. They say the dog belongs to a friend. But, absolutely is never inside the unit (only in yard/street). A neighbor insists the dog is inside the unit up to a week.. The neighbor refuses to sign a written statement (she fears retaliation by the tenant).

My third question is an unauthorized roommate. Out of 25 visits (routine visits) to my building, 24 times a female not on my lease was present in my unit. The same neighbor states she is living there. The tenant deny it. Any advice as to what to do if your tenant has the ability to have a big dog and an authorized person living right in front of you -- and lie (a lot).
Thank you.

Donna, Kentucky

A: 1. Document 3 attempts (date & time); attach to door; mail regular & certified. That equals service.
2&3. There's no winning this. All you can do is notify them that because of the dog (& the girl), their lease will not be renewed upon its expiration.


Published 2014-03-31

Dear Mr. Reno:
I had 2 sisters sign the lease for 18 months, now 5 months in the lease, they have fight, one sister (who has SSN) left the property (later I found out she never lived there at all), and second sister abandoned the property serving me a Notice to vacate on March 07 with her last date as March 31. Also she willing let go her deposit of $1500. Second sister (without SSN) still has the keys to the house, and wont return them unless I provide all clear letter addressed to both. She has threatened me with police, lawyer. I am being told that they left some stuff in the house which I should sell for getting rent money. The rent for March is still not paid. Finally I got a voice message from 1st sister’s attorney – I haven’t talked to him yet. What should be my stance here?

1) Press for charges and go by the lease – they owe me around $3700
2) Get keys back and get clear letter from them stating that they ended the lease and no longer can stay or claim the right to stay as per the notice they emailed me.
3) Hire attorney

thanks for your time and help. God Bless.

John, IL

A: I'd go with #2. Try to negotiate with these people. They obviously want out. You always sue if that doesn't work out. You may have to give them $500 to get the keys. Sounds nuts? If you're in court 2 mos. without possession, it'll cost you more than $500.


Published 2014-03-28

Dear Mr. Reno:
My 21 yr. old son, his fiancee’ and their 6 week old baby were living with us. Paid no rent, no bills. She is still in school, he doesn’t work. They both keep hours we don’t like, especially with the baby, they argue and my son has anger issues. She lived with us because her home situation was very bad with mother and her alcoholic boyfriend. Last Saturday, there was an altercation with my son and husband. This is my sons step-dad. The kids chose to leave (after police were called) and they took some of their stuff then. We changed the locks. They came back Sunday (after calling the cops for an escort) to take more stuff. I told them they’re not going to come back and forth whenever they want. They need to schedule a day and get what they want all moved out. I can’t take this pain and agony anymore. We’ve done everything for them, too much! Went to file an eviction (suggestion of the cop) and the courts asked why I’d pay $132 for an eviction when there’s no one to evict since they willingly left. They said the police should have that noted and that they started to remove their things on Sat. and Sun.

My concern is: How long do I give them?? I want to tell them when they contact me that they get one day and one day only to get what they want. Otherwise, they’re not making trips whenever they want and using our house as a storage unit. They’re back living with her mom in poor conditions. No room to take anything over there unless they get a storage unit anyway. What rights do I have? Can I have them sign something stating they’ve taken what they want? Do I really still have to file the eviction over only their belongings still being in the house?
Thank you!

Lisa H. – state of OH

A: The only way to finally end this legally and completely is the eviction process. I disagree with what the Court told you about "why evict them, they've left voluntarily" but that's because you probably told the clerk they've left- they haven't. Legally speaking, as far as eviction law goes, they are still there because their stuff is there. That means legally- they are in possession. So in actuality they left, but legally they're still there. And there's only one way and you already started. Shouldn't have let them talk you out of it.


Published 2014-03-25

Dear Mr. Reno:
Hello after the eviction process with the courts are done and the tenet has failed to remove all of their belongings can they sue am I responsible to make sure they get all of their belongings out if it's after the time they have already been allowed.??????

Eileen, Saint Louis, MO

A: If the Sheriff or Marshall executed the warrant, you're ok, but if they just left on their own after court, it's a little murkier. If that's the case, you should probably store anything valuable for 30 days.

Dear Mr. Reno:
I have a tenant who violated their lease. We are a drug-free community and he was accused of endangering the welfare of his child by smoking in the house. I told him he had two options, sign a 30-day notice of intent to vacate or we could go through court eviction. He chose the 30-day notice. He was supposed to be out March 20th, where do I go from here?

Nicki from Watertown, NY

A: Nicki, a 30 day notice does not enforce itself. You have to enforce it in court through the eviction process. Well at least you tried.


Published 2014-03-23

Dear Mr. Reno:
I made the mistake of inviting someone to stay in my home in PA after she said she and her son were unsafe in their current situation in another state. I offered and paid for their train ticket, and she sold/liquidated a lot of her assets as she saw fit. We exchanged emails about how long she could stay and what the general idea was (stay for a month or so, then get her into her own place around here). There was no lease signed. She misrepresented her child's behavioral problems and left him to destroy my house as she sat on the computer. My husband and I ended up doing more parenting than she did.

My mother got a diagnosis of needing invasive back surgery and needs to be in a one level living situation while she's recovering. I told former friend that she had a couple weeks to figure out what she needed to do. After that, she stared saying things online about wanting to burn down my house to hurt me. The next day, I told her I no longer felt safe with her in my house, and she needed to leave. She owed me six hundred dollars, which she paid, and I returned, and I paid for her taxi to leave my house. Her supposedly unsafe fiance called the state troopers from Utah (I don't even) and they showed up. I told them what had happened, and apparently my biggest screw up was letting her us my address for mail, since that constitutes a permanent residence. The trooper who told me that said he wouldn't mention it to her. She left, gave me my key, accepted the cash, and got into the cab.

She's now squawking all over the internet about suing me for damages from the other side of the country. Apparently no good deed goes unpunished. Since I took no money from her that I didn't give back, and there was no written lease, and she left without a court order (and I did nothing to force her out), what can she actually do if she doesn't fly back to PA to sue for damages?


A: As you say. No good deed going unpunished. But in this case, she doesn't have a leg to stand on and you got off easy b/c she left voluntarily. This could have been much worse. Count your blessings.


Published 2014-03-19

Dear Mr. Reno:
I am a landlord in WI and rented to a couple. They turned out to be drug dealers and my building was broken into. I did make the repairs. The guy has been revoked of his parole, and the Ms. is a drug addict and not paying. She has not been at the property for more than 2 weeks and gave her keys for her kids to stay there. I am not in agreement with this and did supply the 5 day notice. The time has passed how do I get her out when I cannot serve her and I do not want the children who have no legal responsibility to me occupying the premises.

Dean B., WI

A: Let not your heart be troubled Dean. In most places, you don't need to personally hand the eviction papers to the tenant. After enough attempts (2 or 3) you serve it on the front door. Use a professional process server that does evictions. He'll know what to do.

Dear Mr. Reno:
My firm represents a Landlord in Orlando Florida and we are both being sued by a prior tenant regarding their deposit claim. They are alleging that we did not return the deposit to them, however we sent them (via certified mail) the appropriate intention to claim deposit form plus a check for a partial refund. The damages were clearly laid out on the intention to claim form and we have documented everything via move in and move out reports, photos. and receipts.

My questions are:
1. How successful are Tenants at winning these type of cases?
2. Can we represent ourselves at pretrial/court and have a good chance against the plaintiff's attorney... Or is this a ludicrous idea? (i.e. in order to save ourselves attorney fees)

Thank you,

Oliver (Orlando, Florida LPA Member)

A: It's a question of evidence. If you have paid receipts and cancelled checks, if you have an eyewitness to the repairs and if you followed regulations to the tee, you'll be fine.


Published 2014-03-17

Dear Mr. Reno:
We approved a tenants application on the condition of them paying last month rent. Since they were not able to provide the last month rent upon move in, we negotiated to have them pay in 3 installments for the next three months. We clearly wrote the terms of this agreement on the lease. So far we are having difficulty in them comlying to pay those installments for the last month rent. They have paid their rent on time though. Can we terminate the lease agreement and give them 3 or 7 day notice to comply or move?

Thank you for your assistance.

Ana, CA

A: Why, why, why? Why are you doing this backwards? You wanted the last month, first- but not now... later. So you can't terminate a lease for this. Sorry, Ana. If you cared so much about the last month, you should have got it in advance. (These things never work out.)


Published 2014-03-16

Dear Mr. Reno:
I live in Michigan, with a diagnosed schizophrenic mother who lives with my 78yr old grandmother,myself, and my 9yr old daughter. My mother has refused to take her medication, and seek professional help(over many years). We have tried and tried to seek assistance but help is basically not available. Recently I had to have her taken to the psych hospital because she attacked her mother(my grandmother). We do not feel safe with her in the home, and this was made clear to the hospital before she was discharged. We were told that she can be sent to a group home, BUT we must evict her from the home. She left the group home and has been outside of our house for hours being verbally aggressive. The police we called again, and even after explaining the situation, we were told because her ID shows she lives here, they can not forcible take her against her will. My question is, what is the process to have someone in her mental condition evicted?

Christine, MI

A: For starters, you're going to need an attorney for this. Don't try it yourself. She's going to be assigned counsel by the Court; and you'll be up against a pro. You're also going to need to serve a 30 day notice to start the process. Use a professional.

Dear Mr. Reno:
I have a tenant who informed me that she filed bankruptcy chapter 7 last week. She is current with payments but wants to be released from the remainder of her 2 yr lease which is only 2 weeks shy of her first year. Do i have recourse? Can she be released from her remaining obligation of one more year?

Landlord, WA

A: The bankruptcy court has the power to cancel contracts. Many a pension has been slashed. You'll need a bankruptcy specialist if you want to fight this.

Dear Mr. Reno:
My old tenant broke her lease early.
My new tenant signed the lease on the 4th but isn't moving in until the 15th. How far into the month can I prorate the previous tenants rent charge?

Justin, NY

A: Old tenant is responsible for the whole month (or until lease ends) but once your new tenant starts paying, old tenant is pretty much off the hook. (So I guess your answer is one-half month.)


Published 2014-03-14

Dear Mr. Reno:
I have rented my apartment w a 6 month signed lease to my tenant, just her name, now she has her kids "visiting" for one month and I want them to leave, they are home all day running up utilities.
What are my rights to get her guests out of my home, is there an amount of time guests are required to leave?

Janene, LI, NY

A: Dear Tenant: "Our rental agreement did not provide for occupancy by yourself and your children. This is to advise you that, unless your children vacate, your lease will not be renewed when it expires on (enter date)."

Dear Mr. Reno:
I have tenant who is wanting to remove a wooden fence that he installed. he has moved out, The installation was without my knowledge and there is nothing in the lease that he signed that says anything about removing or leaving improvements that he made. My attorney said it was permanent and I didn't have to let him dig it up.(it is installed with concrete etc and would require a lot of work to remove it) The police just told me he has every right to remove it. Who is right? Kansas law..Thanks

Connie Rodriguez, KS

A: I've seen clauses in leases that say all improvements belong to the landlord. If you don't have that clause, then I agree with the police. But he has to pay for the labor and put everything back the way it was or you can sue for damages.

Dear Mr. Reno:
Someone wanted to rent office space for $875 month + $250 deposit. On jan. 15 They gave me $250 deposit with promise to pay within 1 week the $850. I gave them a key but no paperwork signed. They didnt pay. I changed locks and got rid of their things on feb. 20. They say I cant do that Its not legal. Is that true?


A: Well you took the 250. That was your first mistake. That was to "hold it." But you didn't "hold it." So give back the money. You can't have it both ways.


Published 2014-03-11

Dear Mr. Reno:
A neighbor of miner, (85 year old Korean war vet ) who rents the upper portion of a private house, has not received rent and utilities for 12/15/13-1/15/14-2/15/14 soon to be 3/15/14.

He filed the court papers on 3/6/14. He appeared in court the defense Lawyer stated he was not the owner of the house. He produced power of attorney. The judge dismissed the action, stated to try and work things out. The defendants stated they would pay ( no money and wanted to live free for the month of march 2014) Their defense lawyer stated if he did not accept he would stretch out the case for months and months. The second court date is 3/13/14. Can you tell what he can expect.


A: You say the judge "dismissed the action." I'm assuming you meant to say, he adjourned it. Anyway, take the deal. He'll have his place back 3/31/14. That's better than he'll do at trial. He's 85. I doubt he'll be chasing this guy around to collect a money judgment. Life's too short.

Dear Mr. Reno:
My tenants don’t pay rent and do not cooperate, not responding and not opening the door, so I am wondering what should I do know, options I have for eviction and how long it may take.
All I hear that court in NY is tenants court, which mean people can live and don’t pay rent assuming that the judge will take their side anyway.
I live in Brooklyn, NY, could you please suggest anyone in Brooklyn, as knowledgeable and reputable like you.
Thank you,

Marina, NY

A: Sorry Marina, I had someone from NYC, but she retired. (Try NYC Bar Assoc.?)


Published 2014-03-10

Dear Mr. Reno:
My Nana has an income property where the tenant was sent eviction papers effective March 1st. The tenant vacated the property 2 weeks prior to March 1st, and left all their belongings. She was not given a forwarding address for the tenant and I need to know how long she has to hold onto the property that was left behind, before she can rent the property.

Thank you so much for your help with this~

Shannon V. in California

A: You are in a scary gray area there, Shannon. What do you mean they left ALL their belongings? How can that be? If they've really vacated, put the stuff in storage 30 days, or just leave it there. But are you sure they've left?

Dear Mr. Reno:
Hi. I am a landlord from Philadelphia Pa. I have a problem with a former tenant whom I call the "Bully". He always gave me the run around when collecting rent. always an excuse. Then, he wanted out of the lease early because, he said he was robbed, but he has no proof. I let him out of lease early because of the many sob stories but I refused to give him back his security deposit because he was in constant breach of the lease contract. No pets allowed and then he had 2 cats and a dog. He kept up with the excuses- my aunts dog, my aunts cat etc....

He constantly lied,. You know the type. He says that I never did a walk through, but he was never available, and what would the walk through reveal, that the place smells and the pets didn’t pee here and there. Sure, the pets will tell the truth. He has threatened to take me to small claims court if I do not give him back his security. Its over 3 months since I sent him notice with pictures, and that I would not return his security, and now I get this threat about court. Also he didn’t want me to know his new residence or his new landlord. he wanted me to send his security or I call it his extortion money to a P.O. box in NJ. Yes, I did learn another valuable lesson. Do you think this jerk has a chance in court, especially since it says in lease that if I allow him to leave his lease, he owes me 2 months.?
Thanks for your opinion

POED Landlord, PA

A: Oh Boy. I get very nervous about giving advice about security, because any states have enacted strict laws on this that vary from state to state. My landlord friends are getting their butts sued even though they're in the right because they didn't follow some procedure to the letter. Like in some states, unless you itemize the damages in writing within 30 days, you're screwed.
So on that note of pessimism, I'll leave you to the law library (or consult a local?)


Published 2014-03-08

Dear Mr. Reno:
I will give you a synopsis of the situation then follow up with the questions.

Situation - The water heater broke and ruined the floors of the hallway and two bedrooms.  We had people at the house cleaning and because the linoleum had abestos,  abatement had to be done and cleared, then flooring had to be put in.  Because of the situation and knowing that there would be an inconvenience for them, we told the tenants at the beginning of the month they did not need to worry about the rent for February.

It so happens we had met with a realtor that same week to talk about the sell of the home.  We've been back and forth about selling because we are underwater but this incident sullidified  our decision to sell the home.  A week ago after everything the floors were put in, we gave our tenants a 60 days notice to vacate since they have been there a year.  As excepted our tenants were not pleased with this news.  

They sent us an email yesterday stating that they found a place to rent and will be moving on the 15th and they are prorating this month's rent (Rent was due March 1st and we still haven't received rent).   Here is their email to us:

  Kao and Samantha,              We have found another house to rent and can move in March 15&16th. This is our written              notice and we are sending you the rent pro- rated for March 2014. March has 31 days so the rent pro rate is $593.60. 
We realize that we didn't pay February rent because of the water heater and flooring situation but in turn we paid $90.44 in additional PG&E during the service master and asbestos abatement clean up ( this was due to the 7 industrial fans and the abatement machine). Further more we paid $35 dollars a day for  the 24 foot trailer to house the children's bedroom furniture and clothing so that it was accessible as we needed their belongings for daily living.  We were also hit with constantly having people in And out of the house the entire month of February. In all fairness we feel that we paid rent in these other ways.  Since Kao started the floor remodel the 27th of February and the trim is yet to be finished and 2 of the 4 bedrooms are already packed to move it would be counter productive for us to stay any longer in your home. 
We appreciate the last 3 plus years of renting and hope that we can schedule a walk through to get our deposit returned ASAP so we can pay for our new moving expenses. Further more,  we hope your house sale goes well.  Thanks, Lisa & Justin

  So my questions are - 

Since we didn't have them pay rent, are they entitled a reimbursement for the rental of the storage unit?  Are there reasons valid?

Are the tenant responsible for the full 30 days rent if they move out earlier then the 30 days notice required by the lease they signed even though we are the ones that gave them notice first.    

I'd really appreciate it if you get back to me.  Thank you much in advance.

Sam, California

A: I agree with you on the rent. They owe the whole month. Even if they're just there for one week. That's the law. But on the storage units- that could go either way; depends on the judge. I would offer half the storage, but either way, I think you're headed to small claims court.

Dear Mr. Reno:
Commercial landlord in Colorado raises rents of his holdover tenant two $1200 per month after expiration of a one-year written lease by use of a "letter agreement" that was not signed by the tenant. The letter agreement also specifies that the terms of the original written lease will remain in full force and effect. The tenant paid the increased rent for two months, then paid $1000 per month for five months, then paid $800 for the next 11 months. Tenant fails to pay January rent and on February 5, Landlord finally serves a "Demand for Compliance or Possession" demanding surrender of the premises or payment of the past due rent's and late fees. Late fees of $25 per day are specified in the lease. Upon receipt of the demand for compliance or possession, tenant pays $800 with a notation that it was for the month of February. After negotiations, tenant agrees to and does pay the full $1200 increased rent for January and March, plus $400 more for February and agrees to vacate by the end of March. Landlord reserves the right to bring an action for past-due rents, late fees, and attorneys fees.

QUESTION – how much is the landlord entitled to collect in late fees. If you charge $25 per day for each month that there is a deficient rent payment, the late fees get upwards of $98,000, and there is only about $6000 in past due rents that has accrued from the less than full payments that landlord has received. There is a real "compounding" issue here – let’s say that May was the first month that only $1000 was paid in rents and that that was 16 months ago. In June, the tenant is paying $25 per day late fee on the may rent plus $25 per day late fee on the June rent, and by July, he is paying $25 per day on the may rent, $25 per day late fee on the June rent, and $25 per day late fee on the July rent. By the 16th month, because he is paying $400 per day aggregate late fees. Will a Colorado court allow you to do that?

Rick, CO

A: (LOL) No, that's way too punitive. DO YOU PEOPLE WANT BLOOD? As a rule of thumb, somewhere between 5% to 10% will be allowed. Depends on the State, the court- even the individual judge. My courts out here on Long Island, NY wont give more than 5%. So if the rent due is $1000/mo. I can only get an extra $50 for each late month. (Don't be so greedy.)


Published 2014-03-07

Dear Mr. Reno:
Hello. I am wondering if there is anyone who can give me some advice. I had a renter who broke her lease and moved out in January. I didnt know she had moved out until the city called me to tell me that she had shut the utilities and gas off, and the pipes might freeze if I didnt get over there and shut the water off. Here is how she broke her lease:

-The lease was not up until June of 2014
-The lease requires a certified letter written 30 days prior to termination of lease
-The lease requires the forfeit of deposit and one additional months rent
-After she moved out, as I was checking the mail, mail was coming for a man that I was unaware was living there. Neighbors also confirmed there was a man living there unbeknownst to me.
-There was also dog food in the house and neighbors confirmed she had a dog, although only one pet (her cat) was supposed to be allowed.

The tenant had already paid for the month of January, and moved out (according to her) on January 9th. I didnt find out until January 15th from the city water dept. Once I was able to get ahold of her, she stated she had sent me a letter and it wasn't her problem if I didn't get it. I asked her if it was certified mail, but she didn't respond. I never received a letter.

I told her that since she terminated the lease early, she owed me one additional month's rent. Which would be $575. She stated because she left on the 9th, she would pay me $167 (Dont know where that # came from). She did pay me the $167. I feel she still owes me the balance of $408 and I would like to either A) Collect this debt from her or B)Put this on her credit report.

I am a single working mom and dont have the time to take her to small claims court. So, I am wondering, what are my options? What can I do, or is it even worth it at this point?

Thank you for your time, and if you have any services that would benefit me, or any advice at all, I appreciate it.


A: You should be counting your blessings, Michelle. This lady paid the whole January rent and left mid January. Most tenants aren't so considerate. You generally find out the lease is being broken when one or two months are in arrears.
Option One: Small claims court. But you're not interested, which leaves option Two: Lick your wounds & move on!

Dear Mr. Reno:
im interested buying home...but banks says... buyer is responsible to evict the tenant.... what is the procedures to evict a long does it take....

fed, massachusetts

A: W H A T ? That can't be! The seller has to give you a vacant house! Did you close? Did you have a lawyer? Something's wrong with this picture.

Dear Mr. Reno:
Have tenant who has been with me for 4 years. The first 2 years I had s signed lease, the last 2 years I did not have her sign the lease. The lease that was signed covers the issue that the last month rent cannot be used in place of security deposit and damages would be deducted. 30 days notice was necessary.

On Feb 1 I was told they could not pay rent on time had problems. On Feb 10 I was told she was moving out and not paying any rent and that I could use her security deposit for rent. I gave her a 5 day written notice .

On the 28th of Feb they were gone. The unit has damage, garbage, and cigarette burn marks on walls, counters, thousands of small holes in walls, every window cover trashed, screens trashed. It has take 4 people 3 days to clean just the walls and ceilings.

Will I be successful to affect her future credit if I pursue proper forms. I have photos etc. I have been told that since I have written original lease it becomes a month to month rental.
Thank you,

Jan, Waukegan, Illinois.

A: With or without a lease, you can always sue for damages to the apartment.
One problem landlords in this situation run into is do you have an address. Sometimes you can use the last known address (your place) just to get a default judgment & affect the credit report, but some courts make you find the person.


Published 2014-03-05

Dear Mr. Reno:
I recently sold my house to someone who was going to repair it move in and pay me when their home sold, they repaired it and put new carpet in and painted now I need my money its been a month they ha done contract fall through I told them I needed paid, they said if I would pay for materials they would move so I could sell it do I need to reimburse them any they owe for the carpet but that's them not me can I make them move


A: I can't answer what I think your question is because it all depends in what your agreement was. Was it in writing? Was there a deadline for your payment? Did they breach the deadline? If so, you're going to need court intervention on this. Sounds like you're dealing with a con man.

Dear Mr. Reno:
My father owns a home in Suffolk county, Long Island (New York). It is in the early stages of foreclosure. He has recently been incarcerated for about 6 months and signed me to his Power of Attorney. Before he found out he was going to jail, he let some people move in to his home with him. As far as he states, there is no lease or formal agreement with these people. They are just there. As soon as he left for jail, they moved 2 more people into the home without his consent. They are not paying rent to anyone and i believe they are taking and opening his mail as well. I would like to vacate the house and shut it down by turning off all utilities, but I know I have to give them warning. Where do I start? With a 30 day notice to vacate? I don't think they are going to be too cooperative when asked to vacate.
Thank you

Jennifer V., NY

A: I'm seeing these situations more and more. People living for free- taking advantage of the situation. They will be there until you evict them. Call me- I'm in your area (631) 667-RENO (By the way, don't turn off the lights. That's a way to get arrested. Better to just stop paying. Let elec. co. play the heavy.)

PS: Then again, this winter could freeze pipes, so the house would have to be properly winterized if utilities are turned off.

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Legal Disclaimer
The Landlord Protection Agency's "Ask the Attorney" column is for informational and entertainment purposes only. The questions answered by Mr. Reno on this site do not constitute an attorney - client relationship and are not to be considered legal advice. Not all questions will be answered and some may appear in the LPA Q&A Forum.
The Landlord Protection Agency recommends that you seek legal advice before using any of the material offered on this web site, and makes no guarantee on the effectiveness, compliance with local laws or success of any of the material offered on this web site. The Landlord Protection Agency is not engaged in rendering legal advice.

If you are a Landlord on Long Island, NY, and wish for Mr. Reno to handle your landlord - tenant case, please provide your contact information: e-mail Mr. Reno

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