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Ask the Eviction Attorney | Landlord Tenant Law Q&A

Eviction Attorney

Q&A with John Reno, Eviction Attorney

The 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 an LPA Landlord with a tenant problem you'd like to ask a question about, please 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 (


Recent Court Victory

Warrant of Eviction with money judgment of $18,600.00 AWARDED!


Published 2018-04-19

Dear Mr. Reno:
We hired Century 21 in Farmington NM two years ago to manage our house which we wanted to sell. We had to move out of state (Ohio) to care for my mom. The property manager was approached by some people who wanted to buy & they signed a contract. No credit check or background checks were done on these people at that time (without our knowledge). Since it was in our contract that Century 21 would vet any clients, we assumed this was a standard procedure. Our house appraised for 239k in 2016. The people that wanted to buy our home moved in but NEVER closed because they couldn’t obtain funding. Meanwhile, we were stuck with the septic and termite inspections (required before we could close) . In August 2017, we agreed to allow these people to remain in the home and keep renting. I kept asking the property manager about the tenants and the condition of our home. Each and every time I was told that they were doing this or they were doing that to improve on what we’d all ready done. Eventually they were two months behind on rent and we realized that they weren’t going to pay, so we had the property manager give them a 30 day notice. They still had property in our home 30 days after they were supposed to have moved out. We had the property manager change the locks and when he did his final walk through, he told us everything was good but the house would need cleaned – he said everything else looked good. When our daughter finally got a key to go clean, she was horrified to see that the place had been trashed. Doors duct taped together, hideous paint, trees pruned so much I hope they don’t die, feces on the walls, it reminded me of a crack house. Trash and burned debris all over the yard, mountains of horse poop pushed out side of the corral. I have before and after photos. I called the police and asked them to file a vandalism charge against the tenants, but they stated that because I have a property manager, THEY have to file the report. I’m so disgusted. We don’t have thousands of dollars to fix everything that they tore up and I know even if I sued them, I’d never see the money. Can Century 21 and the property manager be held liable for not screening the tenants before letting them into our home and all the damages to our home?
We agreed that they could paint the living room. That’s all. The carpets are urine soaked. There’s feces on the floors. It’s really bad. Help!!!!

Lisa F., New Mexico

A: As with most lawyer questions, the answer has to start with the words "It depends..."

How will you establish they promised to check these people out? Just an assumption? That won't get it done. Was there any written agreement? Anything in there? Any oral promises? Got witnesses?

Dear Mr. Reno:
As a landlord , I have signed a lease that is expiring on May1st , the tenant made an unauthorized repair (toilet backing up) and would not allow me to choose the plumber who was coming to fix the problem in the following hour . I was given 2 hours notice to fix it . Tenant threatened to deduct the amount of 475 $ from the rent . I sent him a letter informing him I will not be extending the lease. He responded by telling me that he will have a lawyer to go "after me" . Can you please tell me what I will be facing ?
I live in Orlando Florida .
Thank you Mr. Reno

Adam, Orlando, Fl

A: For starters, you will probably not get the May rent. Probably need to start an eviction. Too bad over just a few hundred. Now lines have been crossed and the gauntlet thrown.

His lawyer will counterclaim some form of "retaliation" and what not. It's all nonsense- nothing to worry about- other than wasted time.

"Why can't we all just get along?"

Dear Mr. Reno:
My commercial tenant going bankrupt . He has a bankruptcy attorney. Does she have to contact me and let me know what is going on ? By law or fiduciary responsibility?

Tenant won't respond and calls and email to attorney are not replied

Mike M., Connecticut

A: There is no law requiring contact until she files. Then you will be on the list of creditors and will be notified along with all her creditors on the bankruptcy matrix.

Also, there is no "fiduciary" relationship between you and her, so no help there either.

Published 2018-04-12

Dear Mr. Reno:
I have lost two tenants because of second-hand smoke from 4 adult renters next door. This is a Townhome complex.

This is considered a nuisance in my state. What are my legal remedies?

Mileah Koudele, Erie, CO

A: Well they're not your tenants, so landlord tenant law doesn't came in.

Are you sure that's allowed by the association? I know most condo and coop complexes don't allow it.

Otherwise, as long as they're not violating any law or house rule, that leaves fabreeze as the only remedy.

Dear Mr. Reno:
Won judgment in civil court on past tenant for damages to wood floors. They made 3 small pymts and have stopped paying. What can I do to collect? What steps can I take to see that this shows up on his credit reports?

Eileen Shults, Texas

A: Filing the judgment with the County Clerk puts it on the credit report. For collections, there are firms that handle that.

Dear Mr. Reno:
A landlord rented an apt. to a person in NY, who turned around & rented a room for the past 8 months in the apt. to someone unbeknownst to the landlord. The original renter is moving, but the person she rented the room to is refusing to move. What can the landlord do?


A: This often comes up. So the new person is the renter's subtenant. When the renter moves out he has vacated physically, but legally he's still in possession b/c his subtenant is there. You evict your renter, either for no pay or Notice to Vacate. You evict your tenant, even though you know he isn't.

Sounds weird, right?

Published 2018-04-03

Dear Mr. Reno:
Property: apartment in two-family house

Elderly Veteran Tenant for 21 years. Was taken by ambulance to hospital Feb 23rd, We could not find him, so went to police, who found him and gave us a cell# and I talked to him.
He thought he’d be released to rehab in couple days (Mar 19) Since then, no word from him, he doesn’t answer cell phone, nor respond to daily messages “PLEASE CALL US OR GET IN TOUCH WITH US”
We have no next-of-kin info—don’t want to dispossess him unnecessarily, BUT…
At what point in NY can we consider the apartment and his stuff abandoned, and clean it out? Legal processes, notices to whom? Waiting period? Assume missing or dead?
Thank you.

Donald S., Montrose, NY

A: I don't think you can assume that, ever. I think you have to either serve a 30 day notice to vacate, or commence a non-payment proceeding for the March & April rent. You wont be able to serve him personally, but nail and mail.

If you told me that the unit was emptied out, that's one thing- but all his stuff is still there that means he's still in possession.

Now if you want to take the gamble that he's died, so what's the risk, that'll work until the first relative comes out of the woodwork.

Dear Mr. Reno:
I have a couple Rental/leasing Question?
I have a townhouse leased 4 and a half years.
1) The property was interior painted new for $1700, no nail holes. Now the tenant is refused to patch all of the nail holes
2) The carpet and padding replaced new for $2200 and now all carpet was tear and damages not under the normal wear and tear.
3) The house was professional Clean before deliver to the tenant. and now the house is a mess, The tenant is refuse to professional Clean
I have video recording and move in check list. Is there a guide line how we can deduct for repair and replacement cost?
What is my cost for your assistance?

Annie Kwan, State of Florida, Orlando

A: I can't take a Florida case, but if you make these repairs and have receipts and proof you paid people, you should recover your losses in small claims court.

Dear Mr. Reno:
Any advise on installing security cameras around a multi unit property? – potential legal issues?

Robert U., Colorado

A: No problema. Exterior only & common arrears. Point away from building (no peeping Tom's allowed.)

Dear Mr. Reno:
Tenant offered to pay upfront 6 months rent to sweeten approval to rent unfurnished condo to them on 1 year lease ,,,,,, because of past bankruptcy and because they are self employed ...moving from Georgia to California.

1. is this legal in California and what do we call this upfront payment in toward 6 monthly rental payments? or just rental payments due on signing lease?

2. Can we still collect above this 6 month upfront payment, 2 months rental amount for refundable security deposit for damage of unfurnished condo?

3. Does this 6 month rent payment upon signing go toward the last 6 months of their 1 year lease...and then they pay monthly rental payments for first 6 months...or does it go toward the first six months payments and they pay no rent until month 6 where monthly payments begin?


Pooks, California

A: 1. Yes. You call it prepaid rent.
2. Yes. Why not.
3. First six.

Published 2018-03-14

Dear Mr. Reno:
1. In Wisconsin if we want to evict a tenant is there something prohibiting evicting them during the winter months?
2. If they have children in High School does that effect eviction?
3. What do we do with any personal property left behind?
4. What happens if they do not leave after the 28-day notice?
5. Can we keep the security deposit if they damaged walls – cat litterbox on carpet, so cat urine on walls (may have damaged the plywood etc…) – for cleaning and written estimates for repairs?

Chris D., Wisconsin – Green Bay

A: 1. Nah
2. Not legally, but in practice, with the sympathy vote, maybe buy'em an extra month.
3. Hold on or store 30-60 days- then dumpster.
4. Sorry- 3 to a customer!

Published 2018-03-08

Dear Mr. Reno:
My mother passed away. We allowed my sisters son to live in the home. I changed my mind now I want to evict him. I gave a 60 day notice. My sister was trustee . I went to court now I am co-trustee. If my sister allowed him to continue to stay ,who will win - me wanting him out or her to let him stay? Right now the deed is in her name as trustee.

Richard, California

A: Your sister's authority gives cover to the boy, so he will stay & you need to sue your sister because she is abusing her authority as Trustee.

You're going to need an attorney. This ain't small claims court.

Published 2018-03-05

Dear Mr. Reno:
I sold my house and the buyer needs the second floor back. Won't close until it is vacant . Sent notice on Jan 31 by sheriff. Now my attorney is telling me because February is a short month we can't get in front of Judge until April 19 instead of March 22 like I was expecting. I was under the impression that as long as it was one rental period I would be ok .

Donna D., Mass

A: That may be a problem. You need one full rental month. But there's also a requirement of "Thirty Days Notice." Sorry, that looks like a defect. Probably needed to satisfy both criteria & serve by 1/28/18.

View the State Specific Lease Inserts to determine the proper amount of days to give notice to terminate in your state.

Published 2018-02-28

Dear Mr. Reno:
I have a residential rental property in Bakersfield, Ca in which the tenant was on a month to month agreement . Tenant was served a 30 day notice by a legal process server on January 20th due to various reasons ( pet feces, people not on lease, excessive trash , oil leak on driveway , broken down cars, late rent , etc) .

She paid the prorated rental amount and on the 30th day , she asked for and extension . I refused, She then in retaliation ,accused me of harassment, stated she would have the sheriff present if I came to the property after the 30 days and her "attorney "would seek "legal action " . She also then stated she was served on February 2nd (which is false ) . It is now the 26th of February, and the 30 day notice ended 2/20/18, she hasn't moved out or notified me .

The unlawful detainer is costly , I am starting the process but should I accommodate her false statement on being served 2/2/18 and wait until after 3/2/18 to start the eviction process as a way to mediate outside of court ? I just wonder if this will benefit me in some way since she will go to great lengths to say she's being harassed despite the notice being served 1/20/18

. She has not contacted me since 2/20/18 . I've been completely professional in dealing with her but her accusations are unpredictable Thank you

Andrea M., CA

A: First, not exactly sure what your question is.

Are you sure it's only 30 day notice? Some states require 60. So check on that. Also, can you expect them to vacate mid month? In my state, you have to give them until the end of the month.

So these do day notices can get very technical. Anyway, March 1st is practically here, so at least wait until Thursday.

Dear Mr. Reno:
We have a tenant that was evicted and we are trying to collect unpaid rent. When the owner went to the hearing, he was told that since the property management is an LLC that he could not represent himself and had to have a lawyer do it. Is there any way he can represent himself… perhaps by doing a power of attorney? We are located in Orlando, Florida.
Kind Regards,

Heather S., Orlando, FL

A: It's too late for this case but in the future, if you want the owner to go to the hearing, you have to list his him on the lease as Property Manager and the LLC as owner. Then when you go to Court, you can list the Plaintiff as Property Manager.

Published 2018-02-27

Dear Mr. Reno:
Tenant has sent letter of "tentative" move as of April 1, 2018, however if unable to get a rental by April 1 in the state of Texas[relocating] he is proposing a prorated rate if he remains in premises up to "the 15th or the 30th". Is there such a thing? On a side note , he has always paid on time.
thank you

Angela A., CA

A: I understand his sentiment, but he just can't. The notice can't be "tentative". It defeats the whole purpose which is to get the next tenant. How can you re-rent it? You'll be caught in the middle.

Tell him to let you know when he makes up his mine. Unless you just want to cut him some slack- which I would also understand.)

Dear Mr. Reno:
My husband has a niece that has been living in an apartment in the basement of his mothers home in Stamford CT. The neice has not paid any monies for anything rent, utilities, etc. She has been in the house for over 6 years. She has a mental condition like her sister but refuses to get treatment and now needs to seek treatment for substance abuse as well…. as per the local hospital doctor 2 days ago when taken there by police. My husbands mother is on end of life hospice and is there in the house being cared for by aides and her son and daughter at present and when she passes he and his sister want to sell the house. The granddaughter is threatening them with harassing texts and is threatening to sue for squatters rights. What are the legal options….because of the state of her mental status there is concern that perhaps she will burn the house down before they can sell it just out of spite and retaliation. Thanks

Marci C., Connecticut

A: You say she hasn't paid rent. Was she supposed to? This is very important. If she owes rent, then you can evict her like any deadbeat tenant.

But if she was never expected to pay rent, landlord- tenant court may not have jurisdiction.

Published 2018-02-23

Dear Mr. Reno:
I have completed over 25 evictions in several counties around the Plattsburgh area. Sometimes the small town justices can be a challenge. My latest nonpayment summary proceeding the justice asked the tenant before we got started if she wanted an attorney – so she pauses and then says yes. I have never had the justice ask the tenant if they wanted an attorney. Most come with legal aide or they are alone.

My question is if it’s a summary proceeding (fast track court) then is it okay that the justice asked that question? - or does it violate the true nature of the summary proceedings purpose? I never had any other justice or judge from other towns ever ask that question, and if they can, then all tenants are likely to say yes! So bottom line question: are justices or judges required to ask that question for a nonpayment proceeding?

I do know everyone has the right to representation but she should have come with an attorney that day. Now we have to wait a few more weeks and I feel it violates our rights as the definition and purpose of the summary proceedings. Am I out to lunch on this one?

Thank you,

Heidi Danis, Plattsburgh, NY Landlord

A: Guess what? I'm in New York. They always ask that question.

Every time.

Published 2018-02-20

Dear Mr. Reno:
I am a landlord in upstate NY. I am currently in a case with a tenant over failure to pay rent. They have failed to pay rent and also want to terminate their lease on March 1st, when their lease goes through to April 1st.

We go to trial next Thursday but I want to start showing the apartment. Am I allowed to show the apartment while the case is still open?

Thank you,

Hayley, NY

A: Very funny.

Dear Mr. Reno:
I have a urgent question on a lease. The lease was in a negotiating stage so there is no date in it, but terms of amount are. It states that the tenant has paid the landlord $700 but actually did not. NO MONEY was exchanged or keys or move in.

At the time of negotiating I thought we were going to sigh the contract at that time , so I SIGNED IT but he started reading it & said he' was going to take it home & read it.....It has been 3 weeks since I've heard from him. Do I still have a contract with him...... Someone else is interested in the property. I'm a nervous wreck. Your answer will be greatly appreciated as quickly as possible
Thank you in advance.


A: Your signature on the lease is an offer. But the offer has yet to be accepted. An offer can be revoked any time before it is accepted. You need to send this letter.

"My offer to give you a lease is hereby REVOKED."

Published 2018-02-15

Dear Mr. Reno:
We live in Michigan in a mobile home. My brother was living here with my kids and I for a while til he got clean. His girlfriend has since moved in. They pay 0 in rent. They eat my food and my kids. Recently found out about illegal drug activity and he tells me, good luck, I'm not going anywhere without a 30 day eviction notice. I need them out now!! Thanks for any advice

Michelle D., Michigan

A: What a mess! You need help with this. These are not tenants. They're something- but not tenants. You will need to serve a 30 day notice, but then you'll need a lawyer, so I suggest you hire the lawyer first so it gets done right.

No good deed goes unpunished. Here we go again.

Dear Mr. Reno:
I have tenant that is keeping windows open in freezing weather. I pay heat. I have spoken twice and also told not to park infront of my garage. He is a tenant at will. Also I said no smoking.

Linda L.

A: I would say a 30 day (60 in some states) notice to vacate solves the problem, one way or the other. (Maybe he'll clean up his act?)

Published 2018-02-07

Dear Mr. Reno:
Regarding Shared Meter Law:
I own a brownstone and my unit and all the common area lights are on one electrical meter, and the two upstairs apartments are on one meter. (I have been working with ConEd since renovation to get additional meter added). I have always made an agreement with tenants that the electrical bills would be provided to them and charges would be split equally as their apartments are the same size. And, the charges are very reasonable.

My newest tenant moved in December 2017 and I notified her in writing of the agreement. I didn't put this clause in the rider of the lease, which now I know I should have. When I was fixing something in her apartment the other day, she informed me she would not be paying the electrical due to the Shared Meter Law. I didn't know about the law, but now I've read up on it. I've also reapplied with ConEd again to get the meter fixed, but will she have to pay me back the electrical? Can she really withhold since I did notify her upon moving in? Just seeing if I have any legal rights in the situation.
Thank you,

Anne, NY

A: These shared meter cases are just horrible. The utility companies are doing whatever they want. They don't care about what your lease says, or what you've agreed to. In one case, the landlord and tenant signed a stipulation in court where it was agreed that the tenant had been reimbursed and the landlord would not be penalized. It didn't matter. The electric company still made the landlord pay $3000.00.

Published 2018-02-02

Dear Mr. Reno:
I would like to learn if Tenant is responsible for some fees, and finally if I have a case "Tenant DEFAULT" case. (I use LPA version of Lease)

(1) [minor repair fee, $175] Hallway Bathroom on the second floor is new before Tenant occupies and just got bath faucet leaking due caulking after Tenant has lived for 4.5 months. Plumber documented how to fix (just caulking tech) in the invoice after he identifies all water pipes around this bathroom are updated, new, and no leaking. The repair cost is only $100. I request Tenant pays it as this is minor repair b/c Lease does define $175 repair is minor repair and is Tenant's responsibility. But Tenant declines and said it is home owner's responsibility. Can this $100 be added-rent? Can the late penalty applied here if Tenant is late on this payment? I use LPA version of LEASE.

(2) [damage?] This leaking damages Powder room Ceiling on the main floor, a light repair. Since the root cause is caulking and caulking is Tenant's responsibility, should Tenant be fully responsible for this? If Yes, then can the late penalty applied here if Tenant is late on this payment? I use LPA version of LEASE.

(3) [smoke alarm tamper by Tenant? safety code?] Hallway Ceiling on the second floor has 2 smoke detectors: 1 screwed attached on the ceiling; another new one (with 10-yr warranty battery) was sticked firmly on the ceiling.

Both 2 Smoke detectors were "taken off" from the ceiling and placed on the carpets floor in the hallway. Of course, Tenant would say the detectors "fall off" on their own. Who's responsibility to repair this in order to meet Health & Safety codes?

(4) [upkeep property? health & safe code?] My Tenant uses Sun Room as their service dogs' home and also build a dog cage [one more alter without LL consent] in the backyard, then keep the door of Sun Room fully open so that the dogs can poop any time on the "lawn" within the cage in the backyard.

The "lawn" within the cage is GONE. I would address this damage when Tenant moves out.

I also found more dog poops outside the cage in my yards. I did not argue with Tenant and just ask Landscaping companies pick up the dog poop as a fee-maintenance-service and plan to bill Tenant (as added-rent) and apply the late penalty if the payment is late.

(5) [privacy vs video, maintenance service fee / added-rent?] Tenant just complaint a professional company (I hire for yard maintenance) blows leaves back to my yards from Neighbor's lands, and told me they took video on this professional Landscaping company while the company did Spring Leave removal on my yards. Is it appropriated that Tenant took video on this landscaping company?

My yards have had top #1 of leave volumes among our Neighbors for Fall and winter in 2017 and could spread a good amount of leaves to Neighbor's yards by natural. Even after Tenant removed Fall leaves (but the work quality and result is not enough). There were still leaves left on the borders among Neighbors and 3 leave mountains accumulated in my West side yard. Since my property is the one and only one property having no fences among 4 Neighbors, It is really convenient and shows self-respect to clean all leaves from my yards all the way up to Neighbors' fences. Tenant is responsible to maintain outdoor as Lease said. But, I start worrying that Tenant would not pay for it. Can this maintenance fee treated as added-rent?

(6) [Tenant's responsible?] When Lease said Tenant is responsible to maintain the yard, My typical “rule of thumb” would be responsibilities done reoccurring less than a year would be a tenant’s responsibility. Tenant pay for Dog poop pickup, Mulching, elevate or trim bushes away from the roof annually, etc. But, I am not sure what the court would judge on this. Any suggestions are most welcome.

(7) [Tenant video on LL?] Tenant complains that I disturb their "quiet and peace" when I simply and regularly check on my yard conditions and I did inform them 24-hr every time before I checked my yards. Tenant also complaint that I took photos. I took photos on yards, but they have their own feeling and stories. Since Tenant took video on Landscaping company, I have reasons to worry my Tenant would take video on me next time when I check my yards. What can I do about this?

(8) [safety code] Some homes don’t have outdoor receptacles, so people run Indoor extension cords for their decorating lights through a door or out the window (photos), not the best way of use of equipment (improper use of equipment). This is exactly what my Tenant did. I took photos on this.

[alter without LL's consent?] I also took photos on a newly installed wire line through the siding 2 feet below and outside Kitchen window. I am thinking to address this when Tenant moves out. But, there are so many minor alters inside the house, adding lighting in basement, trimmed bushes (destroy the shape of bushes without LL's consents] in order to install a dog cage in the backyard, etc. What can I do?

[my privacy?] Since I took photos near the windows, Tenant snoop me from windows, scared LL with their offended attitude and legal threaten. What can I do?

(9) [ Tenant's responsible?] I use LPA version of LEASE. Form & Notices are Move-in condition Form, Tenant handbook and Inventory (list Maintenance Items, and goods LL provide to Tenant to use such as garden hoses, 2 Fire extinguishers, 6 smoke alarms, etc), Pet/Animal Agreement / Application, Lead Paint disclosure, etc. Tenant never filled out "Move-in Condition Form". After Tenant occupied for 3 weeks, Tenant claimed windows could not be opened, a light repair. Its cost is $235 (higher than $175 minor repair that Lease said). Is Tenant or LL responsible for this repair fee?

-Ann, Virginia - Current LPA member

A: You're micromanaging Ann. You're all over these people like white on rice. And, you're also a "nitpicker" (did I spell that right?)

And what is this obsession with videos? Don't you know everyone's filming everyone with their damn phones? (Everyone is now a photo journalist.)

If you're not happy with these people because they don't rake the leaves right (or enough) maybe you should just give them a 30 day notice. Or tell them when their lease is up, you're not renewing it because they're not caulking right (or enough) or whatever. You may be right on each point- but what are you going to do, litigate every little thing? I can't even answer all these questions- there's so many! What should I do, quit my job? Jeez. (Did I spell that right?)

Published 2018-01-22

Dear Mr. Reno:
Question: Can you write a clause in your fabulous lease to the effect: On a 1 or 2 year lease...if tenant pays rent late, the lease automatically becomes a month to month. Would that be a legal clause? Something to enable an easy way to rid the landlords of problem individuals.


June Hanna, IL

A: WOW! That would change everything. So basically what you're saying is, one late payment, lease just goes up in smoke? Poof (or is it "Poof"?)

As always, you can put it in, nothing illegal there- but will a Court enforce it? I've never heard of it. But then, why not? Too harsh a remedy? Unconscionable?

Don't know. Never seen it.

Published 2018-01-09

Dear Mr. Reno:
My tenants violated the lease by smoking in the home, and by having excessive animals in the home (10 cats, 10-20 dogs), and by having additional people living there that are not on the lease. I heard from the neighbors that there were 20 dogs at the home, and they had seen many cats roaming around.

I sent a lease violation notice for excessive cats and dogs, and told them they must be removed down to 3 dogs and 2 cats, and asked to have an inspection. When the tenants set the inspection date/time (a week later - Wednesday, Jan 3) ) – she informed me that they would be moving out by Feb 1.

Upon arrival at the appointed time, it was obvious they had been smoking in the home, and the smell of cat urine and smoke was disgusting. There were numerous kennels, cat litter boxes in closets, cabinets and throughout the home. There were dog turds on the carpet, and many dog “Pee pads” around the home. They didn’t even bother to clean them up before we arrived at the scheduled time. They obviously have no idea of the disgusting condition of the home – they are simply used to it.

The tenant said his girlfriend started a pet sitting business, and that he neglected to ask for permission.

The house will need complete floor to ceiling cleaning, duct cleaning, sealing with KILZ, repainting, and possible replacement of the plywood underlayment where the animals urinated all over the floor, possible replacement of vanity cabinets and kitchen cabinets where they kept kitty litter boxes, possible replacement of baseboards and 18” of drywall, depending upon the saturation of the dog and cat urine.

Can I start eviction proceedings for violation of lease ?
Can I charge them for all the cleaning and repairs due to the cat urine ?
Can I charge them for the cleaning to make the home smoke free – as it was when they moved in ?
What is the best way to proceed ? I am typing up a letter of findings, and telling them they need to pay Pet deposits for all the additional pets @ $250/animal.
Can I evict if these are not paid timely ?

Thank you !

Lorraine Showalter, AZ

A: The first thing you have to do is terminate the lease based upon the default. (I'm assuming that your lease gives you that right upon a default) otherwise, you'd be up a certain creek without a paddle.

After the lease is terminated, you do an eviction like you would evict a tenant who holdsover after the lease expires. (In NY, they call it a "holdover" eviction- I don't know what they call it in AZ.)

Sue for everything, the landlord/tenant judge will let you know what types of claims he'll entertain. Anything he wont give, you'll sue for elsewhere.

Good luck.

Published 2018-01-05

Dear Mr. Reno:
Bought House, Tenant Refuses to Pay And Won't Leave
My Nephew Devlin a young soldier, who lives in North Carolina purchased a modest fixer-upper home from his friend's elderly mom. There are existing tenants in the home.

Devlin planned on keeping them as tenants, while he fixed up the house. He spoke to them when he went to inspect the condition of the home prior to closing and they agreed to stay on as tenants paying the $350 per month rent. He closed on the house on Dec 20th. However when he went to collect the first month's rent on Jan 1st they laughed in his face and said they didn't have it and won't be paying it.

He called his friend Jon who then talked to his mom, and found out that they have not paid rent for more than 3 years. Apparently, Jon's mom inherited the property from her deceased husband and after he died she never bothered or forgot to collect rent from the tenants. Jim has no idea if his dad ever had a lease with these tenants, and his mother cannot remember either. Also, there were no security deposits or rents transferred during the sale.

Are they still considered tenants or just occupants or even squatters? Not only are they refusing to pay the rent, they are refusing to move out. They've actually told acquaintances that they're going to ride out any eviction proceedings and don't expect to have to leave for at least three to six months. I looked it up on your website and the NC notice period for tenants who haven't paid their rent is 10 days. Can they really stay in the home for as long as six months not paying rent?

At this point the new owner just wants them out and is no longer interested in having them as tenants. What are his options? From reading your very informative website - we've gathered that he needs to give them some sort of notice, but what kind of Notice should he send?
A Notice to Vacate (with no demand for rent payment)?
A Pay Rent or Quit Notice? If so what amount of rent (arrears) should he demand? Just January's rent, or the entire 3 years they have not paid? Someone suggested he set the rent very high and so even if they were willing to stay and pay it they couldn't afford it.

Does he need to send a change of ownership notice separately from any other notice (e.g. notice to vacate/pay rent or quit) or can he combine them?

Thank you for taking time to answer my question.


S.B - Fort Bragg NC

A: Give a 30 day notice to vacate. (check it out- some states require 60!) These people are tenants of the prior owner- so now they're your tenants. You can evict for nonpayment- but I wouldn't go there. Too many defenses and harder to prove.

See: North Carolina Lease Inserts
Property Management Forms

§ 42-14. Notice to quit in certain tenancies. A tenancy from year to year may be terminated by a notice to quit given one month or more before the end of the current year of the tenancy; a tenancy from month to month by a like notice of seven days; a tenancy from week to week, of two days. Provided, however, where the tenancy involves only the rental of a space for a manufactured home as defined in G.S. 143-143.9(6), a notice to quit must be given at least 60 days before the end of the current rental period, regardless of the term of the tenancy. (1868-9, c. 156, s. 9; Code, s. 1750; 1891, c. 227; Rev., s. 1984; C.S., s. 2354; 1985, c. 541; 2005-291, s. 1.)

Published 2018-01-03

Dear Mr. Reno:
My question - I has one and only one rental property.

John suggests "Like I said, I would try to let them go out as smoothly as possible and try to avoid any drawn out court entanglements." after he reviews my case.

My tenants would change the term to 6 months from 1 year without legal reasons. This Lease is co-signer case and their rich CEO uncle pre-paid the whole rent. What legal document should I have to seal the following changes -

(1) make sure Tenant's move out date
(2) Security Refund takes longer due to all utilities are in my name and Water bill is quarterly.
(3) who is responsible to inform Co-signers with these changes?

Thank you very much for your time and help in advance.

Ann S., Virginia

A: I stumped with #1. "Make sure Tenant's move out date." What does that mean? Just not sure exactly what your question is.

Dear Mr. Reno:
Hello my name is Tom we have a property in Texas and we are residing in West Virginia and have a tenant that left the country is late on rent and left her three kids Behind one being over age of 18 however the Tenant that left the country. their mom was the only one on the lease what course of action do we have? thank you. God bless

Tom, TX

A: You have to evict her. I know it sounds weird. Even though she's gone- you still have to evict. She's left her brood. She's still, legally, in possession.

Got it?

Dear Mr. Reno:
What does a landlord do when a tenant sends you an expensive Christmas gift and the landlord didn't even send tenant a card?

Mary Burton, Virginia

A: Send a nice "Thank you " card? (and a gift next x-mas?) That's all I got. I'm a lawyer- not Martha Stewart!

Published 2017-12-29

Dear Mr. Reno:
I rented apartment to one unmarried person. She married unbeknownst to me and now lives in apartment with her spouse. Is this a lease breaking arrangement? Am I justified in re-doing the rental agreement. I love in Los Angeles. Do you have any associates here in LA.
Thank you.

Joe, Los Angeles, CA

A: Don't you even care that your lonely spinster tenant has finally found her true love and is having marital bliss (probably in every room of your apartment) whilst we speak? Don't be such a Buzz-kill Joe!

But legally, I don't think you can object. Most places allow one roommate (google "roommate law") and any lease prohibiting marriage would be "void as against public policy."

So there's that too.

Published 2017-12-26

Dear Mr. Reno:
My tenant voluntarily vacated a week early from a month to month rental with notice as they were walking out the door and turned in the keys to me. Does the now former tenant have a right to return to the rental at any time they wish? A Blackman Twp. Peace officer told me the former tenant has the right to kick in my door if they want and I need to evict them. Really?

Steven Rice, Michigan

A: You don't have to evict someone that left. That's a myth. The only question would be is it reasonable to assume the premises have been abandoned. If so, retake possession.

Published 2017-12-20

Dear Mr. Reno:
I had emailed you once before about tenants and pests and I greatly appreciated your response.
I wanted to follow up and ask if it's legal to put something in the lease pertaining to keeping the house, specifically the kitchen, clean, not leaving rotten food or grease around, and doing so constitutes grounds for eviction. Something along those lines that won't get me sued.

Also, if pest infestation does occur as a direct result of their filthy living conditions, as a landlord, I will not be responsible for pest removal due to the way they keep their house and they will be expected to deal with on their own. It is a continuing problem and I want to make it clear from the start about maintaining the property, and to do so in a very specific way. Is it legal to do this?
thank you.

Kathleen H.

A: Anything's legal in the lease (almost anything) as long as they agree with it. And when people need a place to sleep, they'll agree to anything. So go for it.

Published 2017-12-01

Dear Mr. Reno:
Here goes. We had a land contract. We no longer have a land contract. Our buyer filed for chapter 13. In the land contract it states that filing for bankruptcy revokes the land contract, for which we are actually relieved because she was late quite a bit. This person wrote us to tell us that she wants to keep the land contract and continue to try to buy the house even though she filed chapter 13. We do not feel comfortable with this.

One option is to have her sign a lease at fair market value rent for a year and take it on a year by year basis. The other option is to tell her we are selling the house and that she needs to move out. There is no formal contract now holding her there. I am aware that in Chapter 13 she has time, I believe 30 days, where we cannot ask her to move. We're worried about getting caught up in this bankruptcy. We simply cannot afford this.

Have you been in a situation where your tenant filed chapter 13. If they can't pay rent on any given month, does the bankruptcy protect them from eviction?


A: I've seen a few. Always a big disaster.

Did they stop paying? You didn't say. If not, you'll need a bankruptcy lawyer to "lift the stay" so you can evict.

Published 2017-10-29

Dear Mr. Reno:
I am using a real estate agent to rent an apartment to two room mates that have guarantors. The agent wants one room mate to sign the lease tomorrow, the guarantors will send the notarized forms later in the week, and the second room mate will sign the lease when he gets back in town in five days. I want one lease signing, where I meet both room mates, and all the paperwork is signed/handed in at one time. Which way do you think is best? Thank you for your time.



A: You may have noticed on this site that, while I'll answer every one within 5 days, I rarely get back within 24 hrs. So there's that.

Otherwise, signing together is preferable, but I wouldn't make it an absolute prerequisite. Sometimes scheduling wont allow. As long as you can get all John Hancocks & all money b/4 you give the keys. (That's the key!)

Dear Mr. Reno:
My mom owns a triplex apartment building in Philadelphia, PA. My brother and I manage the property for her.

A neighbor across the street has been calling my brother and leaving nasty voicemail messages (he won't answer the phone anymore) at all hours of the day and night, complaining about our first floor tenants, who happen to be a lesbian couple. He claims they are watching him constantly and now believes they are stalking him and refers to them as "the trash you've rented to".

Our tenants have reported to us that they had the tires of their car slashed and they believe he did it but have no proof.

We have encouraged our tenants to report the matter to the police, and when they did the response was that there's nothing they can do if he hasn't actually done anything. In addition, my brother contacted them regarding the nature of the voicemails he's gotten and received the same response from the police.

We really believe that the man is either mentally unstable or is a substance abuser and needs help.

We are concerned for the safety of our tenants as well as potentially losing good tenants over the matter.

Can you make any recommendations on how to address this potentially volatile situation?

Tim, PA

A: Nope. This is the price we all pay to live in a free society. That means freedom to be paranoid, freedom to complain, freedom to leave voice mails, freedom to be a prejudiced homophobe or just freedom to be an A-hole. (You could move to China. Very little misconduct there.)

Dear Mr. Reno:
Have just bought a home from an auction site.
The home was foreclosed and the redemption period is over. The home belonged the elderly mother who passed away, mortgage in her name. The deeds show the home was batted around from one surviving child to another by quit claims and ended up in the name of one son. I find no evidence of the son having the mortgage in his name.

Is he to be referred to as the former owner or the tenant for formal or summary eviction?

It appears he has lived at the house throughout the foreclosure, and is still be there.

I fully understand the need and process to file an order to quit the property, followed by eviction if he decides not to go. All downloadable forms and information I read, refer to him as Tenant and me as landlord, surely these terms imply some sort of agreed arrangement.?

Is there a legal requirement for me to give both my name and address on the letter asking him to quit my property? Having not entered into any kind of rental agreement I have not had the benefit of vetting this person, It concerns me that he may decide to "seek" me out.

Thanks for you interest


A: You're worried the owner will go after the investor? I've never seen it. Besides, you can't be worried about that if you want to be in this business.

The forms need to be modified because there' no landlord/tenant relationship. Replace landlord with "owner" and replace tenant with "occupant".

Dear Mr. Reno:
My husband and I own 18 rental properties in the state of Florida and they are all held/Titled under an LLC. In the past eight years, we have only processed 2 evictions. We have issued 3 day and 5 day notices to tenants in the past without having to go to court. Florida Law requires an attorney to process eviction proceedings where properties are held in an LLC. A regular owner does not have this requirement. My question is what would happen if we Quit Claimed a property owned by us in an LLC (with an impending eviction 3 day notice) to one of us personally, prior to filing paperwork for an eviction to circumvent hiring an attorney. The last eviction cost us 1500 in attorney fees. Either the sheriff or our attorney used the wrong date on the notice which resulted in an even more costly lengthy process. If we had been involved, I don’t believe the mistake would have been made. Thank you,

Harriet, FL

A: A novel idea! You are a creative person, Harriet. Now in NY, you wouldn't do it because the Quit claim filing fees are almost $1000.00.

The only other pitfall is the LLC would need to assign its rights to the rental to you personally before you could evict. Its not enough to be the new owner. The lease has to be assigned.

(More legal fees? Are we back where we started? Don't forget after the eviction you would have to reverse it too.)

Dear Mr. Reno:
Just won a judgement in magistrate court in the state of New Mexico even though the tenant stood up there and lied her way through the whole court. The tenant then filed a Appeal with the district court on the judgement. Do you know if my rent for the next month will be kept in limbo until the district court rules on the case?
Thank you, Sir

Elias, NM

A: The rent is still due. Nothing is "stayed" (or stopped) by an appeal unless the court grants a "stay". You may have to commence a new proceeding for the new rent even while that's pending.

Dear Mr. Reno:
We have a question about utilities. Currently the Owner has been paying for water and trash in a four-plex located in Kansas. The lease reads that the tenant is responsible for all utilities but we advertise them as water and trash paid. The Owner is wanting to now have the tenants pay water. What steps would we need to take to have this take place.


Carrissa, KS

A: So the lease requires the tenant to pay it? How about a letter like "Although the landlord has previously paid your water bill commencing January 1, 2018 you will be required to pay for your own water in accordance with the terms of your lease."

Try that?

Published 2017-10-27

Dear Mr. Reno:
Can a landlord require prospective tenants with small children to have them provide a blood lead test before renting to them?

John G. in Ohio

A: Now I've heard everything.

While that is probably not illegal, do you really think you'll get prospective tenants to make their kids take a blood test? I would be surprised.

Also, you may be accused with unlawful discrimination, which it really isn't, but who knows what motives they'll accuse you of.

Bad idea John.

Published 2017-10-25

Dear Mr. Reno:
My question - What can I do with Tenant's cage built in my backyard regarding the liability?
Is a sign of "No climbing" good enough for a cage installed by Tenants? MY tenants do not ask my permission before their installing the cage. I am thinking to ask my tenants to install physical fence on their cost and restore the yards back to the original; otherwise, the cage should be removed on Tenants' cost.

MY tenants move in on 09-01-2017 and on 10-20-2017 just reported children ( i.e. 5 or 7 years old boy walking alone) and/or teenagers trespassing my property backyard where 3 other neighbors side yards could be involved. Please notice there is NO path in my backyard.

As my knowledge, there is no sign "No Trespassing" has been posted among my neighbors nor near this area. And this community is upscale so that it is hard for me to believe children Trespassing can happen.

Anyway, I have to handle this news as the owner of this rental property. The action what I have taken are two
(1) order the materials of Sign holder and Sign of "No Trespassing"
(2) ask my tenants if they feel safe and comfortable to approach this 5 or 7 years old boy to gather his name, home address, parents' phone number as well as warn him with the dangerous of trespassing?

What are the possible dangerous in my backyard -
(1) My tenants have 2 service dogs - my tenants will post a sign of "service dog on premise"
(2) my tenants install and build a high metal cage at my backyard (Please see the attached photos) - What can I do with Tenant's cage built in my backyard regarding the liability? I would ask my tenants post a sign of "no Climbing" and keep the cage locked avoiding the children are trapped inside the cage.

Any suggestions are most welcome. Thank you very much for your time and help in advance.


Ann,owner of a rental property - Single Family House, VA

A: Well I would say you have devoted quite substantial attention and consideration to this matter.

What is this cage for?

What does it have to do with the boy?

Why are we assuming the tenants are responsible for the boy?

So you want your tenants to "install physical fence"? Why? Is that to keep people away from the cage? I've heard of a fence around an in-ground pool but not this.

You seem almost obsessed with this cage. What are you afraid of? That a child will get stuck in the cage and be devoured by wild dogs? I'll tell you this: If they put dogs in there- you shouldn't have kids climbing in.

Put up your sign, move on. Life's too short.

LPA note: Talk to your insurance company. Ask if there are any liability issues affecting your policy with having those dogs at your rental property and if they have any suggestions. Good luck.

Published 2017-10-20

Dear Mr. Reno:
If your tenant has a lease and they paid late for a couple of months and now you discover they have been arrested on drug charges and gun possession charged, can you evict them for the criminal activity or evict for non-payment? Thank you and appreciate your time and advice.

Manny, Bronx, NYC

A: First of all you're in NYC which has the most PRO-Tenant Court (the Housing Court) in the State. So there's that.

And then, what would be your grounds for that eviction? You can't go non-payment just b/c they were late.
And the criminal charges are not lease violations.

You wouldn't have a leg to stand on unless you've got lease provisions I've never seen.

Published 2017-10-12

Dear Mr. Reno:
My tenant is 2months past due on rent and moved out and thrashed and damaged the house. I don't have his address to file a claim but I have his parents address and phone number from one of his rent check. I have pictures of thrashed. Can I contact his parents about this. Please advise. Thanks

Lakshmi Srikanth, Georgia

A: You certainly can, but to what end? You need a new address for this dirtbag so you can sue'em.

Dear Mr. Reno:
Question: Do I have to refund the tenant's security deposit?

My tenant had a car accident (June 24). Caused damage to • My interior garage wall, including studs & sewer line • My neighbor's garage wall, studs

Tenant's auto insurance accepted full liability.

Contractor hired to repair my side of the shared garage wall.

Contractor began work on 8/28. Halted work due to permit.

Tenant moved out 9/3.

Contractor got permit, City Inspector reviewed on 9/6. Condo did not pass inspection because the neighbor needs to complete repairs.

Condo has been vacant since 9/3 - and I cannot list for sale (realtor hired, seller disclosure statements completed, unit cleaned top to bottom) until the City Inspector passes the inspection.

Do I have to return the security deposit when the damages were caused by the tenant, and they were not yet completed by the time the tenant vacated the property?

I have suffered damages (loss of rent, and unable to sell) because of the auto accident. Thanks, Jennifer


Full Story:
My tenant had a car accident in June, running into the inside garage wall. It caused damage to my garage (studs and sewer line) and also damaged the studs in the adjacent neighbor's garage. The tenant did not call or email me to advise of the accident. But I happened to be in town and asked to stop by to inspect the condo. I was there for 30+ minutes before I asked to look at the garage on my way out, and that is when the tenant came clean about the accident that she said happened two days earlier.

The tenant's auto insurance company accepted full liability and covered the damage to my garage. It took some time to get quotes from three contractors. The tenant got the quotes, and I selected one of them. The repairs finally began two months after the accident, and we expected they would be completed in one day (Aug 28). Unfortunately, a permit was required, so the repairs came to a halt. In the meantime, the tenant moved out of the condo (Sept 3). The permit was obtained and a City Inspector came to review the repairs (Sept 6). The City Inspector did not pass the inspection as the adjacent neighbor had damage. The neighbor had not been willing to file an insurance claim as it turns out, they had illegally converted their garage into a living space. I immediately brought this to the HOA management company with this information, and also filed a Housing Habitability complaint with the City.

In addition to the garage damage, the condo was a mess. I do not think they ever cleaned the window blinds or cabinets. The refrigerator, toilets, showers, and bathroom sinks were immaculate, but the rest of the place was a disaster.

I have spent numerous hours on the phone with the HOA, the City Planning & Building Department, met with City Inspectors, talked with the HOA Attorney, talked with the neighbor and a Chinese translator for 1.5 hours on a Sunday. At this point, the condo has been vacant for 4.5 weeks and it still is not on the market. The real estate agent was hired, the condo was cleaned from top to bottom, but due to the tenant's car accident in June, I have not yet been able to list the condo for sale. I expected the condo would be in escrow by now, and it's not even on the MLS.

The tenant is now asking when she will receive her security deposit back. Because of her car accident, the condo was not returned to me in rent-able or sell-able condition as the garage wall was still open and not fully repaired.

Am I on the hook to refund the tenant's security deposit?

Thank you for your input.


Jennifer Maher, California

A: (This takes the cake. Now the tenants are having MV accidents IN THE UNIT!)

If you're planning to hold this money until you find a buyer, that's not going to fly. You need to itemize your out of pocket repairs and clean up, and refund the balance within 30 days of move out so get going.

You may be interested in the following LPA Forms,
Settlement Charges Guide,
Property Condition Report checklist
Security Settlement Statement

Published 2017-10-11

Dear Mr. Reno:
Is a North Carolina landlord allowed to order tenants to move their bed from in front of the window? My apartment is smaller than I was told, and the bed fits best in front of the window. I just received orders to move it, because they claim it is a fire hazard. They inspected the apartment, allegedly to see if their were any problems with appliances. Now, they say they are inspecting again to make sure the bed is moved.

I am a landlord in Florida, and we would not be allowed to do this.

Gina Presson, FL

A: That's a new one! Is that legally a violation? Maybe you need to call the local building department.

If its just a matter of personal preference, the landlord has no right to dictate where you put your furniture. But if you're in violation of a local fire code, then maybe the LL has a leg to stand on.

You need to make a call.

Dear Mr. Reno:
Hope you are having a nice day sir.
I'm dealing with a tenant who was convicted of domestic abuse charges (which took place on my property) and consequently fled the country and broke his lease in the meantime. He gave no notice before leaving Los Angeles and returning to his home in England. We have taken his entire security deposit but he still owes $2500. Do you have any advice as to how I can get the remaining money owed to us from him? Hope to hear back from you Mr. Reno and thank you for your time!

Matt Willens, CA

A: Collect a judgment from another Country? That's what we lawyers call a "tall order" Matt.

Well if he's there, you cant do it here. You'll need an English "solicitor". Got any frequent flyer miles? Just kidding- try the internet- (The "inter" is short for International.)

Dear Mr. Reno:
If tenant is on a year lease and signs an addendum that allows owner to give 30 days notice in case of a sale does tenant also have a right to give 30 days notice before leaving?

K, Angelo, Illinois

A: No. Not really. You're asking shouldn't it work both ways? Good for the goose, good for the gander? I don't think so. I have heard that if the landlord gets lawyers fees in a lease, than the tenant can get lawyers' fees if they win, whether or not the lease says. So that does work both ways.

But on right to terminate, I don't think so. It would have to say the tenant can cancel.

Dear Mr. Reno:
EVICTION COURT: I asked the judge if I could get reimbursed for the gas expense. I have to travel 350 miles round trip to take the Tenant to court. The judge said no. Is she right?

Elias Nieto in NEW MEXICO

A: I've seen leases that give landlords late charges, court costs, legal fees & sheriff fees. But travel expenses? Never saw that one. Never heard of it. I guess the judge is right.

Published 2017-10-05

Dear Mr. Reno:
We evicted a tenant for non-payment, however this tenant also had a lease for a garage unit on the multiunit property which he have evicted him from. This person according to other tenants is now “living” in the garage where they do not have to pay electric, there is a toilet and hasn’t been paying the rent for this unit either. How do we go about finally getting rid of this tenant?

Tanya, PA

A: You can move in, anytime, as a guest of your mother- the occupant- but I can't promise it wont get ugly. There may be court if you can't work it out; That's up to you guys.

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Legal Disclaimer
The Landlord Protection Agency's "Ask the Attorney" column is for informational 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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