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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 2018-02-15

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:
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!

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?

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:
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:
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?

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:
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:
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 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.)

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:
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:
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:
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.

Dear Mr. Reno:
My name is Kris. This situation occurred in Hawaii.
My father recently passed away and I went to take care of his affairs. I informed his landlord of the situation on the phone when I got there. We discussed that his house had been left in some dis-array and that I would be doing what I could to clean it out. I also discussed with her about 2 old cars that he had left on the property and that I might have to leave before getting the death certificate. She said not to worry and that she could take care of the cars and the house and would be keeping the deposit. I agreed with this. She never came to look at the house while I was there. When I prepared to leave I called the landlord multiple times but she did not answer her phone, her voice mailbox was also full. So there was no way for me to get in touch with her and I had to leave without her being able to see the house. I left the keys hidden outside and got her email address from my Grandmother, I sent her an email with the location and she replied that she gotten them.

The house was a bit worn-down. My father had lived there for 12 years. Also as I said the house was left in some disarray. My father was not very mobile the last couple of years so things were pretty messy. I did what I could to clean some of it out though, I rented a dumpster and filled it up with garbage. But there was still quite a bit of his stuff all over. Seems he became a bit of a hoarder.

She has now contacted my grandmother saying that she has sent a bill for $3300.00 to my grandmother for cleaning, replacing carpet , towing the cars and various repairs etc. He was living month to month on military disabilities and had no assets of any kind and there was no will etc.

I am under the impression that we have no obligation to pay this bill, is that the case? As our names are not on the contract and how his house was left was his problem not ours. We unfortunately did not have a very good relationship and had not seen each other for 20+ years. Can my Grandmother just ignore this bill? The bill is made out to my father’s name too, not my grandmother’s.

Thank you!

Kris, HI

A: Not so fast. Were they still married? Spouses are responsible for certain debts of each other.

You're in the proverbial grey area. I wouldn't pay it, I doubt they'll sue.

Dear Mr. Reno:
I need to know if in maine i can evict my ex wife from my house for non payment of the mortgage. Mine is the only name on the loan but i put both our names on the deed mine is the first and main name. If i can legally evict her id like to hire u to help me do it properly and swiftly before i get any further behind. Thank you for ur time when u email me about weather i can plz send ur phone number if i can so we can get this done i dont want to make any payments until i know my rights. If theres nothing i can do to get her out i might as well just let the bank take it back

A: Sorry Sarah's Ex..
You need a divorce lawyer- not an eviction lawyer. I know you said "ex" wife, but you're still in that realm. Most landlord tenants court's wont touch it.

Dear Mr. Reno:
I am a landlord and a tenant is moving. I just pulled her lease and realized she has been paying less then here lease calls for.

Lease is $875.00 per month and we have been collecting $825.00 per month. Can I ask for the remaining money with out penalties of corse?


A: You can ask. Maybe work out a payment plan?

If you can't work it out, it's a small claims court case.

Dear Mr. Reno:
Tenant withholding 2 months rent for minor repairs. Tears bath floor then doesn't finish. Does not maintain septic so it backs up. I haven't been able to repair all issues coz of financial difficulties. Now being threatened to have red tag house & demanding hotel if eviction occurs. Has 3 months left on lease.


A: This is going downhill fast. Time to start a non-payment eviction proceeding (first threaten to do so.) You can't have this rent withheld willy nilly. Also, the tenant is obviously bad new and so good riddance.

Published 2017-08-30

Dear Mr. Reno:
Hi, we have a garage apartment that was leased to a tenant before we bought our house 4 months ago. The previous landlord said that the tenant would like to stay and told us that she was a good tenant, not true. We had a 3 month lease to try her out. She hasn't paid any rent, the utilities are on us. She was supposed to be a nonsmoker with no dogs and children but smokes, has one dog and two children and the apartment is a one room efficiency . All of these are not allowed per the rental agreement. We initiated eviction after the first month's non payment of rent and finally after two months going through the courts, she has been given 48 hours to get out. She is not planning to get out and the sheriff's office said that it will take them two more weeks to get her out. Can we hire an independent someone to get her out, off duty officer, someone?
Also, can she plead to the courts to stay because she has children? We have a new baby and a toddler. Please help. She needs to go.

Thank you,

Grace, Nottingham, Alabama

A: She's going. You've gone through the entire process! You're almost there- don't interfere.

The wheels of Justice grind slowly (at times.)

Published 2017-07-24

Dear Mr. Reno:
If a court appointed or private paid Marshall removes a tenant property from an apartment is the landlord responsible for damages to the tenants property while removing.

Charmaine, Brooklyn, NY

A: Hell no!

That's why we have them- so we're not responsible.

Dear Mr. Reno:
In doing research for a drama, I wonder if a child can given an eviction notice in the absence of the leaseholder parent? And would the person handing the eviction notice to the child say, "You’ve been served" or request a signature even though the child is most certainly not the responsible party?

Many Thanks,

DJ Salisbury, Director-Choreographer, New York, NY

A: That's an ongoing debate. You need to serve a person of "suitable age and discretion". Someone who understands and can be expected to give it up. Fifteen, Sixteen, (I've even heard Thirteen.) No one knows for sure. Depends on the kid. You're in a big legal grey area. No real answer.

Dear Mr. Reno:
If the tenant has not paid any rent for any given month, At what point do you start the eviction notice. 1 month late or longer?

Julian Ornelas, Texas

A: You can start on July 2nd. There's no requirement that you wait unless your lease has a grace period. Then you should wait until the grace period is up.

Also, most states require some Demand For Rent, or Notice of Default to be made first. In New York, the standard is three days notice of default.

Most landlords don't start until one month passes. That's a gamble. Once the security is used up, the eviction process is all on your dime.

Dear Mr. Reno:
We just evicted a tenant for non payment of rent. We know that we have to keep her stuff for 2 weeks. However how much can we charge her for storage and rental value per day.


Monique P., CA

A: Haha! Very funny.

(It doesn't work that way. Wouldn't it be nice if it did?)

Dear Mr. Reno:
I have a tenant using rental property as a residence and a registered business address. What is my recourse for this and things to know and consider?
Considering renewing their lease.
Thank you,

Candice Q., VA

A: What's the beef Candice? Doctors and dentists do it!

(You may want to check your local zoning regulations and make sure the tenant is doing anything that may cause fines you my be responsible for.)

Published 2017-07-17

Dear Mr. Reno:
Thank you Mr Reno for taking my question. Once an eviction takes place, what is the status of the Lease Agreement as it pertains to lost rent? Is the evicted tenant still liable for lost rent for the remaining months of the Lease?

Charles Jay Conover, State of California.

A: Yes, yes, yes, the tenant is liable for the remaining months- but there's a catch: Once you re-rent, you no longer can claim damages for lost rent. So you have to wait until you re-rent so you know how much to sue for.

Dear Mr. Reno:
I am a tenant. I sublet to sub-tenants (roommates). Everyone has a written agreement with me, month-to-month. A problematic sub-tenant has decided she has no intention of vacating, even though she signed an agreement that terminates (without auto-renewal) in August. I served her a notice to quit (after she was severely late with rent in June, and breached several items in her agreement since signing it). She laughed at the notice. What are my options? Lawyer friend said to file complaint with local magistrate/judge (complaint stating to reclaim possession of room, non-conditionally). Can I do this, even if I don't own the house? Or does the owner have to get involved? Is it smart to have owner grant me power-of-attorney regarding proper evictions (I have not had any issues in the 8 years I've been the property manager). Thank you!

Harold, from Pennsylvania

A: You can evict. Even though you're tenant, you're also a landlord. You don't need to get the owner involved- and he shouldn't be involved.

Published 2017-06-27

Dear Mr. Reno:
Can you please help me?

My renters want out of their lease because they bought a house. I cannot even entertain this right now because my mom is very ill right now.

They say they want to sublet but lease says they can't.

I do have two months deposit. There is about 5 months left on the lease. They have said they would pay rent whatever the case is.

They said that if their parents died prior to the lease ending they would not break the lease but they did die and now they want to break the lease. They do have enough funds as they got an inheritance. I will not allow subletting and am out of town and cannot even look into renting it out. What can i tell the renters in order for them to stop bugging me.
Also if the renters move out before lease ends what do i do. I dont want subletters
And they have threatened to get some in.


A: Sounds like to me you've kept a stiff upper lip- not giving in- so good for you! They asked to breach the lease or sublet and you said "NO". So there you are.

As far as the "bugging" goes- sorry. Can't help you with that.

Dear Mr. Reno:
Have a tenant who calls for repairs without my knowledge.
Told her the first time that was not acceptable. $180.00 bill received after the fact.
Her unapproved pet chewed the account wires.
Now today same story. Ac people called said I owed for first bill $180.00 plus another bill I know nothing about again. Made it clear to Ac company not to do ANY repairs without my authorization as I am the owner, not the tenant. Obviously w vm message it's happened again.
What do I do?
Tenant is horrible anyway. On month to month lease. Late payer. I have no lease, verbal only.
Preparing lease now for 3 to 6 months.

Donna T., Tyler, TX

A: Well, month to month, no lease, that's your answer: Serve a 30 or 60 day notice to vacate.

But first ask yourself, how big a deal was this? It's $180., perhaps, at least a portion, legit. Are you sure you want a vacant unit one or two months over this? That's your call.

Published 2017-06-26

Dear Mr. Reno:
I’ve been a landlord for about 15 years now, both commercial and residential and I use the LPA forms.

I have a commercial tenant under the LPA Commercial Net Lease Agreement who is up for renewal on a 5 year lease. He was a good tenant but we disagreed on the rent increase because of interpretation. Unfortunately, I wrote 'inflation USA rate' which I interpreted to be general inflation in our area taking into account the increases in local property tax and he interpreted USA GOVERNMENT rate. He immediately got a lawyer and while I was expecting we would be doing some negotiating his lawyer say I cannot speak to my tenant, I must go thru him, and by his calculations the rent increase should be $18 more a month. My actual increases work out to a 28% increase over the last 5 years. I gave the tenant a good deal in the beginning, lowered rent for a year and early occupancy etc. so this is really bad. We’ve looked at building more closely and have several clauses that he has not adhered to mainly damage to the exterior of adjacent parts that he is not renting…his attorney says he’s not liable for areas he is not leasing. Any advice, at this point I just want him out, I can’t even speak to him.
Thank you,

Ruthie, Oregon

A: This is a huge mess. You gave a 5 YEAR LEASE and you are vague on the increases. Big mistake!

Here's a thought: After one month- small claims court. You're probably only suing for $50, but that will resolve it. Any way, that's about the cheapest way. probably get your answer for $20 instead of litigation for thousands.

Published 2017-06-21

Dear Mr. Reno:
Evicting subtenant or licensee -

I want to evict the executor of my deceased tenant's estate. She claims succession rights to the rent-stabilized apartment as the deceased tenant's non-traditional family member (probably lover) and long-term resident of the apartment. The only leaseholder is the deceased tenant. Do I have to sue the estate in its own name or is it enough to sue the executor as "Voluntary Administrator of Estate of Sue H."? In other words, does that language nail her in her personal as well as representative capacity, or only the latter?

By the way, is she a subtenant or licensee of the estate or just what? And is the executor or the estate the holdover tenant? I am not aware of any complication beyond the above facts.


A: The best way to handle these dilemmas is to name everyone. As a general rule, an eviction will be dismissed as defective if you fail to name someone, but usually will NOT be dismissed for naming extra people.

So you evict the deceased tenant, the Estate of the Tenant, and the subtenant and best of luck.

Published 2017-06-20

Dear Mr. Reno:
Just had a tenant leave w\o paying 4 months rent. Never got oil in Jan.feb causing damage to heating system 120 bags of trash removed from just cellar..old torn furniture left..pot growing..broken windows. Doors torn off hinges if we go to court and WIN...HOW DO WE ACTUALLY COLLECT THE MONEY?

Kate, Belchertown, Ma

A: You need to find an alternate universe & then go there.

You can sue. (Usually throwing good money after bad.) Fix'er up, rent'er out, then calculate total damages including lost rent & make a decision.

(Small claims court up to $5000.)

Published 2017-06-16

Dear Mr. Reno:
I am an LPA member and would like to have a question answered by Mr. Reno.
We have a small apartment with a non conforming bedroom due to window size. It is possible to rent the apartment with a written acknowledgement from potential tenant. Would that release the landlord from liabilities?

Thank you,

Katie S.

A: The acknowledgement may hep if ever the tenant tries to sue, but it wont be a defense if the town gives you a summons for a violation. One person can't give another person permission to break the law, but they can say "I'm assuming this particular risk."

Dear Mr. Reno:
We have a tenant that has a son who is 17 and is smoking pot. Our previous tenants that lived upstairs from this tenant that resides downstairs said they used to smell it. They have since moved out. Now we have new tenants upstairs and they said they have smelled it in the hallway. We have repeatedly had conversations with the mother of this teenage son about his pot smoking and she agreed to have a talk with him. My husband has knocked on the door several times to talk to the son as the mom works odd hours. He refuses to answer the door.

Our question is, can my husband legally go in the apartment without notice to this tenant if he smells it again? Or does he have to call a cop and have the cop have entry? We live in NY state and are not sure what our rights are as Landlords. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. Elaine Walker

Elaine, Elmira, NY

A: Why go in? What's the point? You're opening up yourself for a law suit for no reason. You'll be sued for stealing things that don't exist.

Published 2017-06-08

Dear Mr. Reno:
My tenant in my duplex in Philadelphia PA's lease was up in July 15th, however she left June 1 with just 5 days notice given. Can I keep the security deposit as the rent for June – July? Is it ok if I find a tenant in the meantime? Thank you.

Anu T., PA

A: 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 forfeit security for breaking the lease, you're on thin ice.

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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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