Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New landlords: Google before you evict

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I haven't posted in quite some time, but ironically the reason why fits rather nicely into this blog's discussion of the issues middle class people face.

Our landlord is selling the two-family house where we live so he can move out of state to be with family. On July 15, the future owners came to our apartment to tell us a) they wanted to live in our apartment, and b) they wanted us out by August 1 so they can perform renovations before they move in on September 1. Even though we politely explained that our current lease - and the law, for that matter - simply cannot accommodate that request, the conversation ended by establishing that if we weren't out by August 15 at the latest, they would start an eviction process.

In our lease, it clearly specifies that we must be notified in writing of our landlord's intent not to renew our lease no fewer than 45 days before the end of the lease. Since that didn't happen, we CYA-ed by following another provision in our lease, which states we must give our landlord written notice of our intent to vacate no fewer than 45 days before we leave. So, we did so on July 17, exactly 45 days before September 1. Our landlord agreed, and we thought our problems were over.

Then the future owners started forwarding their mail to our address.

The closing is taking place today (July 30). Yesterday, the soon-to-be owners came by unannounced with their realtor for a final walk-through. These people didn't say hello or look me in the face as they trolled about my home, their faces scrunched with anger at the fact that our stuff wasn't in boxes. The man, who has yet to give us his name, asked me what the status was. I politely told him that even though I was legally advised not to speak with them about the apartment until after the closing, I would gladly offer that we'd found an apartment and it will be ready for move-in on September 1.

He then asked me for the name of my lawyer so that his lawyer could contact him to begin the eviction process - and then sue us for their legal costs.

Now, even though we have confirmed 10 times over that an eviction request against us will be thrown out or at best not granted, we still face the possibility of being frivolously dragged into court and forced to pay legal fees for our defense - all because the law won't accommodate some guy's home improvement schedule.

Unfortunately, arrogance and stupidity seems to run rampant among landlords, particularly newbies who don't know how to do a Google search on rental property law and those who are not bound by the strict laws of a metropolitan area where apartments abound. While bum tenants deserve to be prosecuted, what these people are doing to us - good tenants that pay rent on time and follow their lease perfectly - is nothing short of criminal.

I'd be interested to know how the housing crisis has affected the number of tenant/landlord complaints filed. I'm sure many middle class folks rent in part because getting a mortgage is now harder than ever. And I'm sure many have landlord horror stories worse than mine.

In my ongoing quest for justice, I came across some good links to share with folks who might need help like this now or in the future:

A great list of tenants rights groups

Attorneys General in the United States

Or better yet, just do a damn Google search. You never know whose aggravation you might be saving.

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