I own a rental property in another town and have had a good tenant for the last two years who has always paid on time. He is currently on a month to month lease. This month, his rent has not arrived and is already one week late. I have tried calling and texting him, but an automated recording from his cell phone provider says “the subscriber is not available.”
I think my tenant has abandoned my property. Can I enter my property to see if he is still living there? If he is gone, can I change the locks and proceed to find a new tenant? Help! -Carol
Welcome to the unpredictable world of land-lording! It is not always fun. Personally, I have had to evict people, garnish wages, and place furniture on the street. I have been threatened, and I still own rental property. Is it worth it? Only you can answer that….The first step I recommend is to call the local landlord-tenant board and check the rules. Better yet–and if this is your first time–I recommend a real estate attorney who specializes in evictions. There are certain, specific rules you have to follow. In some counties you must first send the tenants a “Five Day Pay or Quit Notice” once the rent is “late,” according to the terms of your lease. Then, they have five days to pay what they owe or they must “quit” (leave) the premises. If they don’t, then you can file another form, and the legal journey begins. The length of time it takes from start to finish is unpredictable. It can depend on how savvy the tenants are about the whole process. I strongly (yes I said strongly) recommend an attorney who is well versed in these matters, since there are a number of steps along the way.
So, no. You can’t just go in and change the locks. I do suggest you go there, after first giving notice that is spelled out in the lease, and see what’s going on. But, even if you do find them gone, you can’t do anything until you go through the procedures that are outlined in your lease and spelled out by your newly acquired attorney.
Thankfully, I haven’t had to evict anyone in the past 15 years. I have worked out some payment plans (and no, they haven’t always worked), but I do continue to manage properties, and (knock on wood), have had very good results so far.
Good luck, Carol. But don’t try to do this yourself.