Contemporaneous Notes of a Landlord – Problem Tenant
You buy a property after spending your lifetime of savings so that when you are old, you could reap the benefits in your old age with the help of a steady income, only to realize that your property has been confiscated by a problem tenant who is not willing to pay rent and doesn’t move out either. What are you supposed to do in such a case? How to find a tenant who can be trusted, who will take care of your property and not ill-treat it, who will leave when you ask him to? Picking the right tenant is one of the toughest things to do. In case you come across the wrong kinds then the long, costly eviction process may drain you out. Hence, it is mandatory for you to conduct thorough background check, gather references, check bank statements and keep contemporaneous notes as soon as some unwanted activity starts to brew up. As a landlord, your responsibilities do not just end as soon as you find a tenant, it is where the real job starts, to keep track of the happenings, and that any mischievous activity is not taking place inside your property, that may cause you or your neighbors any kind of disruption.
Any kind of anti-social behavior is probably one of the toughest things that a landlord has to face. No matter how full-proof the scrutiny of the prospective tenant may be, there is always room for a loophole. Landlord is not the only person who may get affected as a result of this, it may be the neighbors, who will start complaining to the society head or other tenants living next door, who will start vacating the house because of other ill-behaved tenants. Your greatest nightmare just turned true.
If the statistics are to be believed, around 60% of the landlords face one problem or the other because of problem tenants. In most of North America, the tenancy boards are pro-tenants. In such a desperate and hopeless situation when there is no other option left, one may have to turn to the court and the police, where the first thing that is asked of a landlord is the proof of authenticity of his story. At this time, a solid, organized contemporaneous note-keeping not only adds credibility, but also goes a long way in resolving disputes. With no proper documentation, the authorities may take side of the tenant and then begins a series of legal proceedings, which are expensive and time-consuming.
Whenever a landlord finalizes a tenant, first thing that should be made is a proper written rental agreement which should have even the smallest of details about the things agreed between the two parties. This rental agreement becomes the most crucial piece of legal document, in case any dispute arises in the future. Hence, documenting with efficiency is important. It should have information like duration of lease, name and address of the occupants, the amount of rent, number of occupants, length of occupancy, frequency of rent payments, a security deposit, etc. The tenant should be updated about any change in the terms and conditions and given a copy of the same. A fully signed written rental agreement like this is very important in protecting your rights as a landlord. It is very crucial to maintain all the documents, should litigation ever be necessary.
During the stay of a tenant it is important for the landlord to regularly visit the property and maintain contemporaneous records that has all the information after assessing the condition of the property. Any issue that one comes across must be noted down in those records date and time wise, in the presence of the tenant and one witness if possible. Similarly, even a tenant should maintain notes like these to make sure that they made the landlord aware of any issue that may have cropped up while their stay. These documents may also include photographs, bills, agreements, detailed notes regarding what was given along with the accommodation etc. This also helps a landlord to remember that the property is returned to him in the same condition since the initial occupation.
Contemporaneous notes should also contain details of any event that may needed to be referred later such as, any altercation between the tenants and the landlords or the tenants and other tenants or the neighbors. Such kind of records should be noted down on the same day as the event took place and duly signed by the witnesses if possible. With the help of such document, the landlord will be able to refresh his or her memory when such matters proceed to court and evidence is needed. Complete the record by mentioning the time the event took place, name and address of the people present while the whole episode happened, even if they were not directly involved, venue of the event with full details about the actual place or multiple places where the confrontation took place, description of the event with each and every detail from starting till the end, exact words spoken by the involved parties, signature of the landlord and any witness who was present and statements made by the witnesses present. No interpretations or author’s opinions need to be mentioned here. The pages should be numbered properly and there should not be any inconsistency between the data. There should not be any gap left between the lines so that any information can be added later and there should not be any torn or missing pages from the contemporaneous records. In the Mayflower Associates, Inc. v. Elliott, the landlord, Elliot asked for the eviction of the tenants Mayflower Associates Inc, based on the fact that they breached the 99-year old lease by not paying the municipal and county taxes, which was clearly mentioned in the lease. The landlord had given multiple notices and a 30 day opportunity to pay the taxes, but the tenants left him with no choice but to file a lawsuit. The court upheld his appeal stating that all documents refer that the tenants were supposed to pay the taxes and were given multiple written notices, but they did not pay heed. Hence, the landlord had all the rights to ask for eviction.
Under any circumstances, if a landlord has the contemporaneous memorandum of any conversation or written communication with the tenants, that puts him in a strong position against the tenants. Firstly, it provides a written document which can be referred to in case of any misunderstanding and secondly, it tells what time the event occurred at. When an issue comes up where the court is confused over which side is telling the truth, the party which has a contemporaneous document that provides the exact happenings of the event will be favored in the dispute.
The landlord is in a very vulnerable position when a dispute between him and the tenants arise, as far as finances are concerned. That is why, it is important for a landlord to be aware of the situations that are happening and act accordingly. With the laws slightly titled towards the tenants, it is important for a landlord to keep his homework always done to be prepared for the worst. Contemporaneous note-making, hence, becomes his weapon against any kind of wrong-doing by the tenants. It is always better to be safe now than worry later.
Notes for the Diary Sheet. Retrieved from, http://www.landlordlaw.co.uk/sites/default/files/DiarySheet.pdf
Mesch, Clark and Rothschild P.C. A how-to guide for residential landlords by Patrick J. Lopez. Retrieved from, http://www.mcrazlaw.com/a-how-to-guide-for-residential-landlords/
Mayflower Associates V. Elliot . Retrieved from, http://www.leagle.com/decision/195580081So2d719_1728.xml/MAYFLOWER%20ASSOCIATES%20v.%20ELLIOTT
Ask Tom. Retrieved from, http://www.joomag.com/magazine/landlord-buy-to-let-magazine/0540853001421676588?page=28.
Morecrofts Solicitor,.(2015) Housing disrepair- Three practical tips for Landlords and Tenants. Retrieved from, http://www.morecrofts.co.uk/blog/housing-disrepair-three-practical-tips-for-landlords-and-tenants