Real Property Management of Boston works with numerous property managers who are having tenant problems such as constant late rent payments or none paid for months at a time. Unfortunately, there has been a great need for our staff to put an effective eviction process in place.
Key points in our company’s guide to managing the risk of Boston rental property evictions include the following:
- 1. You get what you screen for. A systematic qualification process needs to be in place to ensure you get qualified residents. A survey conducted by Liminality, Inc., an innovative online research company, found that “21 percent of DIY landlords sometimes or never conduct background checks on their prospective tenants.” Beyond background checks, it is important to know why your prospective resident is moving. Always ask the following questions:
a. Why move now?
b. What’s wrong with where you are currently living?
c. If I were to call your landlord, would he or she give you a good reference?
d. Is there any urgency? If so, why?
e. We verify you have at least 2.5 – 3 times the rent in gross monthly income. Is that a problem?
2. Keep detailed records. We first ask to see your rent ledger. This can be a page where all rent payments are recorded. Many landlords use spreadsheets. The same goes with work requests. When were they requested, completed, and by whom? If a complaint is raised in court, the defendant usually responds with a motion for discovery, asking for all of these records. If you don’t have them, it’s hard to move your case forward.
3. Make sure your behavior is beyond reproach. Are there mice in the unit? Is there an illegal living situation? Did you disregard lead notification? Did you handle the security deposit correctly? It is much more difficult to enforce your legal rights if you are in violation of other laws. You need to first bring your rental property into compliance with all laws and regulations.
4. Decide your recourse in advance. Decide to send a 14-day pay or quit notice before you’re in the middle of dealing with your tenant’s reasons for not paying. Reach your goal by knowing in advance how you’re going to enforce the contractual agreement between you and your tenants. Any action can still be done with empathy for what may be a tough situation. Create your policy for dealing with late rent or lease violations before you start renting. You can more easily stand firm when you explain your practice was decided at the beginning of your ownership.
5. Be prompt and consistent. We review eviction status on a weekly basis. Our office process is to send out notices on the sixth business day of the month. This puts us on track to file for a hearing by the end of the month. It shows our tenants we take lease agreements seriously, but also helps them work with our staff to come to an agreement so both sides can stay out of court.
6. Use an attorney. While individuals are allowed to handle eviction matters in Massachusetts, the process can be confusing and complicated. An entire process can be reset because someone missed a filing or stated something the wrong way. It may seem expensive at the outset, but using an attorney is sure to move your disagreement to conclusion as quickly as possible.
7. Stay positive amid challenges. Massachusetts is one of the toughest states in the nation to uphold landlord rights. Despite that rigorousness, we have yet to see a time where property owners did not rightfully prevail if they took their landlord responsibilities seriously, were timely in addressing all issues, and used appropriate legal counsel.