Skip Tracing: How Landlords Can Track Down Delinquent Tenants

Being a landlord is easy money, right? Not always.

Sometimes tenants simply won’t pay what they owe. Then come court hearings and evictions. Often the tenant skips town, owing thousands of dollars. What next?

If you file for a money judgment against the tenants, how do you go about actually finding the delinquent tenants when they’ve disappeared into the woodwork?

Enter skip tracing. It might sound like “Dick Tracy” by coincidence, but it actually does bear resemblance to the comic book detective (minus the block-like jaw).

Skip tracing is a relatively new name for an old concept. The term isn’t found in Merriam-Webster, for example, but is in Wikipedia. Skip tracing simply means finding a disappeared delinquent (the “skip”) by tracing their movements and locating them. Sure enough, its roots are in the expression “to skip town,” which implies that someone left without a trace, usually because he or she doesn’t wish to be found. Like, for example, a tenant who didn’t bother to pay their rent or owes you money for damages.

Are You Being Recorded? Covert Tenant Recordings of Landlords on the Rise

Ever tempted to secretly record a conversation using your smartphone's camera or audio recorder? Getting solid proof just by hitting "Record" on your smartphone can be pretty tempting, and can be legal in some cases.

But consider the flipside of that temptation. Have you ever considered that your tenants might be recording you?

Tenants are turning the tables on landlords with everything from smartphones to spy cameras to hidden microphones. Today's video technology offers HD resolution, voice detection and cloud storage that enable anyone to produce an impressive recording. With recording technology available to every single American, covert recordings have skyrocketed… along with the lawsuits (one man even left his phone recording during a colonoscopy, and sued after he heard the anesthesiologist mocking him).

Before takking to tenants, just remember your next conversation could be chronicled for eternity.

Isn't That Illegal?

Don't assume that a covert recording will be disqualified as evidence in court. Challenges to state and federal laws that govern the recording of private conversations are pushing change through the courts at a rapid pace.

Avoiding Pitfalls in the Tenant Eviction Process: A Six-Step Program

You thought you had done everything right. You conducted thorough tenant background checks. You had a comprehensive lease agreement. You gave your tenant proper notice when you had to enter the property to make repairs. Heck, you’ve even made repairs quickly. In short, you’ve been a model landlord.

But now your tenant isn’t paying the rent. Or has decided to breed German shepherd puppies despite a no-pets policy. Or has committed some other offense that makes it clear that your relationship has to end.

Yes, nothing ruins your rental unit’s ROI like an eviction.

The good news is that acknowledging you have to evict a tenant is the first step. The other good news is that we’ve created a six-step program to help you avoid common eviction pitfalls.

Step One – Remember it’s not Personal, it’s Business

Most landlords we know – actually every landlord we know – went into the rental business to make money. It is a business, which should be operated ethically, but with the same systematized practices that make any business successful.

What to Do When Renters Leave Owing More than the Security Deposit

It's the end of the tenant’s lease term and you visit the unit for the usual post-move-out inspection. If you're extremely lucky, you may be pleasantly surprised and find the tenants left the rental unit exactly as it was given to them. More likely, you'll be slightly disgruntled at the bits of trash left around the unit and a handful of repairs you'll have to spend the time and money to fix. Or you can walk into a rental and discover that the tenants treated the property like their personal dumping ground and had no reservations about leaving old food, trash and damages in their wake.

In the real world, tenant security deposits are often not enough to cover the costs of cleaning, repairing, and otherwise preparing the unit for new tenants. So what can landlords do when renters leave owing more than the security deposit?

Documenting the Damages and Costs

Record & Photograph All Damage. Because you're diligent and care about your investment property's ROI, you documented the property's move-in condition with the tenant

When to Let Tenants Break Their Lease Early… and When to Enforce It

Maintaining a roster of stable tenants is the golden standard for any landlord. Turnover stunts revenue, but even worse are delinquent tenants that cause legal and financial headaches. While long-term leases help prevent tenant turnover, what do you do when a tenant needs to break a lease agreement early?

Many landlords allow early termination only if they absolutely must by law. But this can sometimes lead to drawn-out evictions of delinquent tenants, or time and money spent in court. Sometimes, it’s the tree that bends rather than breaks that survives best.

With standard early terminations, the tenant is required to pay for the remainder of the lease until it is filled. Some lease agreements also allow for sub-leases as a means of relief for early termination.

Advocating for flexibility doesn’t necessarily mean that a tenant gets off scot-free. In most cases of “lenient” early termination, the landlord charges some combination of early termination fees, kept deposit or current month’s rent. Here’s a look at cases where early terminations might be allowed… and when to enforce the full lease contract.

What Are Squatter’s Rights?

As a landlord, you never want to hear the words “squatter” or “squatter’s rights”. They tend to coincide with other words, like long and messy. And frustrating. And terribly expensive.

What exactly constitutes a squatter? While the difference between a trespasser and a squatter is a murky one, a squatter is someone who has occupied and “settled” on a piece of land or building. Someone who enters for an hour is a trespasser, but someone who has lived there for a year is a squatter.

If that sounds like a reward for doing more of something illegal, well, we live in a strange nation.

Squatters have legal rights, which range from eviction requirements to adverse possession (they could eventually have the right to take legal title of the property).

Why do these laws even exist? In part, they are a way to deal with abandoned properties. If someone is willing to live there long enough to claim ownership, they can legally have it.

What’s the Difference Between an Eviction Notice, Violation Notice and Non-Renewal Notice?

Landlords are bound to face difficult situations and tenants periodically, no matter how well they screen rental applications. Perhaps a tenant didn’t pay their rent this month, or maybe they just brought a pair of pit bulls into your building that doesn’t allow pets. Now you need to take action and deal with the problem.

It’s never easy to confront tenants and try to shape their behavior, and you need to keep a paper trail. So what is the right paperwork to use? Do you need to use an eviction notice? Can a non-renewal be used instead? What about just giving a tenant a warning?

With so many terms and legal implications, it’s easy to get lost in the lingo. To help you keep them straight, let’s see the difference between an eviction notice, a violation notice and a non-renewal notice.

Eviction Notice

An eviction notice is an official document that must contain certain legal language, in accordance with state laws. It is required by law when informing your

How to Evict a Tenant Without Going Broke

You’re stuck with bad tenants. They abuse your property, and now they’ve stopped paying their rent. You’ve already lost your rent money, and now you have to pay more to get them out?

Even experienced landlords will end up with rotten apple tenants occasionally. You aggressively screened the tenants by verifying their employment and income, running credit and criminal background checks and verifying their rental history. Nonetheless, they ended up defaulting, and now you’re stuck trying to clean up the mess.

Landlords need to treat their rental business as a business, which means collecting the rent, in full, every month, and immediately taking their customers – tenants – to court if they fail to pay for the provided service.

Here are some tips on how to evict a tenant without going broke.

First, What Not To Do

Remember, it’s just business. Don’t take an eviction personally, and react out of frustration or anger. Don’t take matters into your own hands. In the United States and Canada, it’s illegal to change the locks, shut-off utilities, remove the tenants’ belongings or physically remove the tenants.

Eviction Notice Has Been Served… Now What?

Going through the process to evict a tenant can seem like a daunting task. While the requirements for beginning the eviction process are tedious and vary from city to city, after serving the eviction paperwork the eviction process is generally consistent across the US. Here is an overview of the steps that must be taken after serving the eviction notice.

Filing a complaint or petition in court. After serving the eviction notice, a landlord must go to the courthouse to file a complaint or petition (sometimes referred to as filing a non-payment or hold-over proceeding). In order to file the complaint, landlords are usually required to show proof that they complied with state law requirements for the amount of notice given to the tenant for the eviction. Landlords must also pay a filing fee, set by the court. After the eviction complaint is filed the court will often mail a copy of the complaint to the tenant; however, some courts require the landlords mail the tenant a copy of the complaint themselves.