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Real Estate Q&A: When relatives make bad tenants, what are your options?

By GARY M. SINGER
Sun Sentinel

August 30. 2018 8:07PM


GARY M. SINGER

Q: I own a home that my sister is living in, where she pays the mortgage and is supposed to take care of it. She has been letting it run down, and it needs extensive repairs that she was supposed to maintain. I don't have the time or money to deal with this and want to sell the property. What are my options?

Janice

A: Your first step is to speak with your sister and let her know the scoop. Tell her that you need to sell the place and set up a timetable for her to move out.

In my law practice, I have found that good communication will solve most problems.

Unfortunately, this does not always work, and even family sometimes will not cooperate despite the prior help you may have given.

If this turns out to be your situation, you will have to go to court to get her out of the property.

It is vital that you do not try to "self-help" and just throw her and her stuff out the door. Since she is paying rent, in the form of paying the mortgage, you would need to terminate her lease rights before you can evict her.

You must provide her with written notice to leave in the form set out in the Landlord/Tenant Statute. If she does not move by the deadline, you would need to file a lawsuit to evict her. You can do this based on your verbal lease arrangement. When there is an oral lease like this, either party can end it with proper notice, and once it is terminated, the tenant must vacate.

Even when leasing to family or close friends, it is better to have a written lease agreement. Memorializing your agreement in writing will have the effect of making sure each party knows what is expected of them and help avoid disagreements later.

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.


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