Real estate Q&A: Landlord can't charge two rents for same space
QUESTION: I was renting an unfurnished bedroom to a tenant who put in her own furniture. Several years ago, she moved back in with her family and left her furniture with the intention of eventually returning. I have been charging her a small fee for this furniture storage. Recently, we agreed to allow a friend of hers to move into the room and pay rent. The first tenant has not paid the storage fee since then. Am I entitled to receive that? — Jacquelin
ANSWER: The agreement you made will control this situation, so you need to carefully review your written lease.
If you do not have a written lease, or your lease is silent on this issue, you normally can't charge two rents for the same space. Because you were renting the room to the first tenant for storage of the furniture and now you are renting the same room to her friend with the furniture still in place, you would not be able to receive separate fees. But if the first tenant is using additional storage space elsewhere in the home, she would still owe you for that.
If the first tenant refused to pay for this additional storage, then you could have all her furniture removed through the normal eviction process. But that could be counterproductive. You would be depriving the second tenant of the use of the furniture, so she might leave, and you would have no rental income.
I suggest clarifying the matter with both tenants.
Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He is the chairperson of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is an adjunct professor for the Nova Southeastern University Paralegal Studies program. Send him questions online at http://sunsent.nl/mR20t7 or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.