What kind of Attorney do I need?

JPWoodsJanuary 6, 2004

I am a new landlord in the state of North Dakota renting out my house. I have a tenant in default of a term lease (non-payment of rent). Tennnant will not return calls or will not meet with me. Per ND Law I am serving a "Notice to Quit" today which will give the tennant 3 days to vacate. If they don't vacate I need to serve a "Summons and Complaint" which will establish a court date 3 to 15 days after it is served.

What type of Attorney is used for this? I am a little shy in retaining an Attorney as I had a pretty poor experiece with my last one.

Any other help is greatly appreciated.

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I am not an attorney and do not practice law. But, do you really need an attorney? You are merely doing things per ND law. I'm not sure what an attorney would do for you that you cannot do yourself (i.e., file the papers of 'Service to Quit" and "Summons and Complaint"). I had to file a lien on someone's property once. As long as my paperwork was in order, all I had to do was file the lien at the appropriate office in the Court House. A lot of forms are available on the internet or from your local court house. The local sheriff can be used to assist with the vacating of your house (hopefully it does not come to that).

I hope you don't need an attorney, because I suspect the cost may outweigh the benefit.

I'm anxious to hear more about your situation.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2004 at 1:11PM
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Mike Pam

I got the Notice to Quit from internet legal forms ready to deliver at the tenants place of work.

Situation is as follows:

Had house on market due to divorce. Generated lots of interest but no offers. Friend of a friend needed to get out of an apartment and I needed cash flow so the two worked well. She signed a Term Lease (very detailed) and proceeded on moving in. This is where things went bad on my part.

I allowed to let her move in early without paying a deposit as stipulated on the lease. I was promised that when she received the deposit back from the apartment she was in I would be paid the deposit. I took that for her word. The first payment for November was late and I did not stipulate that the money would be applied to the deposit (did'nt learn this until yesterday that I should have done that).

December rolls around and again rent is late and I had to track tennant down and took cash for rent. As per lease the house has to be maintained to allow realtor and FSBO showings. This is where things get worse. A realtor called from my FSBO newspaper ad to set up time to show to client the following day. I tried to reach tennant the whole day to let her know what was up and that the house would be shown the following day. No return call. Realtor called the next morning and told me client wants to look between 2-4 pm. Again tried to reach tennant with no avail. Realtor calls and says client wants to look at 2 pm this was now around noon. Finally tennant returns call 1:45 pm and says house is in good shape for showing. Since house is over 15 minutes away I had a neigbor open the house with a spare key for realtor while I made my way to the property.

As the neighbor opens door descovers halloween pumpkins still on porch (1 1/2 month after halloween), kitchen garbage overflowing (tennant refuses to use trash compactor), clothes and items scattered over area in basement as well as bedrooms, garage full of 3 weeks of garbage, laundry room heaping with clothes and discovering wet laundry room carpet. Neighbor calls me while in route and together try to make the best of the situation before realtor arrives.

I am really upset as this was a breach in the lease and further the tennant did not tell me that there was a problem with plumbing. The plumbing was fixed the very next day while the tennant was out of town.

I then wrote a letter explaning what was found and how she was breaching the lease and I demanded the deposit. The letter was sent certified and she received it on 12/26/03. The problem is I let her move in without a deposit which I think puts me SOL for ever getting it and now I hear that she says my neighbor was tresspassing.

Per ND law the Notice to Quit can be presented by a disinterested 3rd pary but the Summons and Complaint needs to be by attorney even though I could find the form on the internet.

I just want to minimize the time she stays in the house so I can get a...

    Bookmark   January 6, 2004 at 3:17PM
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Yikes. I sympathise with you. I once managed an apartment house. Had a tennant move out (she didn't tell me she was moving out) and then 'gave' it to someone else - which I found out when I asked the guy who was living there who he was (always good for a landlord to ask who the strange face is). So, I didn't get the opportunity to interview him first, but he seemed okay. She didn't ask for the deposit back and I wouldn't have given it back anyway because she left without notice. I lived in the apartment house also (right next door). I left for a few days only to come home and find that my place had been broken into. Was it him? Don't know, but I think so, because then he left in the middle of the night, so to speak, never to be seen again, and also did not take most of his stuff with him.

Then again, I had renters that were there and are still there (though I no longer manage the house) and were great tennants.

Any chance of getting in touch with the 'friend' that referred her so maybe he/she can help pressure this woman to clean up her act a bit? I'm thinking it will be futile, but it might be worth a shot.

And I'm sorry that I have no idea what kind of an attorney to hire (or maybe I'm actually lucky not to have that knowledge, as I have never needed an attorney).

Good luck. If at all possible, I would appreciate hearing the final outcome. Thanks

    Bookmark   January 6, 2004 at 3:52PM
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The friend will be of no help as the renter owes money to her in 5 installments and has bounced the first two. The friend / neighbor is the same person who opened the house for the showing and is the one being labeled as a trespasser!!!

I called her boss (who I know and is the owner of the company) and asked how I could get in touch with her and his reply is she hasn't shown up for work since last Thursday and will not return his calls either!

I asked him if he would give her a copy of the Notice to Quit and explained the situation I was in to him and he agreed to give her the notice when she picked up her paycheck on Friday. He was very interested as she owes the company money from personal items she charged to the company and is driving around in a company vehicle with a gas and has a gas card.

I plan on serving the notice tonight directly to my property as I have gained knowledge that she will be there.

If not, I will call the County Sheriff to do it.

To answer the question as to what type of attorney I am searching leads given on the Buying and Selling site.

Thanks for you imput!

    Bookmark   January 6, 2004 at 5:25PM
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"What type of Attorney is used for this?"

Usually a process server is all you need. Most small landlords handle their own evictions in local courts.

Look up "Landlord Tenant Law" for North Dakotah, and see if there is an explanation of the process you need to follow.

Here is a link that might be useful: ND laws

    Bookmark   January 6, 2004 at 5:51PM
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Yes, you have a mess on your hands. Being inexperienced, I suggest you get a good attorney. I know it has been suggested here that you attempt to do it yourself. If you have never done it before and have no experience with RE or the legal process, you should hire an attorney. If you win in court and she moves out, she is going to owe you quite a bit of money. Without an attorney to file wage garnishments ect, you'll never see a dime.

Get a good tenant/landlord attorney to handle this for you, follow the process very closely. Maybe in the future you will be equipped to handle this situation yourself, but you aren't at this point.

Be aware that the law tends to favor the tenant, but you sound like you have a very airtight case...

    Bookmark   January 7, 2004 at 10:45AM
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Tennants boyfriend paid rent. Still working on deposit.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2004 at 11:40AM
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I think you should send a registered letter stating that XX dollars are owed towards the deposit. State that until it is paid 100% that all money received will be credited towards that deposit and not towards rent.

Also state that rent will not be accepted late any longer.

I have experience with the law and in RE as a Realtor and as a landlord. I hope I can explain this well enough: if the tenant can show that you repeatedly (more than 1x) accepted the rent late, that shows that you were willing to breach the contract. She could get out of paying the deposit at all if she is intelligent or has a good attorney. You were willing to breach the contract by accepting late rent, so you must be willing to breach it in other ways as well!

You have to be very very careful with tenants. The law REALLY favors them. Watch your step carefully and don't allow her to pull anything on you.

Are you going to go ahead with the eviction, based on her not having the residence available to show to possible buyers?


    Bookmark   January 9, 2004 at 2:01PM
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You were willing to breach the contract by accepting late rent, so you must be willing to breach it in other ways as well!

I wasn't too clear with this statement - I should have said that this is what she could argue in court. I personally don't believe that... :-) Sorry about that, when I re-read this post a couple of hours after posting it sounded wrong.


    Bookmark   January 9, 2004 at 3:53PM
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I understood you the first time that the renter could use that angle in defense. Good insite! I am meeting today with renter to hopefully put the deposit to rest or continue with eviction. I want to re-list the property and would truthfully rather have the house empty rather than have the cash flow from the tennant. I have really learned a lot and will do things different if I rent out property.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2004 at 10:00AM
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Had a sit down with renter yesterday and she decided that the deposit was due per lease she signed. Also with some gentle narrative by me, the renter felt it would not be a good time to be looking for other living arrangements or report to court.

She signed a paper that the total deposit would be paid today.

She just stopped by and paid the FULL deposit with cash. Finally my renter is current with the lease terms.

Thanks for all the advice.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2004 at 12:49PM
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Wow! JP - that is wonderful! Rarely does something work out so neat and tidy! :-)

    Bookmark   January 16, 2004 at 4:36PM
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