Friday, June 19, 2009

You've Been Evicted!

You're Evicted!

... but...but ...

I paid the rent ...


It is not a pleasant topic.

Not a pleasant topic for people known as the tenant on the lease or rental agreement. Not a pleasant topic for the other people on the lease known as the landlord.

Most renters genuinely want to, and do, pay their rent. They don't want to be tossed out on their butts into the street ... especially this time of year as we head towards the rain or snow and frigid temperatures that accompany late fall and winter. And trust me, hardly any landlord relishes the thought of evicting a tenant. Eviction means more expenses - legal, damages to the property, remodeling, reletting, advertising, etc. - plus the house or apartment will be vacant for at least a short period of time and not generating any revenue.

That is the familiar, if unpleasant, realities of eviction.

However ... Thousands of people and families are coming home to their leased house, condo, or apartment to find eviction notices plastered to their doors! They are very, very confused by these eviction notices. After all, they have paid their rent. Always paid their rent, and on time too! Why are they being evicted?

Why? Because their landlord/property owner has been foreclosed on and the rental property has a new owner. Often the new owner is the mortgage lender.

As the current mortgage crisis continues to unfold, renters whose landlord purchased properties with creative financing are discovering too late that the owners have been caught up in the failure of new-fangled mortgage schemes. Lending programs utilizing interest-only, pick-a-payment, subprime ARMs, and other mechanisms are collapsing like a house of cards as interest rates have steadily risen.

The subprime mortgage market failures and the effects on homeowners has been well documented in alarming headlines for several months. But individual homeownership is not the only lending market that employed subprime mortgages to feed the gluttonous appetite of the real estate buying binge that swept the nation. Subprime mortgages were also issued to finance purchases of additional homes, condos, duplexes quads, and other small rental properties.

Just as multitudes of primary residential home owners have been squeezed out of their homes by the sudden increases in their mortgage's interest rates, so are many rental property owners. Renters are often unaware that their landlord is facing foreclosure of the rental property, or has forfeited the property, until they find the ugly eviction notice plastered to their door.

The fine print in mortgages for small rental properties typically allows the lender to unequivocally evict any tenants in the event of foreclosure. State housing laws vary across the nation, but in foreclosures generally allows the lenders to give a 30 day notice to vacate regardless of leases or rental agreements. And unlike stipulations in leases that transfer deposits and associated responsibilities to a new owner in the event of a private sale, in a foreclosure the lender does not receive a transfer of deposits and assume the fiduciary responsibility for returning deposits. Tenants must deal personally or through the courts with the former landlord/owner to recoup their security deposit.

So, you are a renter who comes home to find an eviction notice plastered on your door ... what do you do? Start by calling the numbers listed on the notice to determine authenticity and validity - make sure the notice was not hung on the wrong door (it happens).

  • If the property has been foreclosed and the notice is valid, contact the now previous landlord in a calm manner and try to arrange return of your deposit. (this is usually a futile action since the former owner probably has improperly spent your deposit trying to fight the foreclosure, but if there was a management company involved, you may be able to get the deposit)
  • Start looking for a new residence. Your chances of continuing to reside past the 30 days are slim to none. The lenders want the property cleared so they can get it ready for sale, and you really don't want to use up your precious resources trying to fight this kind of eviction.
  • Play your cards close to the vest in dealing with the mortgage lender. Try to keep it civil, but do not let them walk all over you by any means. You do have a hand to play to your advantage and it has some trump cards in it! The lender wants possession as quickly and cleanly as possible. Get them to help you help them. They want your abode, you need a new abode.
  • Ask them to help you find a new rental. If they won't do any of the leg or phone work (some lenders have a rental subsidiary), get them to help you get into the new rental financially.

You may need first & last month's rent, deposits - security, utilities, etc - plus the expenses for moving your belongings across town. Very often the lender/evictor will help get you out property quickly and having it clean and undamaged. Lenders have what the industry calls - Cash 4 Keys - programs, and the lender will pay you a significant sum to get the foreclosed property in good shape and without a lot of hassle. Be realistic, but be firm and knowledgeable about what you need to relocate and be willing to vacate the property sooner than 30 days. A Cash-4-Keys agreement should cover your reasonable expenses to move, a sum equal to any outstanding deposit paid the previous owner, and deposits related to your new rental, and maybe just a little for the inconvenience factor. A couple or few thousand dollars is not out of the question depending on the type of current rental property, the market in your area, just how bad the lender wants possession so they can start trying to recoup their investment, and avoiding a protracted legal fight over the eviction. If the lender does give you a Cash-4-Keys deal, you still can go after the original landlord for any deposits made with them.

I hope none of you have to experience an eviction, especially one like this where you are the innocent by-stander. But if you are unfortunately caught up by your landlord's mortgage problems, I hope this helps you survive the ordeal.