When Tenants Divorce
Life can be unpredictable for anyone, including for tenants of single-family rental homes. When relationships don’t work out and there are leases involved, this can create a difficult situation for tenants and landlords alike. In the event of a tenant divorce, it’s important for property owners to know how it may affect the lease, how much to get involved, and how to best handle the situation.
As a landlord, it is important to maintain open lines of communication with your tenants. This will be especially critical in the event that your tenants divorce. As soon as you learn of any impending residence changes, it’s best to talk to your tenants about their intentions. If both parties are on the lease, you’ll need to communicate with each one. Try to get a sense of their plans, whether one tenant will be moving out, and so on.
Everyone who signs a lease is obligated to continue to pay the rent until the lease ends. This is true whether both tenants are living at the property or not. All leasees are similarly responsible for the care and maintenance of the property. It’s important to make sure your tenants understand that simply moving out does not release them from these obligations, and to help them understand what the next steps may be.
It’s also important that tenants understand that usually everyone who signs a lease will continue to have access to a property, even during the divorce process. If one of your tenants moves out, the remaining tenant may ask you to change the locks to keep them from going inside the house in their absence. However, as long as the lease remains in effect, it may be unlawful to prevent a lessee from accessing the property.
Tenants may want to re-negotiate the terms of their lease to accommodate their life changes. If this happens, you have several options to choose from. If both tenants want to break their lease and move out, it’s important to follow the same process you would for any other early lease termination. If one tenant wants to stay and remove the other tenant’s name from the lease, things can get more complicated. Experts suggest carefully considering the situation and your tenant’s ability to pay the rent alone. If the lease is near its end, one tactic is to make your tenant re-qualify for the property. If they can’t meet your minimum income requirements, it might be best to assist them with finding other accommodations.
As the property owner, your focus should be on enforcing the lease. While tenants are going through difficult life changes, they may try and enlist you to help them with personal matters beyond your ordinary expertise or want. For this reason, maintaining a degree of professionalism and setting clear boundaries is part of effectively managing a property. Do not let your personal feelings allow you to be pulled into a lawsuit by appearing to favor one tenant over another. Beyond communicating with your tenants and enforcing the lease, it’s best not to get involved in your tenant’s divorce.
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