Monday, February 21, 2011

How to lose a tenant without even trying

In his most recent blog, Sun Sentinel Reporter Daniel Vasquez asked if condominium associations should be in the rent collection business. See: http://blogs.sun-sentinel.com/condoblog/2011/02/should-you-condo-associations-be-in-the-rent-collections-business.html

Whether or not you agree that associations should take advantage of the statutory rights granted to them last year to collect rent from tenants in delinquent properties, one thing is certain: some associations will be more skilled at collecting such rent than others.

The first decision an association must make is who should contact the tenant and how. Should the manager send a letter or make a phone call first? Should the letter come from the association attorney or should a board member make the contact and deliver the message that some or all of the rent must now be tendered to the association rather than the landlord?

It is important to remember that the tenant will undoubtedly be receiving a much different message from his or her landlord than the one the association will deliver. Landlords in associations have been fairly proactive in advising their tenants to “ignore those letters from the association” and that “the association can’t do anything to you if you don’t pay them.” In fact, the new statutory rights give associations the ability to evict those tenants who do not comply with an association’s demand for rent.

In many communities, tenants in these delinquent properties are the association’s only source of income for those properties. Why then do so few associations give due consideration to the tone and type of communications they want to use with those same tenants? If the tenant is not a nuisance, is not in violation of the documents and is generally an asset to the community, does it make sense to send a letter worded in such a manner as to make the tenant think about vacating the property? Conversely, if the tenant is a nuisance, you probably want to ensure that the rent demand letter does not serve to waive any rights the association may have to pursue future or existing violations on the tenant’s part.

I have seen some rent demand letters that were certainly not drafted with the tenant’s sensibilities in mind. Starting off your initial communication with threats, ambiguities as to who owes what and general disregard for the tug of war that is sure to play out between the association, tenant and owner/landlord will not help an association in achieving what it wants with this new statutory right; namely the ability to have the delinquency owed to the community paid down or off.

This work by Donna DiMaggio Berger, Esq. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Generic License.

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