Here’s what happened when I tried to pursue two evictions this month.
I recently got a taste of what it’ll now be like for property owners and managers to pursue evictions per lease violations. I had sought two evictions for two separate tenants following unacceptable incidents. For the first incident, I had police support in the form of red cards, and I had video evidence of the second incident.
Here’s the first case: I have a property that’s in a bit of a rougher area, and after a shooting there, police issued red cards to the property managers so we can file lease violations, which the judge will then grant since there is police support.
To summarize the situation without divulging protected information, let’s say a shooting occurred between Unit A and Unit B. Tenant A and Tenant B were involved; we had to allow Tenant B to break her lease so she could gather her items and be escorted off of the property by police for her own safety.
Despite all of the documentation I had with me indicating otherwise, Tenant A showed up in court claiming that it was actually Tenant B who shot at her. Tenant A did not have to supply any documentation proving her account, though, and since the police report did not specifically state that Tenant A had shot Tenant B, the judge denied my eviction. The ruling shocked me because I know that six months ago, this eviction would have gone through—no doubt about it.
The second case involved what we’ll refer to as Unit C. I had a video of the tenant, Tenant C, having a visitor leave her apartment at about 2 a.m. to discharge a firearm in the middle of the courtyard. However, Tenant C claimed that it was actually the guest of another tenant (this particular property has 28 units) who discharged a firearm. She also claimed she wasn’t home at the time of the incident; her alibi was that she had gotten a hotel room and spent that night gambling (keep in mind she hasn’t paid rent in four months), so she couldn’t have had a visitor.
Even though the person seen leaving Tenant C’s apartment is not a tenant at the property (at the very least, not an individual with whom I am even remotely familiar), the judge denied my eviction and stated I needed to investigate the issue of identity further. The burden of proof was on me; I had to provide more evidence that the individual who discharged the firearm wasn’t a tenant in my building. Again, I was shocked; six months ago, I would have easily been granted this eviction.
When I left court, I trusted my gut and made a few phone calls. I was able to confirm that the governor’s office was very concerned that property managers would be using lease violations to oust tenants who aren’t paying rent, and as such, they instructed judges to use a stricter set of guidelines when assessing lease violation cases.
We’re not yet sure what those guidelines are, but we’ll continue to do research. However, let me make this clear: Property managers, landlords, and legislators alike all want to provide assistance to people who have been affected by COVID. There have been fears that tenants have been taking advantage of this leniency, though, and now I’ve witnessed it; one of my tenants said—in open court, under oath—that she had been paying for a hotel room and gambling her money away instead of paying rent. I couldn’t address this fact at the time, however, as we weren’t in court that day for a non-payment case.
I hope our legislators and leadership will begin doing more to advocate for landlords. It has been jarring to see such blatant disregard for landlords’ interests. I wish I had better news, but I do have an upcoming court case I’m looking forward to. It’s for a lease violation, but this time it involves the lease addendum promissory note that the governor approved, so we’ll see what happens! Until then, you can reach out via phone or email with any questions or concerns you may have.