What to do when the tenant won't cooperate in showing house
QUESTION: I am trying to sell our rental house, and our real estate agent is having no luck getting our tenant to cooperate. The tenant has always paid on time and takes decent care of the place but does not ever seem to be available to allow a prospective buyer to look at the house. I need to sell, but I also need the rent until I can sell it. What can I do?
ANSWER: The law and most written leases allow the landlord to access the rental house to make repairs, provide agreed-upon services and show the property to lenders, contractors and prospective buyers or new tenants. The landlord must give reasonable notice to the tenant and access the house during certain times. The access should be with the tenant's consent, unless in the case of a genuine emergency.
If your tenant is being unreasonable, you still may be able to enter, but in doing so you risk repercussions. Barring a genuine emergency, I don't recommend entering without consent, because you could be opening yourself up to accusations of missing or broken items and harassment. Keeping your own home staged in the proper condition to show and rearranging your life around a showing schedule is hard enough when you are the one with the incentive to sell. But for your tenant, it's just extra work and inconvenience with no gain at the end.
Before putting a house on the market, speak with the tenant and explain that selling the house will not affect the lease. Maybe the tenant will want to buy it. Acknowledging the tenant's efforts in helping you can be a powerful motivator. Consider throwing in a restaurant gift card or offering a small discount on the rent. That may go a long way to making it worth the tenant's while to cooperate.
Try to find out what your tenant's reluctance to showing the house is and look at the concern from his or her viewpoint. This should help you to find a solution that works for both of you. In most cases, good communication will solve the problem. But if the tenant is just being unreasonable, the law is on your side.
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He is the chairperson of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is an adjunct professor for the Nova Southeastern University Paralegal Studies program. Send him questions online at http://sunsent.nl/mR20t7 or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.
The information and materials in this column are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed. Nothing in this column is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.
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