While the divorce rate in this country fortunately is in a downward trend, divorce is still a contingency that landlords will likely encounter at some point.
Do you know what to do when your tenants divorce?
Here are some tips:
Who Stays in the Apartment?
Veteran property management pro Wallace S. Gibson, CPM, shares this important advice: If both parties are on the lease, a landlord cannot exclude one party over the other without a court order. Landlords should not change locks or exclude one party over another absent any court order.
If an allegation of domestic abuse occurs, contact your attorney for individual guidance. Evicting the victim may be illegal. Anti-discrimination statutes may prevent such an eviction even if the resulting disturbance violates the terms of your lease. Click here to see Landlords Sued Over Standard Lease Provision.
Gibson adds, “If there is a restraining order (“TRO”, “RO”) by one party, the landlord needs a copy. The tenant needs to give you a copy of any restraining orders filed in the case.”
Who Pays the Rent?
If both spouses signed the lease, then (in all likelihood) both are still liable for the payment of the rent and care of the property until the termination of the lease.
Signing an addendum or a new lease may change that. Be sure to consult your lawyer before you make any compromises, written or verbal, with an individual spouse so you don’t lose any of your rights against the other spouse.
The Final Decree
Divorces take a long time. It is possible that the lease will terminate and the parties will move on before the final orders come through. In some cases, the parties may obtain “temporary orders” that can lay out their relative living and financial arrangements while the case is pending.
If the parties reach a final settlement this will be reflected in writing, a “Separation Agreement”. It will be referenced in the final Divorce Decree.
If the parties don’t reach a compromise, they go to court and the judge will order a division of debts and assets, assigning each to the individuals involved.
The occupancy of the rented property AND WHO GETS THE DEPOSIT may be addressed in the Separation Agreement or Decree. But, as Gibson cautions, because the landlord is not a party to any separation agreement or divorce decree, “they do not have to abide by the terms; however, it is a good sign of how BOTH parties want issues handled.”
Gibson Management Group, Ltd., is a full-service property management company offering 40 years of professional property management services. Their management program is tailored to high end single family homes of character, country and estate properties as well as town homes. They offer listings in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia and Albemarle County as well as Greene and Louisa Counties and the Lake Monticello area of Fluvanna County.
American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services related to your commercial housing investment including REAL ESTATE FORMS, tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing. Find out more at www.joinaaoa.org.
What’s your advice? We’d love to hear from you! Please share your insights below.
To subscribe to our blog, click here.