Questions and Answers for July 2015

As seen on our Message Boards.

Q: I terminated the tenancy, but instead of moving out, they paid me the rent! Their memo says “July rent.” I want to accept the money but start evicting them as tenant at sufferance. Can I do this?

Yes. The general idea is to accept money “for use and occupancy only” and not for “rent”. You write “for use and occupancy only” on the back of the check.

Don’t scratch out the memo on their check. You might write “denied” over the memo but never deface or alter what someone has written. (You wouldn’t change the numbers, right? Don’t change the words, either.)

According to Mass Legal Help, it is not sufficient merely to write on the back of the check. You must immediately contact the tenant to inform them of your intent to pursue eviction and not to accept the money as rent, but to accept it for use and occupancy only.

Best practice is to meet with the tenant to discuss their need to leave, and to have them sign a piece of paper acknowledging their payment as for use and occupancy only (not rent).

Q: I have personal belongings in a multi-family basement. Can I lock these away or do the tenants need access?

If the tenant would have a reasonable need to access the basement, then you must give them a reasonable way to access it. Generally if there are breakers or mechanicals (furnaces, water heaters) then they need access to these.

You can give the key to the basement area and lock your belongings into a separate storage area away from breakers and mechanicals. Or you can use a combination lock and leave a sign for how to get the combination (for instance, “text me at this number”).

Some landlords have had problems giving keys because then their basements were used for unauthorized purposes (i.e., drugs). But requiring them to call for a combination would put you on-the-spot during an emergency, especially if you missed the call.

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