Do you have any idea what you can legally do if you find yourself faced with a tenant who has been sent to jail? Part of the problem is that far too many landlords jump right in, have all of the tenant’s property removed from the rental unit, and then change the locks. If this sounds like something you might consider doing, you may find you are breaking the law as no matter where your tenant happens to be, this may not mean the lease is no longer in force.
The Self-Help Eviction
Here’s how this looks from the other side of the coin. You are the one who ends up jail instead of your tenant. Despite this, you would still expect your tenant to abide by the terms of his lease and continue paying his rent. If this is the case, as long as your tenant does not violate the terms of his lease, in other words, he keeps paying his rent, you have no legal option but to honor the lease. Even if he remains incarcerated for the full term of the lease and beyond, as long as the rent is paid and if necessary properly maintained inside and out, the lease remains in effect.
If you want to evict the tenant, you must still go through the entire eviction process as described by state and local laws. Failure to do so, and instead you empty the property, change the locks, and turn off any utilities, you could find yourself facing the judge and found guilty of a “self-help” eviction. This type of eviction is illegal in all 50 states.
Should You Evict a Tenant Who Has Been Incarcerated?
This is a very difficult question and one to which there are no cut and dried answers. Bear in mind, that just because the tenant listed on the lease has been sent to jail, this doesn’t mean the rent won’t continue to be paid out of a bank account automatically or by a spouse, significant other, or family members.
If your tenant’s significant other is living in the unit, try visiting your tenant in jail and securing his permission to add his or her significant other to the lease. This way they can be added as a secondary tenant allowing them to remain in the home and the rent to continue being paid. However, at this time you may want to keep a very close eye on the property to ensure it is not being mistreated or that your tenant’s property is not being stolen while he is in jail.
No matter what situation you happen to find yourself in when one of your tenants ends up going to jail, the best place to start may well be your attorney’s office. This way you can be sure whatever action you decide to take, it will hold up in a court of law. The cost of doing otherwise could be far more than you can afford to deal with.