Automation is a great feature of technology. We don’t have to write checks to pay our bills each month, we can just set them up to have the amounts deducted from our bank accounts. It simplifies life for us. Except when it doesn’t.
Many landlords now use software that automates many of their daily and monthly tasks. I’m all for this, as we need to make technology work for us whenever possible. But it can create new obstacles.
Your software that generates notices each month when a tenant hasn’t paid the rent can kill your eviction. Here’s how it usually goes down: When your tenant fails to pay rent on time, your software generates a notice that tells him that he has to pay rent within a certain number of days (seven for you URLTA folks) or his tenancy will be terminated. This is great, initially. Within a day or two, you deliver the notice and the clock starts ticking on the tenant to either make payment or surrender the property.
If your tenant doesn’t make payment or surrender the property within the specified time period, you can then file an eviction case. You wait a few days after the notice expires because you the tenant promises to pay if you can just give him a couple of extra days. When the tenant still doesn’t pay after being given the extension, you contact your attorney to have the eviction filed. At this point, it’s the middle of the month. Because most landlords are on the same schedule for filing their evictions, the court dockets are packed, and the court hearing in your eviction case is not scheduled until the seventh of the next month.
Here’s where the problem arises. You arrive for your court hearing and begin to go over the case with your attorney when he notices in your file that the tenant was given another notice, dated the fifth of this month, telling the tenant that he has seven days to pay or surrender the unit. Your attorney advises you that your case will likely be dismissed because you (more likely, your staff) issued a new non-payment notice just two days before the court hearing. You tell your attorney that your computer software generates those notices automatically each month, and someone must have delivered it out of habit. At the hearing, you make your case to the judge, who is sympathetic to your argument. Unfortunately, the judge dismisses your eviction case on the basis that the second notice extended the time period for the tenant to make the payment or move out.
Here’s the lesson: whenever you issue proper notice, and the tenant fails to comply before the notice expires, you hold all of the cards. At that point, the tenant is dead to rights. The only thing an additional notice will do is give the tenant new rights. So, just because your software generates a notice does not mean it should be delivered. Delivering that additional notice can ruin your eviction. Use your technology to the fullest extent, but don't let it be in control.