Lessees leaving my TN farm , behind 2 months on rent / bouncing checks - what to do?
Well this serves me right - I have always told my children and grandchildren that, "if something seems to good to be true, it probably is not true" and I ignored my own advice. Last spring, when we decided to sell our gorgeous horse farm and return to FL for family reasons, I let a woman talk me into doing a lease/option on the place. She gushed about how much she and her husband loved the place, that it was exactly what they wanted and the location they needed to be in and offered to pay OVER ASKING PRICE (the first red flag that I stupidly ignored). We signed a lease/option with them and things have gone downhill ever since. Don't want to bore you all with the details but suffice it to say, they are leaving at the end of this month, have not paid the last two months rent (bounced checks) and we have learned that they are bouncing checks all over the place (even owe our neighbor hay farmer for hay rolls). I finally got smart enough to "google" their names and found a mug shot for him (leaving the scene of an accident and no auto insurance last August) and discovered that she is purchasing horses including a stallion (Gypsy Vanners) from CA while not paying her basic bills! I am heading back up to TN this week to confront them and see the condition of my property and I'm just sick about all this. So mostly venting but also need to know what I can do to pursue collecting the money they owe me (4K). Any advice from those who know TN laws would be very much appreciated.
Dont know about the laws but id make sure you have protection when you first arrive. In my state you hire sheriffs to evict tenants. ( you also to do other legal things and give them a certain amount of time). But please bring law enforcement with you for your own protection.
Get a lawyer. You can go thru a court process and get a judgement - whether you ever see a nickel is another story; depends on their assets. (this presumes that you have documentation of the agreement, the terms, what has been received and what bounced...)
Edited to add:
Are they leaving voluntarily or are you planning to evict them? If the latter, there is likely some formal process in Tennessee that must be followed in an eviction.
We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........
I am heading back up to TN this week to confront them and see the condition of my property and I'm just sick about all this. So mostly venting but also need to know what I can do to pursue collecting the money they owe me (4K). Any advice from those who know TN laws would be very much appreciated.
if this is who and where I think it is, you should look up John Ingleson below (please give him my best regards) and he can tell you what to do next...I'd see him first if possible he is in Murfreesboro...he needs to get you "on the paper" asap with as little warning to them as possible... http://www.rutherfordchamber.org/Att...ey-at-Law-2090
I will imagine that your place will be a mess..Sorry, but this happened to me . They left owing us 12k. Got into small claims here,but never saw a dime..she went to N.Va and did the same thing. Finally went back to Germany,so none of us will ever see anything..
Yes, be prepared for the worst when you go back. You may have to make major repairs, dispose of trash and abandoned vehicles and broken equiment, handle the abandoned livestock and pets and of course any deadstock.
Sincerely hope not, of course.
You also need to contact legal representation in TN, RE lawyer with eviction experience, and follow their advice to protect your rights. If Tamara's reference is correct for you by all means use it. Good luck!
I am so sorry - we went through the same thing last year. We have an attorney, but we really didn't get anywhere with it. I agree, you'll probably do better pursuing the bad checks than the unpaid rent. Our house had to be gutted to the sub-floor. I hope yours is not as bad. I'm outside Knoxville, if there is anything at all I can do to help, I'd be happy to do it.
Welcome to the "I had the tenants from hell" club. Sorry you are going thru this. When you go bring a camera and document EVERYTHING. house inside and out, cars, trailers ( license plates!) barn-everything....and bring the cops if they will come. (Or...several large men who can look intimidating on cue.) Are you still on good terms with your neighbors? would one of them go in with you? Do not go alone. Good luck...
What to do?
Pray when they leave they do not take anything.
Pray when they leave they never come back to take anything.
Always have a witness or two with you at all times. Video record everything, and every interaction.
I would be more concerned about protecting my property than collecting the $4K. Honestly, these people sound like career crooks, so I would be concerned that every appliance would be stripped from the house. I would be VERY concerned about the condition of my property. Also, I would be around for move-out because you don't want them leaving things behind.....as in, I once had tenants who left me with 2 dogs, 2 broken trucks and a house that was a complete mess.
I would talk with a lawyer about what you need to do. Then you'll need to change all the locks after they are gone. My bet is you'll need clean up services as their leaving it clean is unlikely given the scenario. It's going to be lots of work, but get it into shape to sell. Get a realtor to list it. You might be able to get a short-term tenant who will keep an eye on things while it is on the market.
I think you can kiss the $4K goodbye. These folks will disappear elsewhere and be impossible to serve to small claims court. Even if you get them to courts, as others have said, winning does not mean you get paid. I suspect they are experts at evading bills.
The second they leave get the locks changed on the house and everything else. And as others have said, photo and video document everything. Make sure all window latches are operating and closed securely, so they can't sneak back in to trash the place. Call the attorney Tamara suggested, and if they can't handle your case, then they'll probably do a referral. If the house is full of junk, there are junk removal services (like the Hoarders shows have-1-800-Got-Junk or something like that is the company name) that supply trucks and workers for haul away. When you get eviction papers take the cops, the locksmith, the cameras, and prepare for the worst imaginable trashing. That way if it's not so back, then you'll be okay. If there are any areas like tack rooms or feed rooms change the locks, or install them.
Don't feel as if you were at fault. People like this are professionals at getting people to trust them, and are master manipulators. I wouldn't be surprised to find out their entire lives have been lived by ripping off others, and they won't stop now either. I bet they already have their next scheme planned out.
You need to hire an attorney NOW. As has been pointed out, there are some specific procedures for evictions. I've had 2 friends in similar situations - one con artist bounced as quickly as possible at the mere threat of eviction proceedings...she had so many people after her it wasn't funny. My friend never got any back rent and it was going to cost her more to go after the person than what was owed. The other situation comes to mind as I envision you showing up to your farm and the tenant giving you part of the money in an alleged good faith gesture....don't take it.
For example, in NC at one point - not sure if it's still the same now - but if John Doe owed you any monies in rent and you accepted even a portion of those monies, the clock started over in John Doe's favor, so to speak. It would have opened the door for John Doe to stay longer (whether paying rent or not) while taking you longer to get him out. We watched this happen to a friend of ours and it got SUPER nasty. Our friend was a fixture in the pony world from way back - owned a nice training facility that was basically empty. She leased out a portion of the facility to Trainer X. He paid for a while, then just quit. New horses would show up; new BMW, trucks, trailers...but never any rent money on the facilities. Our friend was quite old and rather feisty but she didn't understand how the law worked regarding eviction - she just really wanted the rent money that was rightly hers. She tried to get another set of renters in the other end of the facility while evicting Trainer X. Chaos ensued. Trainer X called our friend's semi-estranged daughter in FL filling her head up with all sorts of misinformation about her mother going senile and forgetting he had paid the months worth of rent - daughter moved back up here not taking the time to find out what was going on; she assaults someone, siding with Trainer X until it was obvious he wasn't on the up and up...in the end the sheriff came out while new tenants left to make sure things didn't get out of hand; came back again weeks later with numerous deputies to oversee the delinquent tenant's departure and maintain some semblance of peace. In the middle of all this, bad checks, dead ponies, creditors and all other sorts of nonsense started popping up. FWIW - Trainer X still does business around here...horse world is so unbelievable. Seems like these types of folks are so difficult so weed out but that's another thread (JB nonsense for example)...
Point is - don't necessarily expect the worst, but BE PREPARED - get a lawyer; don't accept a dime from them if you want them gone ASAP; don't turn off power/water (depending on laws of TN you could get into trouble over that); have law enforcement accompany you to property unless your attorney says otherwise; take photos/document EVERYTHING in case you do have an opportunity to mitigate your damages w/a lawsuit. Best of luck to you!