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Tenant Stopped Paying Rent and Has Not Been Seen – MICHELLE’S MONDAY MANDAMUS!


August 15, 2018

This Q&A post originally appeared in July on the LandlordsNY blog, where Michelle Maratto Itkowitz is the "Legal Expert".

Tenant Stopped Paying Rent and Has Not Been Seen – MICHELLE’S MONDAY MANDAMUS!

Hi, Michelle here. I am the LandlordsNY “Legal Expert”. I answer landlord and tenant questions. My goal is to post in the blog all of the questions I get from LandlordsNY members (keeping the member anonymous) and my answers thereto, when I think that such questions and answers would be of interest to other people. Let me know if this is helpful. These questions are excellent, keep them coming.

Question:  “I have an elderly tenant that has not been seen in over three weeks. She always pays her rent on time but this month she has not paid and has not been seen by anyone. We called the police this past weekend and they entered the premises through the open kitchen window (screen was down). There was no one there. There are no other phone numbers or family members that we can contact. What are our options?”

Answer:

Well, you called the police, who then checked for a dead body or a suffering person, and they did not find one. That is always Step One in these situations. You might also want to call Adult Protective Services at this stage https://www1.nyc.gov/site/hra/help/adult-protective-services.page.

You have also already covered Step Two – attempt to find and then utilize contact information for family of the missing tenant. 

Step Three is to conduct your own deeper investigation.

Ask the neighbors if they know anything.

If there cameras in the common hallways of the building, then you can check to see if the tenant has been coming or going. You should pull the tape immediately, because many systems over-write after thirty days. 

Check the tenant’s file again, especially the rental application for emergency contact information. 

You should google the tenant. Hey, you never know.

You always have the option of having a private investigator run a quick preliminary search. 

You, however, ultimately have to protect the landlord’s rights here. I would wait until the tenant is two months behind, and then have your lawyer serve a statutory Rent Demand. Add extra time to the Rent Demand, give the tenant a full two weeks to pay. If no one pays by the demand date, follow it up with a summary nonpayment proceeding in Housing Court. At the beginning of any nonpayment case, where you are dealing with an elderly person or a person who is physically or mentally impaired, you should call Adult Protective Services again. In any event, before an eviction can be scheduled, APS will be contacted by the Marshal.

It is an unfortunate reality that, at the end of some people's lives, the only person who is watching out for them is their landlord. I see this all the time. I recently was working with a landlord who saved a tenant's life. The tenant had a heart attack and was in no shape to call 911. The landlord suspected something was wrong because the TV was so loud in the apartment. The landlord knocked, and when the tenant's responses were incoherent, the landlord called 911, who found the tenant on the floor. 

Hopefully, the missing tenant here will turn up and pay the rent.



Thank you for this question. Finally, I am obligated to say that this answer is for general informational purposes only, does not constitute legal advice, and does not create an attorney and client relationship between us or between you and LandlordsNY. 

Let me know if you need anything else.

Michelle Maratto Itkowitz
Itkowitz PLLC
26 Broadway, 21st Floor
New York, New York 10004
(646) 822-1805

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