Taking the Smooth Handle

Author: Todd Christiansen | Category: My Evictions

My father in-law has a great expression that goes something like, “you need to take life by the smooth handle whenever you can”.  I guess it means that do it the easy way when ever possible since often you don’t get the luxury of doing something easy.  Today, I would say that my customer took the smooth handle way.

My customer bought a house recently with a tenant already in place.  Upon buying the house, the tenant immediately bounced the rent check 2 days prior to the closing to the previous owner.  So the seller was not able to pay out the July rent.  We could not move forward with an eviction on the tenant as the property was owned by the seller at the time.  We had to wait till this month.

Sure enough, rent never came.  I pulled the eviction notice down off the county website and promptly filed the eviction.  My customer spoke to the tenant several times between filing the tenant eviction letter and the court date.  By the end, the tenant felt like my landlord was the devil.  They were starting to claim that there were health concerns with the property and was threatening to bring in the health department.  I assure you my customer is anything but the devil and is actually a very personable and generous person and landlord.  In the end, he offered to simply let the tenant leave at the end of the month and not pursue for back rent.  The tenant would have none of that.

So court date comes.  I get to court and the tenant has an eviction lawyer with.  Oh boy, this is going to be interesting.  Once the court clerk calls roll, we connect in the hallway and get a conference room.  The attorney was professional and stated that there should not have been an eviction filed because the tenant was supposedly offered $1500 to move out earlier in the month plus all the damage deposit back.  I had not heard of this from my landlord.  While the tenant started up several times with what was wrong with the property, I kept focused on the attorney.

After several rounds of negotiation, we agreed that if the tenant moved out in 1 week, my customer would not get the writ and would give back the entire damage deposit.  While this seems like we were rewarding bad behavior in the tenant, by them not paying rent in 2 months, I looked at it like this:

  1. This tenant had already shown some mental instability.  This person was now making things up that were untrue, but the landlord would have to defend the accusations.
  2. Because the tenant had already brought an attorney into this, I expected they were serious about continuing to defend themselves and would refuse to be reasonable.
  3. My customer just wanted the property back in a timely manner, not accepting this deal, would have pushed the case into trial which would have delayed the move out at least another week.
  4. If the eviction case went to trial, my customer would need to hire his own eviction attorney to counter the tenant’s attorney, costing him probably as much as the security deposit.

In the end, the smooth handle was the easier path, albeit it did require a bunch of pride swallowing and lip biting on my party to not defend the landlord!

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