Landlords & Lockouts

Five Minute Fact Pattern:

Manager Marta, who is new to property management, lives on-site at an apartment community. At 3:00 in the morning, Social Sam, a “tenant” knocks on her door. Social Sam is obviously intoxicated and has misplaced his keys. Manager Marta lets Social Sam into the apartment that she knows he shares with his girlfriend, Leaseholding Lily. Leaseholding Lily is on vacation this week trying to get away from Social Sam, who she dumped earlier in the day. Unbeknownst to Manager Marta, Social Sam is not a leaseholder and is merely an unauthorized occupant. Social Sam decides, once Manager Marta grants him access, to take his girlfriend’s valuables and leave, never to return again. What did Manager Marta do wrong here?

It is quite obvious what the problem is in this case. Manager Marta failed to see if this person was indeed the tenant on the lease, and the ramifications could be severe. Manager Marta may argue that it was not her fault that the unauthorized person took his roommate’s personal property, as after all they have been living together for quite some time, but the problem remains. Manager Marta allowed an unauthorized occupant, not on the lease, access to the rental premises.

How to avoid this problem: Your first step should be to create a written policy for your company regarding lock outs. All employees who engage in allowing a locked out tenant access should be required to read this policy and sign a statement that they have read it and agree to abide by the policy. No exceptions should ever be made to the policy. Your next step will be to provide the lock out access rules or procedures to the tenant and make this part of the lease, the Community Rules and Regulations, or a separate addendum to which the tenant has clearly agreed.

In the event a tenant is locked out, they need to follow certain procedures for you to even act upon this lock out. They should be required to provide you with 2 forms of government issued identification. This identification should then be brought to the office and compared with the copies of the identification you have in the tenant’s file. Names should match up completely, and a visual examination of the picture ID you have in the file should match up with not only the ID the tenant is showing you, but the tenant himself. Once this match is established to the satisfaction of you or the bleary eyed maintenance tech who was just awakened, the identification provided by the locked out tenant should be copied, notes made on the copy, and the copy of the ID placed in the file. If the tenant cannot provide you with the required ID, the tenant should not be given access. If the tenant cannot provide you the required identification, there is no doubt that the tenant will not be satisfied, and an altercation or argument could ensue. Keep your lock out policy handy in the event the tenant is not able to satisfy your requirement, express regret, and tell him he must hire a locksmith.

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