Q. My tenant was not ready at the time of our scheduled move-out day. They only paid through that day as well. The unit was dirty and trash was left behind. Now, I can’t rent it out to the new tenant I signed a lease with for another couple of days! Can I charge my previous tenant for those days I had to clean and get it back to good condition, and what about the new tenant that can’t move in?
A. The current rental market makes this type of situation more likely. Landlords are finding that units are renting out quicker with less of a turn-around period. It’s nice to be able to rent your unit continuously, but cutting it too close can be stressful. Communicate with your new tenants.
We have found that most tenants are understanding and aren’t bothered by a few days delay in the move-in date. You could add to any new lease that, given this kind of problem, the check-in date could change by a few days depending on when the prior tenant vacates and cleans the unit. Or, give yourself a little cushion, start the lease a few days after the tenant is scheduled to vacate, and let the new tenant know that you may be able to move them in earlier if things run smoothly.
It is very frustrating to make an appointment to check the tenant out, drive to the unit, and then fi nd out that they are not ready to leave. State in your lease that if the tenant is not ready to move out on the scheduled date/ time and does not give you prior notice (state how much notice they must give you), that you will charge them a fee if you have to wait or reschedule (defi ne the fees).
The Hawaii Association of Realtors Standard Rental Agreement states that “it is the tenant’s duty to have the Unit in clean and proper condition on the day tenant’s tenancy ends, not on any later day…If the Unit is not ready for inspection, Tenant will be charged rent until the work is completed.” If you do not use the Hawaii Association of Realtors form, you should include similar verbiage in your rental agreement. If the unit is not cleaned, you are certainly entitled to charge rent for those days that it takes to clean the unit. If the landlord required that the unit be professionally
cleaned, and if the appointments had not been scheduled, it may take an additional couple of days before someone can start the job. You can charge the prior tenant for any costs to clean the unit but must give them the invoices.
Some landlords require that all trash be removed from the premises when the tenants vacate. Again, your rental agreement should state what you will charge for trash left on the premises. Detail the charges if you or your handyman have to go to the unit to take out the trash bin and then go back the next day to bring the trash bin back in, or if you have to lug out the bulky refuse.
Section 521-61 of the Landlord-Tenant Code details remedies for the new tenant should the unit not be ready at the beginning of the agreed term. The tenant or the landlord may go to court to obtain possession of the unit, if the reason they are unable to gain possession is because the prior tenant refuses to leave (a hold-over tenant). The new tenant may also choose to secure alternative housing for a short time and deduct the difference between the cost of the housing and the agreed rent. The landlord would be responsible for those payments to the tenant after receipts are presented. To prevent surprises, the new tenant and landlord should discuss beforehand what type of alternative housing will be used.
The new tenant may terminate the rental agreement at any time during the period that they are unable to move in. Most tenants will not do this since it would be diffi cult to find another unit that quickly. Some tenants offer to clean the unit themselves so they can move in sooner. If they do and you credit them a certain amount to clean, write an addendum stating that you are crediting them x-amount for cleaning but that the unit will need to be cleaned again when they vacate. Get a quote from a professional cleaner, if necessary, to help you negotiate a fair credit. You can still charge the previous tenant for cleaning in the amount that you credited the new tenant.
Most of the time, tenants are able to stay where they are for a few more days and then move in. Of course, the new tenant is not liable for any rent during the period when they are unable to gain possession of the unit.