It’s simply inevitable… At some points as shopping center landlord, you’ll need legal support.

Mostly because, to use a legal term, you’re not at liberty to seek “self-help.”

In other words, you can’t confront a tenant with a baseball bat or move their stuff out in the middle of the night and change the locks.

Instead, you must use the court system to settle disputes you can’t resolve through verbal negotiations.

Where Do Most Disputes With Tenants Arise?

When a tenant fails to live up to their contractual obligations…

It could be the tenant’s rent or CAM payment is late. Maybe they’re several months delinquent on rent or CAM. Perhaps they’ve left their space owing money. Or it could be they’ve vacated your property and left considerable damage behind.

So, What Now?

You have a variety of options. And your approach is likely to depend on the circumstances involved.

How aggressively you chose to pursue a delinquent tenant may hinge on your desire to keep that tenant.

And your decision to hunt chase outstanding monies owed or compensation for damages may rest on whether you believe the tenant actually has any money to recoup.

But whatever the scenario, you may find yourself at the point where hiring a lawyer is your best course of action.

In the real estate business, this decision is known as: “Going to legal.”

It’s generally considered an “act of last resort.” Largely because when attorneys get involved, often no one wins.

Then again, there are several common situations that can be remedied, often quickly and inexpensively, by hiring a lawyer.

And toward that end, here are the 4 most common reasons a landlord hires an attorney:

Three Day Notice to Pay or Quit

Let’s say a tenant is late paying rent or CAM. Now, on one hand, they could either simply be late this particular month.

Alternatively, this could the first stage in an eventual default that ultimately requires a formal eviction to oust the delinquent tenant for non-payment of rent.

As a landlord, you really have no way of knowing one way or the other? It is, however, clearly defined by law that a posting a 3 Day Notice to Pay or Quit is the first step in an eviction process.

Now, the tenant may quickly pay upon receipt of a 3 Day Notice. And the situation progresses no further.

But if this is the beginning of an eviction, your 3 Day Notice must be prepared and served in strict adherence to the “letter of the law.”*

*IMPORTANT NOTE: An eviction process includes strict guidelines, which strongly favor tenants. And if those guidelines are not diligently followed “to the letter of the law,” an unsympathetic judge could force you to start over from square one.

Therefore, we ALWAYS recommend hiring an attorney that specializes in real estate law to prepare and serve a 3 Day Notice.

Additionally, there’s an intimidation factor encouraging payment when the tenant hears from your lawyer.

Unlawful Detainer Action (UD)

Let’s say you post a 3 Day Notice to Pay or Quit and the tenant doesn’t respond. Or responds stating they don’t have the money to pay. And fails to offer a credible path to becoming current on outstanding rent.

The next step is filing an Unlawful Detainer (UD).

This is formal legal action that requires an attorney to draft an Unlawful Detainer notice informing the tenant of their breach of contract and the landlord’s intention to reclaim due to non-payment of rent. The Unlawful Detainer notice must be formally served by a duly authorized process server. And this service must be officially recognized by the tenant.

An Unlawful Detainer action may also wind up in court with a formal hearing in front of a judge. And, if carried to its ultimate conclusion, a UD will result in an official eviction and lock-out conducted by a county sheriff’s deputy.

Much like a 3 Day Notice, however, a UD doesn’t always result in an eviction. The threat of a UD can be used as leverage to prompt a delinquent tenant to pay outstanding rent.

In other words, just because you file a UD doesn’t mean that you must follow through with an eviction.

Additionally, outside of any leverage you apply, a delinquent tenant is afforded numerous opportunities throughout the UD process to pay their outstanding rent and maintain their tenancy.

Tenant Vacates a Property Owing Money

Let’s say a tenant vacates your property. Maybe the left because their lease expired, and they chose not to renew. Or perhaps they assigned their lease, and the assignee vacates the space, again, for any number of possible reasons. Or because they were formally evicted.

Whatever the scenario, the tenant leaves still owing you money. Whether for outstanding rent, CAM, or other funds designated in their lease agreement.

You have a right to file a lawsuit against the vacating tenant to recoup monies owed you under the term of their lease.

Your decision to take such action likely hinges on whether you believe the tenant has any money.

Tenant Vacates a Property Leave Behind Severe Damage

Let’s say a tenant vacates your property. And after they depart, you discover they’ve done considerable damage to the space they formerly occupied.

You have a right to file a lawsuit against the vacating tenant to recoup the cost of repairing your property.

Here again, your decision to pursue the tenant for damages depends largely on whether you believe the tenant has any money to recoup.

Struggling With Delinquent Tenants in Your Shopping Center?

Working on behalf of our landlords, we’re regularly retaining attorneys to prepare and serve 3 Day Notices, file Unlawful Detainers, and pursue tenants for unpaid rent or property damage.

And if you’re facing struggles like these with your tenants, we can help!

For more information on CBM’s property management services, visit our services page: