ESTOPPEL…NO, NOT PIG LATIN

     Let’s say you’re a landlord who’s got a tenant that’s been paying late for a few months or usually pays half her rent on the sixth (after the fee start date) then pays the rest at the end of the month.  You accept the partial payments because, well, gosh darnnit, you’re so nice and you feel sorry for the renter. She comes up with sob stories and excuses that are always out of her control.

On the seventh month, you get tired of the constant late payments, whining and excuses.  So you start eviction procedures and wish her well. 

     In court, you see an attorney by her side; she’s looking pretty happy and snappy. She looks at you and winks.  Her lawyer pipes up and asks the judge to throw out the case based on the doctrine of Estoppel. The judge agrees. The same result often happens when the property manager constantly accepts partial payments.

     Courts will rule that the doctrine of estoppel will apply if : 1. Words and admissions, or conduct, acts, or all combined cause another person to believe the existence of a certain state of things 2. In which the person speaking, admitting, acting and acquiescing did so willfully, culpably, or negligently, 3. By which such other person is or may be induced to act so as to change her own previous position injuriously. What does that mean? If the property manager is giving the impression to the tenant that the terms of the lease need not be followed, then the landlord seriously jeopardizes her ability to enforce the terms of the lease.

     So, in the future, follow the rules of the lease term agreements to the letter.  No matter how sorry you feel for the renter.  You may be bosom buddies longer than you wanted.


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