I have myself in a pickle and would like advice. I’ll try and keep this brief.
My tenant wanted to purchase a home in our park after living there for a year or so. Although I had reservations (many tenants don’t like him), I told him he could purchase the home in August. He directly deposited money in my account in August, but did not pay the lot rent. After waiting 3 weeks for the lot rent (with communication from him that it was coming) I texted that I did not want to sell him the home at that time, and sent him a check returning the money he paid for the mobile home minus the rent on the home for that month.
He is now threatening to sue me and claims that our texts were a contract and I must sell him the trailer. He said I am in violation of a contract and I have a week to send the title. He will also not accept the check I sent back. He might possibly be correct so I’m checking with the group on your thoughts and will contact an attorney tomorrow.
Next, I really don’t want him in my park after this, so can I send a non-renew since all my leases are month-to month? Even though I goofed I don’t want him to think he’s running the show.
I realize this is a series of not well thought our decisions on my part and I’ve created a mess. Any advice would be appreciated. What would you do if you were in my shoes?
Wait for a letter from his lawyer and respond with your defense and then see what happens. Run normal until then. That’s what I’d do.
Thanks Brandon! I know he will not cash the check I sent back. I thought about sending a check to an attorney or RE broker to hold as proof that I have attempted to give his money back. What do you think of that?
Based on your texts/etc., I think you have proof that you’ve attempted to give his money back - I’m sure a Judge would agree.
I would not do anything about the house you sold him. And I agree with Brando… run normal. And start the eviction process. He is the one in violation of a contract/lease agreement and has no defense. If he signed a month to month lease agreement you have the right to non-renew now.
Chances are he will not hire a lawyer, does not really matter.
The purchase agreement was never finalised, no legal contract, and therefor highly unlikely enforceable.
You would need something in writing signed to be legal.
I would wait for your lawyers opinion but would be sending out the non renew notice immediately.
Most states require transactions for products/services greater than $500, or for any involving real estate, to be in writing in order to be enforceable. The question here would be whether your texts constitute or form a formal written contract. If there is agreement in them and no ambiguity they may. If there are counter proposals in them (ex. you need to replace the water heater first, etc), then such a counter offer does not equal acceptance of the initial offer.
Practically speaking, it’s a matter not likely to warrant the involvement of a lawyer. Very few lawyers would take the tenant/prospective home buyer’s case on a contingency basis, they’d want a cash retainer deposit. My guess is your tenant doesn’t have that/ wouldn’t pay it. He could still try to press forward with his contract in small claims court without a lawyer, but the value of the home likely exceeds the jurisidictional limits of that court. Also, the fact he failed to fulfill his end of the bargain (pay lot rent too), likely forms a breach of contract on his part that frees you in the event there ever was a contract.
I’d agree with Brandon - move on like it’s a dead deal. Keep a receipt of your returned check to him. Even if you were to lose, it would simply mean the contract / deal would have to go forward - which isn’t all bad.
I would contact an attorney. It may be that Legal advice is more proactive than simply waiting.
You may also be advised to close the account where he made the deposit and create a new one for other operations. Otherwise, he can continue to make small payments even though you may not want to receive them.
Thanks! If I send a non renew and he wins, he would have to move the trailer and I would lose a trailer. As much of a bully as he is being, I hate to lose a trailer. I did not call an attorney today but I will tomorrow, just to get an idea of how strong of a case he has. I appreciate the advice on what you’d do, thank you so much!
Thanks, Greg! I’ll call an attorney tomorrow! I appreciate your advise!
Thanks, Kurt! I believe you might be right, that he could take this to small claims court. In the evictions I’ve done the judge has required an attorney, saying a LLC cannot be represented by a property manager. The park is not close enough for me to go to court so I may have to hire an attorney if he goes that route.
Putting this in perspective, you are right that the deal moving forward would not be all bad. He’s a bully but he’s not a drug dealer, which is another problem I have to deal with soon!
Thank you, Jeros! All tenants pay their lot rent in this account and it works beautifully except in situations like this. I do have a clause in the lease about not being allowed to deposit in the account if you are in violation of the lease. Not sure yet if that will hold up in court. Thanks for your advise!
You have two problems here that are almost certainly governed by the particular state law where the park is located.
You have indicated that you have month to month tenancies, but you may have a restriction on evicting without cause. Most states in the West have these restrictions.
Most states have very detailed consumer protection statutes to protect people who buy things and have the rug pulled out from under them. I’m not qualified to give you an opinion on whether or not you would win or lose on the home sale dispute, but I am confident that you may have opened the door enough for an attorney to bring some type of action against your park for violation of a consumer protection related law. Most states have a generic one that provides for attorneys’ fees and treble damages for the consumer. Landlords are not popular in court. Another generic law out there is a requirement that consumer purchases be in writing and have certain disclosures, yet another one protects home buyers on installment sales. All of these could be applicable to your transaction.
Lawyer up. Sooner rather than later. Get a landlord attorney with experience defending consumer protection claims.
I’ve had a small claims court judge tell me I couldn’t represent my own company in a small claims court, and I responded that you can always self represent - even in front of the S. Ct. Besides, small claims courts were specifically set up for non-lawyers - cheaper/faster judgments for lower value disputes.