How to Navigate Divorcing Tenants

Relationships can end up not working out for a variety of reasons, which is why a significant percentage of marriages end up in divorce. Divorce proceedings can be extremely difficult on a couple both emotionally and financially, but divorce often affects other people in the couple’s lives as well, such as their landlord. Do you have divorcing tenants? If so, read on for tips on navigating the situation.

If you learn that the married couple renting your property is splitting up, you may be unsure about how to face the situation with as much fairness and sensitivity as possible. Additionally, you may have some questions about how the renting process will work moving forward now that your tenants are no longer together.

Questions Landlords Ask When Tenants Divorce

Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions landlords might have when they’re dealing with divorcing tenants. With the right plan in place, you shouldn’t have too much trouble navigating this sensitive situation.

Who Pays the Rent?

If your tenants have split the cost of rent as a married couple and they’re now divorcing, it’s natural for you to wonder who will be paying the rent for the remainder of the lease. 

The fact is, the lease agreement your tenants signed when they moved in will continue to stand until its expiration date no matter what happens to their personal relationship. According to the lease agreement, both parties will still be liable for their share of the rent until the lease is up. 

During the divorce process, your tenants may request that an addendum to the lease agreement be signed to change the stipulations about rent responsibility. In some cases, divorcing couples request a new lease altogether that excludes one party from the agreement. 

While you as the landlord have the right to make these changes to the lease you drafted, you should discuss your options with your lawyer before making any changes to the lease. 

It may be more convenient for your divorcing tenants to sign a new lease or lease addendum that releases one of them from rent responsibility; however, it may put you as the landlord at greater risk of missing or incomplete rent payments.

Who Can Access the Property?

As long as the lease your tenants signed while they were still married remains intact, both tenants maintain full legal access to the property at any time during the remainder of the lease agreement. You as the landlord cannot change the locks without providing both parties with new keys. 

The only reason this might change is if an updated lease has been drafted and signed, a lease addendum has been made, or a restraining order is involved in the divorce proceedings.

How Involved Should the Landlord Be?

It’s important for tenants to maintain positive relationships with their landlords in order for their time living on the property to be an overall positive experience for everyone involved. 

However, it’s no secret that a divorce is a stressful, complex, and often drawn-out process, and communicating with their landlord may not be the first priority divorcing tenants have at this time. 

Unless a restraining order is involved, the landlord cannot favor one tenant over another during a divorce and should practice as much neutrality as possible when communicating with both parties. 

Avoid getting involved with any personal drama between your tenants, and make sure to consult your lawyer during this process to avoid ensnaring yourself in any legal issues between divorcing tenants.

How Do Renter Qualifications Change?

When a married couple signs a lease together, the landlord will typically take the income of both parties into account when deciding if the renters meet the income requirements for the property. This means that one member of the couple may not be able to meet the income requirements without the other. 

In a situation that involves divorcing tenants and one party who elects to keep the lease themselves, you can draft up a new lease agreement that requires a cosigner. This will ensure that you will receive the rent you’re owed and will also protect your tenant from eviction. 

You could also elect to deny the lone tenant a new lease if the lease they shared with their ex-spouse is almost up.  

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