What do I do if my tenants have signed the lease, has not moved in, has not paid the rent, and are ignoring my phone calls?

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What do I do if my tenants have signed the lease, has not moved in, has not paid the rent, and are ignoring my phone calls?

I am doing a rent- to own AS-IS on my home in Port Arthur, TX. The the tenants
saw the property in early October and was given ample amount of time to look
around and inspect for themselves before the lease was signed on 24 October. We
both agreed in the lease that was provided that any repairs they did would be
taken off of the rent until July. I also agreed that that would begin to pay rent
in February since I know there was some cosmetic things that needed to be done to
the home. The tenants have yet to move in and have not paid the agreed upon
amount of rent for February. They have been in the home repairing it. What are my
next steps? Both tenants are sending me to voicemail and will not answer any text
or phone calls.

Asked on February 3, 2018 under Real Estate Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

You can bring an eviction case against them for nonpayment of rent: if there was a lease requiring rent to be paid and they are not paying it, they are violating their obligation to pay rent and may be evicted for that reason. They have no right to stay in your home without paying the agreed-upon amount. The only way to remove them legally is by eviction; you can't just lock them out or disconnect utilities, etc. Rent-to-own cases are always more complex than regular tenancies; you are strongly advised to retain a landlord-tenant attorney to help you. (If you insist on not hiring a lawyer, then so long as you own the home in your own name, and not through an LLC, corporation, or trust, you can be your own attorney or "pro se"; in this case, contact the landland-tenant court in your county to get a referral to instructions and/or sample forms, which may also be available on the court website.)
You can also sue them for the money they owe you as well as evicting them; this is done in a separate legal action. Your attorney can advise you as to this, too.


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