The legal arena surrounding residential landlord tenant law can be like a mine field at times. One particular trap that many landlords find themselves in, involves a situation where a tenant has failed to pay their rent. In response, the landlord sends an eviction letter and eventually files a detainer suit on the matter to evict the tenant from the property. Sometime between the eviction letter and the court date, the tenant makes a payment to the landlord for rent.
This payment many times is minor in relation to what they owe in arrearages and sometimes it is not even a full month’s rent. The landlord is happy to get some money out of the tenant, so, they accept it and continue on with their eviction. On their court date they learn that the judge is dismissing their case for accepting the payment. The landlord pleads with the judge that the money they accepted was only a small part of what they are owed but it does no good and the judge dismisses their case anyway.
The dismissal is the result of the legal doctrine called waiver. Waiver is a concept where the landlord surrenders a legal right to proceed with the eviction by accepting a portion of the rent. This doctrine is established by case law and in some counties by statute. In counties that are controlled by the Uniform Residential Landlord & Tenant Act the doctrine is codified in TCA 66-28-508 which states “If the landlord accepts rent without reservation and with knowledge of a tenant default, the landlord by such acceptance condones the default and thereby waives such landlord’s right and is estopped from terminating the rental agreement as to that breach”.
Once the judge has dismissed the landlord’s lawsuit, the landlord must start all over again in the eviction process. Having to start all over can of course be a very costly and time consuming process that should always be avoided. This is only one of the many predicaments that a landlord can find himself in, regardless of his best intentions. That is why it is so important to hire an attorney well versed in landlord tenant issues early in the eviction and collection process.
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