I received a comment from my father on last week's post about apartment hunting for frail tenants asking, "What options does a tenant have if she or he becomes 'frail' or otherwise incapacitated during a lease?" On the surface the answer is simple: break the lease as you would in any other situation where you need to leave quickly. But in this scenario there is an underlying problem. In most cases the tenants who break a lease do so of their own volition or out of willing acceptance of necessity. They know that they will probably have to pay a fee or do some work to replace themselves, but it's a speed bump rather than a stop sign.
But what if the tenant doesn't want to leave? What if they are, as suggested by my father, frail or incapacitated but unwilling to accept this about themselves? In that case the lease break fees and sublease requirements become less of a hurdle and more of an excuse to remain in an unhealthy situation. It falls to the family or friends of the renter to persuade them that it's time to go.
There are of course other times when an outside party must persuade a renter to leave their apartment early. Maybe they have a very sick family member that they should spend time with. Maybe they've been moved to the night shift at a branch location with a 2 hour commute. Maybe it's clear to everyone but them that they can no longer afford that particular apartment. Maybe they're in a location that's recently become ground zero for a gang-related turf war. No matter the cause, the question is the same: how can you, as an outsider, persuade that person to break their lease?
In my opinion, to make this sort of a move happen you need to create three things: interest, access, and opportunity. The way that you go about creating these things will vary depending on your relationship with the renter and the reason why they need to move, but if you figure out how you will create all three of those you will come out of your persuasion attempt able to say you did the best you possibly could to help your friend or relative.
Moving is one of the most annoying things in the world, and the annoyance level is compounded by the inertia of staying in one home for a very long time. Nobody is going to move unless they have a very good incentive to do so. Landlords have understood this for years. The practice of offering delinquent tenants cash in exchange for their apartment keys is a tried and true method of avoiding eviction. The cash is the incentive, and for tenants who are totally broke it usually works.
Creating interest in stubborn people can be the toughest part of the whole process. In the case of an elderly parent you may need to invite them to stay with you for a few days to make the idea of having someone around to help them with their daily tasks seem more appealing. If you've got a roommate with an ailing parent, convincing them to leave may take a night out with a friend who has recently lost a family member themselves. If your friend is living in a dangerous building, it may be time to start sharing lots and lots of articles and videos about crime statistics, or even staging a phony break in of your own car while you're visiting them. The point is to make them want to move as much as, if not more than you want them to move, but to do so without threats or violence.
Of course, even if they want to move, there may still be some expensive barriers in the way of their early departure. Landlords tend to require either a fee, a replacement tenant, or both before they will permit someone to break their lease without legal penalties. This is where you may need to step in and provide some financial assistance or legwork for your friend.
Once your target has decided that they want to move, sit down with them and go over the lease together. Legal language can be daunting to some people. Having someone with them to help look up all that stuffy language can be a really great thing. If you can't figure it out and the landlord has enough buildings, you can even call the landlord on their behalf. Say, "I'm one of your tenants at [building address] and would like to know what you require from tenants who have to break their lease." Remember, if you're in Chicago they must allow you to sublease, and they can't charge you for doing so.
If you're dealing with a sick relative, you may need to speak to the landlord on their behalf to explain what's going on. Even if you don't have power of attorney, they may be willing to work with you, especially if you're the emergency contact for your friend. No landlord wants a high risk tenant living in their building. The whole point in this stage is to do whatever you can to remove the barriers that the landlord has put in place to prevent your friend or relative from terminating their contract early.
For most of us, we do not move from point A unless we have a point B as a goal. Your target person is not going anywhere unless they have somewhere to move that's equal to or better than their current home. That doesn't have to mean cheaper. It could mean safer, more modern, closer to work. If you really want your target person to move, you need to help them find their new home.
Your target person may not be comfortable with apartment hunting. You're here reading this. You are probably more aware of how to find an apartment than they are. Help them comb through listings. Go with them to showings as moral support. Go get ice cream or coffee afterwards to discuss what you saw. If you like your own landlord, ask them if they have any vacancies in their buildings that would be suitable options. Do whatever you can to encourage them to find a new home, but make sure that you put the brakes on before choosing that home on their behalf. You want to be sure they are comfortable and invested in their choice.
Convincing someone to move can mean a lot of work on your part. It's something that very few people will do for someone else. You have to be very cautious when doing so that you aren't tumbling into codependency with your target person, convincing them to move because you thrive on their life being chaotic. Before you launch into this process with anyone, make sure you have already established boundaries for yourself and do not cross them no matter what happens. It's also wise to make sure you have someone else in your life to talk to about the whole thing while it's going on. Moving yourself is hard enough, let alone moving someone else.
Have you ever had to convince a friend or family member to move? What did you do? Let us know in the comments!
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