The Return of The Skip

The Return of The Skip
By: Nicholas A. Dunlap, CPM

It’s 3 in the morning and your resident manager happens to get up to get a drink of water. As they glance out the kitchen window, they notice the shimmer of a fluorescent light reflecting off of a television that appears to be moving through the courtyard at a brisk pace. A quick peak through the mini-blinds reveals that this is not a robbery, but your residents from Apartment 15, moving? Well, it can’t be. They always paid their rent, maybe not on time, but it was always paid: late fee and all. And they did not give a 30 day notice. Could they really be moving, just like that?

The skip, as it is known in the world of Real Estate Management, is the “grab your stuff and go” move. Usually, skips leave an apartment home in comparable shape to an eviction, although they are sometimes found in fairly decent condition. During a skip, a resident foregoes their contractual obligation to give a 30 day notice and simply vacates the premises. While no landlord appreciates having a vacancy, especially in a market like today’s, the good news is, more often than not, a skip is the work of your less desirable tenant. With rent due, the process is quite easy. Post a 3 day notice, then, with no word back from the resident, proceed with the eviction process and retain a collection agency to seek the money judgment.

With the economy in it’s current condition, multifamily owners are faced with a higher number of skips than in years past. We had one recently at an apartment property, but typically our resident managers are diligent and aware and spot any signs of suspicious resident behavior before a situation like this arises. Truth be told, it is sign of the times. Just as car burglaries and garage/storage break-ins increase in difficult times, so do skips. Pay attention to your residents and note any differences in their payment process; returned checks, insufficient funds, waiting later than usual to pay, these can all be signs that there is trouble ahead.

Practice being proactive in your day to day management operations and minimize the potential for skips at your apartment property, but realize that in the end, there is only so much you can do to prevent the non-payment of rent. This stresses the importance of a thorough and comprehensive resident screening program. Do you carefully evaluate your prospects’ credit reports and rental history to see how they have handled their previous obligations? You can learn alot about a prospect by evaluating their credit report and understanding their history of paying creditors and upholding their financial obligations. If they have a history of charge-offs or accounts in collections, it could be possible they will do the same to you and leave you out of a month’s rent.

*Please note, I am not an attorney and cannot give legal advice. I am simply speaking on the procedures we follow. Contact your attorney for specific, detailed legal advice. Or, contact me and I can refer you to an landlord/tenant attorney.