Landlord goes 'Sherlock' on recycling

Rent it Right

Q: I own and live in a fourplex apartment building, renting out the other three units. I want my property to participate in our city’s recycling programs, and have clauses in my leases that obligate tenants to use the recycling containers (including a container for kitchen scraps). Because I use the containers, too, I have seen that at least one tenant is not recycling, putting kitchen scraps, newspaper, glass and cans into the regular garbage bin. How can I find out who is not recycling without illegally violating my tenants’ privacy? –Jason S.

A: Your compliance with the city’s recycling program is admirable, as is your decision to obligate tenants to join you in this effort. But being able to monitor for compliance is tricky. Most lease clauses that regulate tenant behavior, such as requiring tenants to keep dogs on a leash, are easily checked for compliance — you see the dog running free, you send the appropriate warning and, if the misbehavior continues, you terminate the tenancy. Obviously, you can’t stand at the trash bins 24/7 and inspect every tenant’s deposit. But you may be able to find out in other, less time-consuming ways.