Road to Renting: Tenant Eviction Guide
Understand that every state has different rules and regulations regarding the eviction process. Make sure that you are following the proper procedures and laws for your property. Attempting to “self-evict” a tenant is illegal and trying to do-so will end up causing you a tremendous amount of problems. Wait until you get approval from the court to do anything like changing any locks, removing the tenant’s property, or shutting off utilities.
In order to give yourself the best possible chance to win the case, you’ll need to show the judge that you are an upstanding and compliant landlord and that the fault belongs to the tenant. For this reason, it’s a good idea to find legal counsel to advise you during this process. Evictions can be stressful and an emotionally charged affair, for the landlords and tenants alike.
Beginning The Eviction
Make sure that you have concrete evidence that the tenants have breached the rental agreement or lease, failed to pay rent, or caused harm or damage to the premises, neighboring properties, or neighboring tenants. Speak with the neighbors or other tenants that live in the same building to see if they have any information regarding the situation. Before taking legal action, try to reason with your tenants. Meet up with them at a local coffee shop or public location and explain the situation to them. Evictions are a scary thought, and the tenant may decide to vacate the property to avoid the risk of an eviction. During this conversation, it’s important to remain firm, but you don’t want to come across as overly-aggressive.
Sometimes a tenant may be unable to pay to rent on time because of situations out of their control, and it isn’t a reflection of their character. It is important to remind them that your tenant-landlord relationship is framed within the context of business, and ultimately, you have to look out for the good of your business.
This discussion with your tenant can also help clarify any misunderstandings and give the tenant a chance to explain themselves. For instance, let’s say you caught wind that a tenant had thrown a massive party over the weekend that caused a disturbance in the neighborhood. Since this violates your lease and a sign that your tenant may be more trouble than they’re worth, you decide that you want to evict them. However, during this initial confrontation you discover the party was actually at the house next door, and that you had been misinformed. By talking to the tenant upfront, you just saved you and the tenant a great deal of time, money, and emotional distress.
If the tenant is unwavering, you’ll need to move forward and provide formal notice to the tenant that you are terminating the rental agreement.
At this stage, you are now formally beginning the eviction process, so take every measure to follow the legal procedure to the letter.
Thankfully, compared to other kinds civil cases, evictions only take a short amount of time to complete. But in order to make evictions as streamlined as they are, there are strict regulations that govern the exact way in which you must proceed as a Landlord. Tenants who mount a defense against an eviction will be looking for any and all legal mistakes on the landlord’s part and any mistakes presented in court can have the case delayed or even dismissed. There are three different types of notices that you can serve your tenants:
Notice to Pay Rent or Quit: This notice is appropriate if the tenant hasn’t paid the full amount of rent when it was due. This notice is should list the full amount due, including any late fees and provide the time frame in which they need to make the payment. If the tenant pays the rent by the deadline, then the notice is satisfied and there can be no eviction. If the landlord still wanted to pursue an eviction, they would need to serve another notice with its own time frame.
Notice to Cure or Quit: This notice should be used when the tenant has violated the lease or agreement in some way. Like the notice to pay rent, the tenant is given a time frame in which they have the opportunity to correct the violation, and if they successfully do so, the landlord cannot pursue an eviction with this notice. The notice should specify which part of the agreement has been violated
Notice to Quit: This notice tells the tenant that they must move out by a certain date or the landlord will be following through with an eviction. This notice doesn’t give the tenant the chance to correct their mistake and should be used in situations where the tenant has had multiple violations or offenses. The notice to quit is only allowed in certain states, and the time frame tenants have to move out varies state by state as well.
Not matter the type of notice, make sure that you date when the notice was issued and sign it. You can deliver the notice to the tenant personally or leave it with a responsible adult at their home or workplace. In any case, you’ll want to provide the tenant with multiple copies of the notice to be sure they get it. Sending them one by mail and taping a copy to the front door should suffice.
The Road to Court
If the tenant haven’t taken action to correct their violation, pay the missing rent, or vacate the property during the period after the notice is given, you can formally file an eviction lawsuit. You can choose to file the eviction yourself, or you can hire an attorney to undertake the process for you.
If this is your first time evicting a tenant, or your rental property is located in a city with complex rent control laws, you’re going to want to seek the help of an expert.
If you decide to tackle the eviction yourself, visit the court to provide proof that you’ve given the tenant sufficient notice and you will pay the necessary fees. Once this is done, the court will set a hearing date and take care of notifying the tenant that you have filed the lawsuit.
Before you appear in court, triple check to ensure that you have gathered all of the necessary evidence and information to make your case. Have a copy of the lease or agreement, the notice served, proof that the tenant received the notice, bank statements that show the missing rent, any bounced checks, and all records of communication between you and the tenant.
Once you’re in court, the tenant’s defense will probably rely on pointing out an error you made when notifying them, or they’ll try to prove that the property is uninhabitable. But as long as you have all the necessary information listed above and have acted within the legal boundaries as the landlord, you’ll have no problems presenting your case. Once the judge has heard from both sides, they’ll either decide in your favor or the tenants. Some courts will award damages from the eviction, but in some cases you may have to file a separate suit. Once again, check with your local court to learn more about the exact process.
If the judge has ruled in your favor, the tenant will be given a deadline by which they must must move out of the property. This amount of time granted varies depending on where your property is located, but the Judge will clarify during the ruling. If the tenant refuses to leave the rental, consult the proper channels rather than taking action on your own. Even though you’ve won the eviction, you want to make sure you remain on the right side of the law.
Notify the court that the tenant is failing to comply, and they will issue a writ of possession which entails local authorities giving the tenants one last final notice before physically removing them and their property from the rental.
Once the sheriff or marshall have removed the tenants and their belongings, immediately go through and document the condition of the property with photo evidence so that you can sue the tenant for damages if they had inflicted any harm on the property.
In order to prevent an eviction from happening in the first place, it’s good practice to hire a property manager that thoroughly screens tenants and protection in the event of an eviction.
Here is a video from Howcast that gives an brief outline of the eviction process:
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