How To Evict A Tenant?
February 21, 2023
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Sometimes, you may have to evict a tenant.
No landlord wants to find themselves in this situation, but sometimes you must play the hand you’re dealt.
The process doesn’t have to be a complete nightmare, though.
By following the guidance in this article, you can evict tenants in the best way possible.
Evictions are never fun, but if done the right way, they can help your business.
Understand the Law
Your first priority is to make sure you’re familiar with your state and local government’s requirements. If you must evict someone, you need to follow the rules and stay within the confines of the law. The worst thing you can do is evict someone unlawfully. No one needs a lawsuit on their hands.
Consult with a real estate lawyer if you are unsure about anything. In this situation, it’s better to be than sorry. Nolo.com is also a great complimentary online resource to help you learn more.
Have a Justifiable Reason to Evict
Next, you need to ensure that you’re evicting the tenant for a valid reason. Eviction lawsuits, if they occur, are quick legal procedures (compared to other civil suits), and most states require strict adherence to applicable eviction rules. The government expects you to follow the letter of the law because they prioritize these suits. Someone’s dwelling is at stake, so lawmakers want to see that the tenant receives ample notice and a chance to respond.
Talk to the Tenant
In certain instances, you may want to go directly to the tenant before you send an official letter or begin official eviction proceedings. According to a BiggerPockets article, evictions can often cost between $4,000 and $7,000. That isn’t a small sum, and if you can avoid it, you would be wise to.
When you first meet with the tenant, explain the ramifications of being evicted, like negative credit reports and bad rental history citations. If the tenant agrees to leave without issue, create an agreement for the tenant to sign so that you have everything in writing.
“Cash for keys” is another alternative to eviction that often works and saves you time and money. However, this method can seem a bit distasteful, and, from your perspective, it may seem unfair.
“Cash for keys” refers to an agreement between a tenant and a landlord for the tenant to move out on an agreed-upon date in exchange for cash.
If you take this approach, we recommend starting small. Offer them an additional portion of their security deposit if they leave without issue. Throw in a tiny percentage of their rent if necessary. Whatever you do, don’t give them the money until you have the keys in your hand. And make sure you get the agreement in writing and a signature from the tenant.
Paying a bad tenant is, sadly, sometimes a better option than eviction. At the very least, it’s an option you should consider.
Send a Notice of Termination for Cause
If talking to the tenant doesn’t work or isn’t an option, it’s time to send a termination notice. Although the wording varies by state, when a tenant violates the lease agreement in some way, you’ll send one of the following letters:
- Pay Rent or Quit Notice: You send this eviction notice if the tenant misses rent payments. Your tenant has a few days (three to five typically) to pay the past-due rent or move out (“quit”). And, if your tenant leaves without paying rent, you can sue for rent owed.
- Cure or Quit Notice: You give this notice to a tenant who violates a term or condition of the lease agreement (e.g., a no-pets clause or a reasonable standard of cleanliness). Typically, your tenant has a specific time limit to remedy the issue. If the tenant doesn’t want to or cannot fix the violation, they must vacate the premises by the deadline provided in the notice.
- Unconditional Quit Notice: This is the most extreme kind of notice to quit. It requires the tenant to move out, and it doesn’t allow them to pay the rent or correct a lease agreement violation. In most states, unconditional quit notices are allowed only if the tenant did one or more of the following:
- Consistently violated a significant lease agreement clause
- Paid the rent late more than once
- Severely damaged the premises
- Engaged in illegal activity, such as using the property for drug dealing
Sue Your Tenant for an Eviction
If your tenant doesn’t vacate the premises by the designated time in the termination notice, then you move forward with the eviction. This involves properly serving them with a summons and complaint for eviction.
The court will then set a time and date for a hearing or trial in front of a judge. You and your tenant must show up to the hearing. If you aren’t present, the judge may rule against you, even if you have stronger arguments. Likewise, if the tenant doesn’t show up, the judge may rule in your favor.
It may be best to hire a lawyer if things escalate to this point. This can save money and effort because if each required step in the eviction process isn’t followed, you will have to start over. Furthermore, without an attorney, you must prepare and file the required paperwork, pay court filing fees, etc.
Bring Your Evidence to Court
Here’s a checklist of what you and your lawyer need to bring to your court date:
- Original signed lease agreement
- Records, including bank statements and proof of payment
- Copies of communications between you and your tenant
- Evidence that you gave your tenant an opportunity to fix the issue, excluding the instance of an Unconditional Quit Notice
- Evidence showing how the tenant violated the lease agreement
- Copies of the termination notice and proof of delivery
Evict Your Tenant
If you adhere to the law, have a good reason for the eviction, and stick to procedure, the judge will probably rule in your favor. You will receive a Writ of Restitution, which lets you legally remove the tenant from your property.
The writ goes out to local law enforcement. They then go to your property, allow the tenants a few minutes to pack personal items, and then escort the tenant off the property.
Collect Rent Owed
After winning the court case, the court typically also requires your tenant to pay overdue rent and cover any damage they caused to the property. Most landlords hire a collections agency to get the money from an evicted tenant.
A collections agency files the ruling with the credit bureaus, tries to track down the tenant if they cannot be found, and garnishes the tenant’s wages until you get the money you’re owed.
Evictions are a tough part of being a landlord. Most landlords don’t have to deal with them too often, but it’s best to be prepared.
If you follow the guidelines in this article, you’ll take a lot of the pain out of the process.