How and Why to Evict a Tenant

Posted by Michael Miller on October 2, 2018

Nationwide, 3.7 million renters have experienced an eviction in their lifetime, according to a report from Apartment List. Evicting a tenant can be one of the hardest decisions a landlord has to face. Laws vary by state, so it is important to talk to a lawyer and know your rights, as well as your tenant’s rights, before you begin the process.

Understand When It Is Time to Evict a Tenant

Most landlords will overlook late payments if tenants are late just a few times a year, and only by a few days. If a tenant is on disability and receives his Social Security insurance (SSI) benefits check on the third of the month, he may ask for a permanent extension to pay their rent. If a tenant is habitually three to five days late, or is more than 14 days late one time, however, you can begin the process to evict a tenant.

In other circumstances, you can evict a tenant for violating the lease agreement. For instance, the lease may stipulate she is not allowed to have pets, but the tenant has adopted a puppy. Or maybe your lease prohibits sub-letting but she is renting out a bedroom. In these cases, most landlords can issue a “Fix or Quit” notice, which warns the tenant they must rectify the situation or could face eviction.

If a tenant is doing something illegal, or has caused serious damage to the property, you may issue an “Unconditional Quit” notice, which gives the tenant a warning that you will begin the eviction process.

Follow the Appropriate Steps to Complete an Eviction

If your tenant has failed to paid rent and has no extenuating circumstances, such as a disability, most courts will rule in your favor to evict the tenant.

To ensure a successful eviction, it’s important to follow due process. If you feel you have no other options but to evict a tenant, first learn the eviction laws in the state where you own the property. In no state is it legal to try to force tenants out of your rental unit by changing the locks, physically removing the tenants, removing their household goods, or using any form of physical or mental harassment.

Often, a stern verbal warning from the landlord will be enough to convince a tenant to pay the rent due or to move out. If this doesn’t work, it’s time to take legal action.

File an Eviction Notice

You must file an eviction notice giving the tenant enough time to move out based on state laws. Your notice should outline the reasons for eviction, and should be delivered by hand, in person, as well as sent via certified mail, return receipt requested.

Take Your Tenants to Court

If your client still does not pay his or her rent, or leave, it’s time to file your eviction notice with your local court. Make sure to bring a receipt showing you mailed the eviction notice, as well as notes documenting prior action you took, including rent bills, collections calls, and verbal or written warnings.

If your tenant still refuses to move and, instead, decides to face you in court, you will want to hire a lawyer. Gather any proof you have that shows why the tenant should be evicted, such as prior late rent receipts, photos of property damage, records of phone calls to the police, and the eviction notice.

Get the Tenant to Leave

If the court rules in your favor, which they are likely to do if you have enough evidence, your client will typically have 48 hours to leave. If they do not vacate your property, you have a right to call the sheriff’s department to forcibly remove the tenants from the property.

You can also seek late payments from the tenant in small claims court, but you will have to weigh the costs of another court day with the amount of the late rent payments to decide if it is worthwhile.

Evicting tenants is never a pleasant task, but if you have many single-family rentals or multi-dwelling units in your portfolio, it often becomes part of a landlord’s job. Knowing the proper steps to take can save you from legal hassles and added costs.

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