Is Evicting a Tenant Always the Best Idea?
Eviction Process and Pitfalls to Avoid
Certain landlord tenant conflicts will cause landlords to consider evicting their tenant. While it is necessary in some cases, it may not always be the best idea. Learn the steps you must go through to evict a tenant as well as the potential downsides of an eviction.
Common Steps in a Tenant Eviction
1. Tenant Has Violated Landlord Tenant Law: You must have a legal reason to begin an eviction process against a tenant. Each state will have very specific reasons you can evict a tenant. Common reasons to evict include:
- Nonpayment of Rent
- Engaging in Illegal Behavior at the Rental Property: Such as Dealing Drugs
- Violating Other Terms of the Lease
- Causing Serious Damage to the Rental Unit or Rental Property
2. Landlord Sends Tenant a Notice to Quit the Behavior: The landlord sends the tenant a notice to quit whatever they are doing that violates the lease agreement. This notice should be sent via certified mail. The tenant will have a certain number of days to fix the behavior.
Certain notices to quit do not give the tenant the ability to fix the behavior. An example of this would be if a tenant is dealing drugs. These are known as unconditional notices to quit and are basically just a heads up that the landlord will be filing for an eviction.
3. Tenant Does Not Quit the Behavior: The tenant does not become current with their rent or does not end the behavior that is otherwise violating the lease agreement.
4. Landlord Files With Court to Evict the Tenant: The landlord files a complaint against the tenant in court.
5. Tenant Is Served With Notice of Eviction: The court serves the tenant with notice of eviction. The tenant has the ability to respond to this notice.
6. Court Date Set: Both landlord and tenant will be made aware of the actual date they must appear in court.
7. Hire a Lawyer if Necessary: Some states will not allow a landlord to represent themselves. In these cases, a landlord must hire an attorney.
8. Show Up on Court Date: You must show up on the actual court date. If you do not show up, the other side will automatically win.
- Bring Documentation to Court: You must bring any documentation to court that supports your case. You should always have the signed lease agreement, copies of any notices sent to the tenant, proof of any payment and any other documentable communication between yourself and the tenant.
9. Judge Rules in Favor of Landlord or Tenant:
- If the tenant wins, they are allowed to stay in the unit. The landlord may have to pay for the tenant’s court costs and attorney’s fees.
- If the landlord wins, the judge will issue a Writ of Restitution, which gives the tenant a certain number of days to move out of the unit. If the tenant does not leave by this date, a Writ of Possession will be issued. The tenant may also be responsible for the landlord’s court costs and attorney’s fees, in addition to any other money or damages owed to the landlord.
10. Lock Out If Necessary: If the tenant does not leave on their own will, the local sheriff will post a notice on the tenant’s door giving the tenant a certain amount of time to leave, usually a couple of days. If they do not leave, the sheriff will forcefully remove them from the rental property.
Downsides of Eviction
On the surface, an eviction may seem like the best option, but there are downsides you need to be aware of:
- Court Appearance: Evicting a tenant is done in court. You will have to go to court to file the initial eviction and then you will have to appear in court on the actual court date. You will have to pay a fee to file the eviction, and depending on your state’s laws, you may have to hire a lawyer to present your case, which can be costly.
- You Could Lose: You may file for an eviction, but the judge could award the tenant the right to stay in the rental property. Reasons a tenant could be awarded a stay include:
- Tenant Becomes Current on Rent: If you are evicting a tenant for nonpayment, and the tenant brings the money they owe to court, a judge will have no reason to proceed with the eviction and the tenant is free to continue living in the property.
- Not a Valid Reason for Eviction: You will not be able to evict a tenant if the reason you are filing for the eviction is not valid in your state. Conflicting personalities is not a legitimate reason to evict a tenant.
- You Did Not Follow Law Correctly: You may have a legal right to file for an eviction, but if you did not follow the steps to evict the tenant correctly, you may have to begin the eviction process from the beginning.
- Vacancy: If you are able to evict the tenant, you now have to deal with a vacancy at your rental property. You will have no rent coming in, but you will still be responsible for paying the holding costs at the property.
- Finding a New Tenant: You will have to go through the process of finding a new tenant for your rental. It can be a time-consuming process to market the property and screen prospective tenants.
Self-Help Evictions Are Illegal
Even if your tenant is breaking the law, you still need to follow the law to get the tenant out. Being the owner of the rental property does not give you the right to become a vigilante.
If you want a tenant out, you have to go through the proper legal process to do so. An attempt to force the tenant out without going through the eviction process is known as a self-help eviction, and it is illegal. Examples of tactics to force a tenant out include:
- Changing the Tenants Locks
- Harassing or Intimidating the Tenant
- Cutting Off Vital Services to the Tenant
- Removing the Tenants Belongings From Their Rental Unit
Give Tenant Option to Leave
To avoid the eviction process, you can give your tenant the option of moving out of the rental before the eviction takes place. Make sure that the tenant understands that an eviction will be a part of their permanent record and will negatively affect their credit. They may also have a judgment against them if they also owe back rent or damages. If the tenant agrees, this option will allow you to get the tenant out of your unit faster and hopefully allow you to find a new tenant sooner.