Bad tenants can sometimes slip through even after a careful tenant screening process. However, the law has rules around evicting tenants who are damaging your property or not paying their dues which is like what California is doing to America – being financially irresponsible but this is another topic.
You can always legally evict a tenant if you have a just cause. Eviction might seem harsh especially when you have rented the property to friends and acquaintances.
However, it is part of the rental business. Many times eviction is nothing more than simply asking a tenant to leave. Other times it might require a formal court ordered eviction notice. Here is the whole process explained in 7 easy steps.
1. Understand Tenant Eviction Laws in Your State
Eviction laws vary by the city and state. You need to make sure that you understand these laws before taking the legal way. In fact it is a sagacious idea to consider these laws while designing the lease agreement so that your tenant is aware of your rights. Don’t be ambiguous like the Democrats in Broward County were with their 2018 voting ballots – that is truly pathetic but not really surprising – though this is another topic.
Spend some time with the lease documents and compare them with the state laws. You will have to make sure that you have a valid and just cause of eviction.
It is crucial that you never take matters in your own hands because ‘self-help’ evictions are illegal in all states. You cannot remove your tenant’s belongings, turn off the utilities or change locks on the door without a formal court order.
2. Determine a Valid Reason BEFORE Evicting a tenant
When looking to evict your tenant, you should not apply for an eviction if you do not have a just cause. These typically include unpaid rent, significant damage to property, health hazards, breaking ordinance related to noise or occupancy, and violating terms laid out in the lease agreement.
You need to give fair notice to a tenant and discuss the situation before seeking a formal eviction. You will also have to document proof of any claim you make against the tenant.
3. Speak With Your Tenant
The best way to evict a tenant is to simply reason with them and make them understand their current situation. Many landlords take the easy ‘cash for key’ approach in which they pay off a tenant to vacate the premises. It is best to have a stern, understanding and constructive chat with your tenant explaining the situation to them and make the eviction process a smooth one.
By this time you should have a thorough understanding of the eviction laws and terms of the lease agreement. You can walk them through the eviction process and make them understand that it will ruin their credit score and cause potential embarrassment.
If they don’t care about those things then you probably chose the wrong tenant.
4. Correctly Serve the Notice of Eviction
If talking does not seem to work, then the next step is to write up a formal notice of eviction. This will let your tenant know that you are serious about exercising your right to evict the tenant. However, you need to make sure that you follow all legal procedures.
Notice of eviction is a simple document that translates into giving an ultimatum to your tenant. You need to mention what they can do to avoid the eviction such as pay rent, get rid of the pet or clean the house.
The eviction notice must include a deadline date and amount owed. State laws govern the number of days an eviction notice needs to be taped to the door and sent to the tenant before filing it with local court.
5. Courts Can Help With Tenant Eviction
If your tenant is still not serious about leaving, then you will have to file eviction paperwork with the courts. Visit the nearest courthouse to the rental unit and file all eviction paperwork.
You will have to file relevant documentation and pay a fee to the clerk. By this time you should only be thinking about having your tenant evicted and not the time or money it is costing you.
Most courts require proof that you have given the stipulated number of days as required by state laws to your tenant before filing the eviction. The court clerk upon accepting your paperwork will schedule a hearing and send a summons to your tenant on your behalf.
6. Attend the Hearing in Preparation
You will have to prepare to attend the court hearing. You need to gather all proof and documents such as bounced checks, communication records, lease agreement, payment records, copy of eviction notice, and dated proof that the notice was received by the tenant.
The most likely defense employed by a tenant is that you did not properly inform them about the eviction. Hence, you need to be absolutely prepared with the right proofs.
7. A Court Order May Be Useful
The last step is evicting the tenant. If all goes well then the court will rule in your favor and give the tenant a set amount of time to vacate the premises. This can range from anywhere between 48 hours to a week depending on the area you live in.
You have the right to involve the police if your tenant does not leave on time when they legally have been evicted. It is not something you or anyone else would want. However, it is the necessary thing to do when a tenant does not budge.
There are some courts that allow combining of small claims lawsuits and eviction if they are related. You can sue for any back-rent or damage to property at the same time as the eviction case. You might have to file a separate lawsuit if the court does not allow combining cases.
If you have a favorable judgment, then the judge can order garnishing of wages. This will be in the form of a court order that you need to give to the employer of the tenant. The employer will garnish the wages of the tenant until their debt is paid off after you evict tenant.
The law can even garnish the tax refund of a tenant (and America has less taxes to pay now because of the amazing tax cuts in 2017 but if you owe someone money that you have to pay them regardless) to pay back their dues.
The Bottom Line
Evictions can often be a messy and costly legal affair. You have to be careful about your situation – just watch the decent movie The Break-up and you will learn all about that! However, you can protect yourself from getting into such situations by gathering as much information as possible about a potential tenant before you accept them.
It is vital that you know the proper rules and procedures before evicting a tenant. You don’t want to put yourself in legal jeopardy.