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"Tenant Eviction 101: a Landlord’s Last Resort"


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Bringing forth an eviction proceeding on a tenant should always be your last resort. Luckily, there are some things you can do to minimize the odds of this happening.

But even if you do everything perfectly, you are still destined to run into a bad apple or two, and as such it'll be helpful for you to understand the general process of removing a problem tenant.


REASONS WHY TENANTS GET REMOVED


The specifics can vary from state to state, but the typical reasons include:

  • Non-payment of rental income
  • Habitual late payment of rent
  • Other violations of the terms of the apartment lease
  • The presence of illegal activity
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Willful property damage
  • Assaulting or threatening the landlord
  • Allowing apartments with pets

By far the most common reason for landlord tenant disputes is for non-payment of rent. Roughly 80% of the proceedings in my jurisdiction fall into this category. In most jurisdictions, this type of proceeding is very cut and dry and usually favors the landlord.

The other reasons to deliver a landlord eviction notice are far less common. They are also less cut and dry in terms of your odds of winning the case, and often require additional supporting documentation.





STEPS TO MINIMIZE EVICTIONS


Your success will depend on your ability to deter on the front-end and immediately react on the backend. Specifically:

  • Do rental credit checks of prospective tenants prior to executing any lease. If you find that an applicant had been previously evicted, automatically decline him. Being a bad tenant is truly a recidivist behavior; if someone is evicted once there is a 60% chance that it will happen again.
  • For new tenants, clearly communicate your policies in writing and verbally. Make each tenant initial next to the critical items, like the rent due date.
  • For new tenants, call with a friendly reminder when the first rent due date is approaching.
  • Inform tenants that you do regular property maintenance drive-bys and that you also have friends and neighbors in the area watching out for your best interests.
  • Immediately address any bad tenant behavior with a letter delivered via certified mail. The letter should clearly outline the problem and deadline to stop.
  • If the rent is late, hound the tenant until you get a satisfactory answer. A good tactic is to show up at the tenant's door unannounced.


HOW TO REMOVE A TENANT


When landlord tenant disputes escalate to the point of no return, you should coordinate the delivery of the landlord eviction notice immediately. You'll want to get the tenant out of there as soon as possible so you can get the unit re-rented quickly.

Unfortunately that's about the only advice I can give you because all jurisdictions have slightly different rules. Plus, there may be other variations depending on:

  • The nature of the issue
  • The type of lease (annual, month-to-month, or no lease)
  • The property type

For example, in my jurisdiction, I do not have to send a letter to the tenant if the issue is non-payment of rent, nor do I need an attorney. I can simply file the paperwork myself in the "Special Civil Part" of City Hall as soon as the payment is late. The court date is typically about 3 weeks after filing, and the total process takes about 5 weeks (from filing to tenant move-out).

But with other types of evictions, my jurisdiction requires a letter be sent to the tenant to demand that he/she cease the bad behavior, and that a certain number of days be provided for him/her to do this. Experienced landlords in my jurisdiction do not need an attorney in these cases either.

But again, each jurisdiction is different in terms of when and how the tenant should be contacted, the required number of days to cure the behavior, etc. Refer to your state’s landlord-tenant act, or talk to your rental property agent or investment property attorney for eviction advice.



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5 Responses to Tenant Eviction 101: a Landlord’s Last Resort

  1. jackall says:

    Nice info. I have 10 properties in Georgia and evictions there are REALLY no fun! It’s clearly better to take preventative measures as outlined in this article so you don’t have to worry about evicting someone (at least…most of the time!).

  2. landlord says:

    Yeah, having to evict a tenant sucks. I’ve had to do this several times and I always wind up losing at least a few hundred dollars even though I too collect 1.5 months worth of security. I think tha length of the eviction process basically depends on where you live; some places are easier than others.

  3. tommy g says:

    I love evicting my tenants….it’s so much fun…evictions are GREAT.

    (hopefully you detected my ‘subtle’ sarcasm!!)

  4. Shelia says:

    You are pretty lucky if you are located somewhere that has reasonable eviction processes. I am a landlord in NYC and it is a complete nightmare. I’d almost rather pay a crap tenant to leave then to try and evict them.

  5. Fern says:

    Sheila, You are right. NYC is a nightmare. I do believe that if landlords are united we can lobby for changes.

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