In an average year, U.S. landlords file 3.6 million eviction cases. No matter how carefully you pick tenants, some bad actors may sneak through.
If you find yourself in this situation, you’ll want to know what to do. The eviction process is daunting, costly, and can go wrong in many ways. It can also last anywhere from three weeks to a few months.
How do you go through this process unscathed? Start by taking a closer look at our tenant eviction guide below!
When to Evict a Tenant
First things first: do you have the legal right to evict your tenant? Here are the three most common reasons why you’d go down this route.
When a tenant signs a rental lease, they need to follow it to the letter for the duration of the lease. If they violate this contract, the law allows you to start the eviction process.
One example of this is if there are illegal activities (such as drug dealing) taking place on the property. Violating a lease can also involve people residing on your property without having legal rights to do it.
Property damage can be a tricky thing to determine. Before trying to evict a tenant over it, you should learn what damage qualifies for eviction. In many cases, the best you can do is keep the security deposit.
For property damage to be a cause for eviction, it needs to have intent or carelessness behind it. That includes shattered windows, defaced walls, and so on. Simple wear-and-tear is unlikely to hold up in court.
Unpaid Rent Payments
Once your tenant stops paying rent, you’re allowed to start the eviction process. If you collect rent online, you’ll have an accurate inventory of any missed payments that you can use to support your case.
How to Evict a Tenant
Even if you have legal cause to evict a tenant, you’ll need to put in the work to make it happen. Here’s how this process should go.
Step 1: Issue a Quit Notice
Issuing a quit notice gives a tenant three to five days to resolve the problem or move out. There are three types of quit notices, and each state has its own rules about which notice you’re allowed to use.
First, there’s the Pay Rent or Quit notice. Most landlords will use it when the eviction is due to late or unpaid payments. Once the tenant receives the notice, they’ll need to pay what they’re due or move out.
The Cure or Quit notice is often used when the tenant violates the lease. It gives the tenant a choice between leaving or solving the issue within the given time frame.
If the situation escalates to a certain point, the landlord may not allow the tenant to do the above two options. In this case, they’ll issue the Unconditional Quit notice. This forces the tenant to leave the property.
Step 2: File for Eviction
If the tenant doesn’t respond to the notice, you’ll have to file a complaint at your local court. The court will then issue a hearing to you and the tenant. Until then, your tenant is often allowed to stay at your property.
Step 3: Attend the Hearing
At the hearing, you’ll want to have the relevant documentation. That includes proof of a written notice and proof of your reasoning for eviction. You should also provide a copy of the lease and rent payment records.
Step 4: Repossess the Property
If the court rules in your favor, they’ll issue a judgment for you to regain possession of the property. Typically, this will involve a local sheriff giving the tenant notice on how long they have to leave.
Again, the time frame will depend on your state’s eviction laws. Some states allow for immediate evictions, and others give tenants up to four weeks to leave. You’re not allowed to remove their belongings during this time.
What Not to Do
If you’re in the process of evicting a tenant, you’ll want to avoid drawing it out. To that end, here are some things you should not do.
First, don’t threaten the tenant. Whenever you interact with them, do your best to stay calm and professional. To ensure the process goes smoothly, give them formal notice far enough in advance.
Next, don’t turn off their utilities. Until the tenant is permanently evicted, you must ensure that the property is habitable. Otherwise, they may use this against you in court.
You also shouldn’t accept partial rent payments, which is when your tenant only pays a part of the rent price. In some states, doing so will force you to start the eviction process again.
If your tenant has seemingly abandoned the property, you’ll want to make sure this is the case. Here are some indicators of abandonment:
- The tenant is behind on rent payments
- The tenant’s belongings are missing
- The tenant has submitted a change of address to the post office
- The tenant has notified his or her emergency contacts
- Neighbors noticed a moving truck or the tenant moving out
Once you confirm property abandonment, check your state’s laws on what to do with the tenant’s remaining belongings. Chances are, you’ll need to store them for a given time before disposing of them.
Hiring a Lawyer
Though it takes less time than other issues, eviction is still a legal process. Hiring a lawyer to help you navigate it can be helpful if:
- You’ve never evicted a tenant before
- Your tenant hired a lawyer and wants to push back
- Your tenant has filed for bankruptcy
- You’re firing a tenant who’s also an employee
- You have to follow rent control requirements
Tenant Eviction Made Easy
As long as you follow these eviction tips, the tenant eviction process won’t be too daunting. At the end of the day, it’s all about doing research, staying professional, and being as patient as possible.
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