It has been said there are two types of landlords; those who have had to conduct an eviction and those who will. Regardless of how carefully you screen prospective tenants, eventually you’re going to run into one with whom reasoning isn’t possible. Funny thing is, most of these people are amazingly aware of their rights and take full advantage of them to milk the situation for all it’s worth. To make sure all of your bases are covered, here are the eight steps to evict unruly tenants.
1. Understand The Law
Eviction laws vary from state to state so you have to make sure you’re familiar with the rules governing the process in your state. With that said, there are some absolutes regardless of where your property is located. You must have a court order to remove the tenant and their belongings. Further, you can’t change the locks, shut off the utilities, or otherwise make the place unpleasant in an attempt to get them to leave.
2. Be Sure You Have Grounds
After providing a tenant with fair notice, you can institute eviction proceedings if a tenant has failed to pay the rent; caused significant damage to the property; violated noise, occupancy or health rules; or created health or safety hazards. The good news is in some cases your homeowners insurance might cover property damage left by a tenant, so don’t be alarmed if they trash the place before you can get them to leave. In court, the person with the most convincing evidence typically prevails, so make sure you have accurate documentation supporting any claims you make against the tenant.
3. Have a Civil Conversation
Before you go legal, try to accomplish a meeting of the minds. Invite them to sit down with you in a public place such as a café. This makes them less likely to engage in overly abrasive behavior when they get the bad news. Lay the situation out in a kind but businesslike manner. Explain the ramifications if the situation escalates to a legal case and ask them to leave of their own accord to avoid the consequences. These can include damage to their credit rating and potential wage garnishment. Let them know you don’t want it to be that way and if they’ll just leave, that will be the end of it.
4. Serve Legal Notice
If you’ve progressed past steps one through three and they’re still there, you’ll have to provide them with a notice of eviction. This document should explain why legal action has been deemed appropriate. It should also offer them one last chance to get their act together. The notice should have a hard deadline by which the parameters need to be met. If the issue is back rent, the exact amount owed should be listed. In most states, you have to post this notice within a certain time period before beginning formal eviction proceedings in court. A copy of the notice needs to be taped to their front door and another one must be sent by certified mail so you have proof of receipt. Make sure you use the correct forms for your state.
5. File A Formal Complaint
Take your proof of mailing the eviction notice with you to the clerk’s office at your local courthouse and ask to schedule a hearing for a summary eviction. In addition to providing you with a court date, the clerk’s office will notify the tenant of the complaint with a summons to appear in court.
6. Prep for The Hearing
The judge is going to want to see the lease agreement, any bounced checks or other evidence of missed payments, copies of your attempts to communicate the issue with the tenant including phone records, emails, the notice of eviction and dated proof the tenant received the notice of eviction. Again, in court, the person with the most convincing documentation carries the day. Make sure you document every aspect of your case against the tenant so you can prove you did everything by the book.
7. The Actual Eviction
If the court decides in your favor, the tenant will be given anywhere from two to seven days to pack their belongings and move on. If they still insist upon staying put, you can have the county sheriff instill them with added motivation by escorting them out of the premises and placing their belongings on the curb.
8. Collecting Monetary Awards
If the issue is past-due rent, you can usually combine eviction cases with small claims lawsuits—as long as both are against the same person. When you win the case, you’ll have the right to garnish their wages, tax returns and/or hire a collection agency to ensure you’re made whole.
As you can see, the eight steps to evict unruly tenants comprise a lengthy and unpleasant process. To save yourself the trouble, it’s important to do everything you can to ensure you’re renting to solvent individuals with a strong sense of propriety. In other words, before you offer your place to anyone, always make sure you’ve done your due diligence.
If you have specific legal questions, you should always contact a lawyer with expertise in the area of your concern.