Evictions suck. There, we said it. They wreak havoc on your wallet, deteriorate your mental health, destroy your property. Angry cash-strapped tenants neglect your rental property while they struggle to claw their way of late rental payments. Meanwhile, you foot the bill for multiple mortgages and court costs and eventual renovation/cleaning/maintenance fees while a judge looks upon your case.
Eviction is brutal for all parties involved, not to mention stressful. That’s why we at TenantEvaluation are providing you with this step-by-step guide to follow when eviction appears on the horizon. Kicking a tenant out of your property is always going to be stressful, but you do not have to go at it alone.
Grab our hand made steady by decades of property management experience. Take a deep breath and follow these steps:
Stop feeling bad.
Seriously, take a moment to collect your thoughts and realize there is no good to come from feeling bad. Yes, no one wants to evict a tenant. Yes, your tenant will be angry about eviction. No one wants to be kicked out.
However, that does not mean they get to stay home scot-free while you pay for them to live there. You have a mortgage to pay. You bought the property. You made it your own and allowed someone else to live there. Although eviction may not be comfortable, it is necessary.
As they say, “It’s not personal. It’s just business.”
(1a) Learn your state’s eviction laws.
Every state has laws with a different spin on eviction. It’s better to learn these before you write up your lease agreement, but you need to learn them if you want to follow through with eviction. Generally, it is best to have a lawyer write up your lease agreement.
When you do your research, think about your situation in the courtroom. Do you have a case? Can you win? If not, it’s best to rethink evicting your tenant, deadbeat or not.
(1b) Landlord-Tenant Act
More specifically, the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. What is it?
A more extensive explanation of the legality concerning eviction. It is already adopted by 21 stats, and if your state is one of the adoptees, you need to know it.
(1c) Keep Everything Professional
It’s tempting to conduct a “self-help” eviction. Really, “self-help evictions” just means “screw the tenant” and is illegal in literally every single state. While you may be very angry with the tenant in question and may even want to
- change the locks and lockout the tenant
- throw all the tenant’s stuff in the street
- literally, throw out the tenant with hired guns
- shut off utilities
- harass the tenant (eg, release an army of cockroaches through the air vents)
The main takeaway here? Don’t break the law. Let the law break your tenant. In other words, if you want the courts to rule in your favor, act as they should. Follow the law. Do everything above water. A good rule of thumb? If you don’t want it to come out in court, don’t do it.
Many times, given the nature of evicting, your tenant will do the legwork for you and break the law in their own way, thus giving you all the more credibility in your legal position.
(2) Have Lawful Justification for Evicting Tenant(s)
This one is easy. Do not evict a tenant because you do not like them. Evict a tenant because you are legally within your right to do so. Some examples to evict a tenant:
- Failure to make rent
- Breaking the lease in any way
- Severely damaging your property
- Posing a Sanitation or Safety Hazard
By the way, “innocent until proven guilty” applies to eviction proceedings as well. It’s not just for Law and Order.
(3) Before Evicting, Talk to your Tenant
Evictions cost money, time, and effort. A single (or two, or three) uncomfortable conversation is a far better alternative to initiating legal proceedings. If you can reason with your tenant, do so! If you can’t, try anyway!
Many times, even if you don’t like a tenant, they may be willing to cooperate and leave of their own accord. Once the eviction is on the horizon, many tenants will be more inclined to avoid going to court.
Pro Tip: Have the conversation in a public location. It makes the tenant less likely to cause a fuss.
(4) Give Written Notice
Once you asked your tenant to leave on their own, and they refused, threw it back in your face, threw a temper tantrum, exploded at the seams—it’s time to provide written notice.
Use our eviction template here or talk to an attorney and have them draft the notice for you. When establishing the date said eviction will take place, make sure you give enough time that it’s reasonable in the eyes of the court.
What does that mean? Give tenant 30-60 days to vacate the property. Also, state why the tenant is being evicted and how they can rectify the situation if they can rectify the situation.
(5) File Eviction at Courthouse
After providing the notice, give it a week. Usually, tenants will come around once the formal notice is tacked on their door.
If not, visit your rental property’s local courthouse and pay the fee to file an eviction, then file it. At this point, the clerk should schedule a date for your hearing and will reach out to your tenant for you.
By the way, you also may need to provide proof you gave your tenant the appropriate amount of time to get it together. So bring a copy of your eviction notice with you.
(6) Go to Your Hearing
The big day is here. The key to winning is simple: preparation and documentation. You should bring all documented evidence of communication with the tenant hitherto with you on your hearing date.
This includes but is not limited to:
- Lease application
- Lease agreement
- bounced checks
- any payments whatsoever
- all communication (email, phone, letters)
- copy of the written eviction notice
- proof that tenant received notice
Do not neglect that last step. A common excuse for not vacating the property, tenants often plead ignorance to the proceedings. Proof the tenant received the notice could be a signature from the tenant or a receipt from the post office.
During the hearing itself, be well rested, alert, and responsive. Know why you are there, why the tenant is being evicted, and have documentation proving that very fact. That’s it.
(7) …Evict Tenant
*Cue ominous score from the orchestra. The day is here. So long as everything proceeded smoothly in court (as it most certainly did provide you followed the above steps), you will have a concrete date the tenant needs to leave by. Generally speaking, it ranges from anywhere from two days to a week post-decision.
If the tenant fails to remove themselves from your property, you have the right to contact the Sheriff’s department to escort them out and put their possessions on the sidewalk. It’s pretty depressing to watch, honestly, but it’s a necessary evil to protect your own future.
(Bonus) Follow up on Back-Due Rent
As you can probably guess, the most common reason for eviction is failing to pay rent. In light of such, we included a final step to collect that lost income. There are a few different ways to go about this:
Go to Small Claims Court
Occasionally, courts actually let you combine both a small claims lawsuit with your eviction so long as it’s related to the same person (ie, your tenant). If your court allows such, do it.
If not, file a separate small claims lawsuit.
(b) Garnish Paycheck
If and when the judge rules in your favor that the tenant owes you money, you get a “judgment.” This judgment is a court order. Deliver that court order to your tenant’s employer.
Upon delivery, the employer is forced to “garnish” your (former) tenant’s pay and pay you instead.
(c) Garnish Tax Return
You can even garnish your (former) tenant’s tax return. Some very basic internet research will teach you how to do so.
(d) Use Private Debt Collector
The favorite choice of many county departments like the turnpike and other tolling companies, private debt collectors are a viable option for landlords.
Next time, use tenant screening. Eviction is seriously that easy to avoid. Do not rent to friends, and use a tenant screening service like TenantEvaluation. We are free for landlords, property managers, and brokers, and cost only $45 for applicants.
We run background checks, credit reports, and eviction histories, and deliver them all to you in one easy to read report easily viewable from an intuitive dashboard on our website. There are no membership fees, no nothing. It’s secure ( bank-level compliant, even), more comprehensive than other services out there, and takes only two clicks.
Add your tenant to the 3.5 million rental applications already processed.