In my recent post on Preparing for Eviction, I discussed the reasons why you may need to start eviction proceedings for a tenant. As mentioned in that post, bad tenants can sometimes be unavoidable, even for expert landlords and property managers. If you’ve followed the preparation steps and tried to rectify the situation on your own to no avail, you may be forced to evict the tenant.
First of all, consult with a real estate attorney. I am not an attorney, nor do I play one on the Internet.
You Can’t Just Change the Locks!
You have to start legal proceedings before you evict a tenant. Not following the procedure could land you fines in court. As mentioned in my previous post, you might be able to just ask them to leave. Also, if the tenant no longer has a lease with you (i.e. a tenant at will), you can evict them without giving a reason via a “Notice to Quit”. You still would have to give the tenant 30 days notice in writing depending on the state law. Again, this information needs to be vetted with an attorney.
Four Different Types of Termination Notices
1. Pay Rent or Quit Notice:
The tenant is given a deadline as to when the rent must be paid. If they fail to do so, they will be evicted.
2. Cure or Quit Notice:
This notice is served when the tenant violates lease term(s). If the tenant brings a dog in, new renters, subleases the property, or smokes in property, these could all be tenant violations that have to be corrected. If they are corrected, the tenant cannot be evicted, but if the problems continue, the formal eviction can occur.
3. Unconditional Quit Notice:
If the tenant destroys property or is chronically late or doesn’t pay rent for months, even if the situation is resolved, this notice is served to try to force the tenant out of the property unconditionally (no matter what.)
4. Notice to Vacate:
These are typically 30 to 60 days and this is standard procedure to end a month to month lease or a “tenant at will” situation.
Get Ready for Court!
You or your attorney will need to go to an eviction hearing. Rehearse what you will say to the judge and know what you need to say. Leaving any important details out at this stage could affect the judge’s decision. If you win the court case, the tenant will be required to vacate the premises in less than 48 hours or up to 5 days, depending on the state. If the tenant refuses to leave at that point, you can call the authorities to remove the tenant and place possessions on the curb.
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After the tenant leaves, be sure to inspect the property thoroughly for any damage. It’s easy to envision a scenario where an upset tenant is evicted, loses their security deposit, and decides to put a few holes in the wall. Bring a camera with you and take good photos. You can still sue the tenant for major damages in civil court. Also remember that you may also be able to sue in small claims court for unpaid rent.
What If I Lose?
If you lose the court case for some reason, you may have to allow the tenant to stay until their lease expires. As mentioned above, you can still sue the tenant for major damages and go after them in small claims court for unpaid rent. Consider the ability of the (former) tenant to pay and how much you are owed. Sometimes it is just not worth the attorney fees and the hassle. If the tenant has a job, the judge may be able to garnish his/her wages.
So before you pull that eviction trigger, consider your unique situation very carefully, give the tenant time to correct the situation, and follow the legal process if you must go through the eviction process. It’s important not to let your generosity overtake you since this is a business. You may want to “give the tenant a break” but remember that your financial future is at stake, and if you have multiple tenants you need to provide equal treatment to avoid discrimination. No matter what, continue to invest with pride. Although real estate investing is not a slam dunk, there are countless tools and resources available to help you through. Building a strong team of experts also helps. It’s one of our 5 Enduring Rules for Real Estate Investors.