A problem tenant can be the worst nightmare for a landlord and property manager. Problem tenants usually fall far behind in their rent, fail to keep the property in good condition, and fail to comply with other terms of the lease. The best way to avoid a problem tenant is not to rent to them, but sometimes it happens. If your efforts to get the problem tenants to leave voluntarily fail, you will have no choice but to evict them.
Before you learn how to evict a tenant, you need to become familiar with applicable state and local laws governing eviction and follow them carefully or you could find yourself in a lawsuit. You may want to consider consulting with a local property manager who is experienced in handling problem tenant matters for assistance.
Discuss the Matter with the Tenant First
Eviction proceedings can be expensive not only because of the legal fees and costs that may be associated with it, but also because evictions take time and during that time you may not receive rent. If you can remedy the situation by talking calmly with the tenant, it would be worth the time and money saved. You can calmly inform the tenant that the tenant needs to correct the situation or you will need to take formal steps to correct it.
You must be careful not to make threats, intimidate the tenant, or allow the situation to become hostile. Consider having another person with you to witness the conversation.
You never know – this informal meeting with the tenant could resolve things. Even if it does not, you will be able to inform the court in a later eviction proceeding that you attempted to resolve it reasonably, informally, and in good faith but were unable to persuade the tenant to come into compliance with the lease.
How To Evict A Tenant: The Step by Step Process
The landlord/tenant rights and steps in evictions are largely the same everywhere in the United States, but applicable laws in will vary as to specific notice and response periods, fees, forms, and miscellaneous process matters.
In some states, the procedures for eviction vary depending on the reason for the eviction. It is very important to follow the laws in your area. Here is a step by step description of a typical eviction process for failure to pay rent:
1. Notice to the Tenant. You will have to give a written notice to the tenant of your intent to begin eviction proceedings. The length of time of the notice will vary from state to state. It could be five days or up to two weeks, depending on the jurisdiction.
Most states provide templates or forms that you should use. The notice will have to include the information specified by applicable law. The method of delivery of the notice to the tenant will also be governed by applicable law. Frequently the notice is delivered by certified mail and/or by taping it to the front door of the property.
If the tenant pays rent during the notice time period, you cannot proceed with an eviction in some states. In other states, the tenant’s payment of rent does not stop the eviction. In those states, you can still proceed with the eviction at the end of the notice period if you so choose.
2. Court Eviction Proceeding. In every state, it is illegal for the landlord to take “self-help” steps such as locking the tenant out of the property or turning off utilities. If you do that, you will be liable to the tenant for damages. The only legal way to evict the tenant is through the legal eviction process.
To begin the eviction, you will file paperwork with the court in the county where your property is located. As with the notice, you should use the template or form provided by your state. Depending on your state’s laws, the papers you file may be called “unlawful detainer,” “dispossessory proceeding,” or “forcible entry and detainer suit.” The papers will have to be delivered to the tenant by certified mail or by hand and/or taping it to the front door. The tenant will have a certain amount of time to file a response, called an “answer”. The court will hold a hearing and both you and the tenant will have an opportunity to present your sides to the court. The tenant may present a defense that explains the tenant’s failure to pay rent.
If the court rules in favor of the tenant, the tenant can remain in the property until the lease expires as long as the tenant and/or the landlord complies with any conditions imposed by the court. If the court rules in your favor, the tenant will have to move out.
3. Removing the Tenant. The court’s order evicting the tenant will direct the tenant to move out by a specified date. If the tenant fails to comply with it, you may have to ask the court for another order, which may be called a “writ of execution,” “judgment for possession,” or “warrant for removal.” This will allow you to have a local law enforcement officer remove the tenant by a certain date. In some courts, the tenant’s failure to comply with the original move out order will authorize you to ask law enforcement to remove the tenant, and you do not have to go back to court for the subsequent order.
Hire a Professional
Handling a problem tenant by yourself could backfire on you. Unless you have experience in these matters, you should consult an attorney or an experienced property manager to assist you with resolving the situation and if necessary, an eviction proceeding. The sooner you take care of it, the better off you will be.