Having to evict a tenant is never fun… but it’s something every landlord has to do at one point or another. When you are renting out property as a source of income and building wealth, you have to remember that you have a business relationship first, and a personal relationship second. If your tenant isn’t holding up their end of the contract, you need to cut ties as quickly as possible.
This article will help explain the eviction process, what’s required to evict a tenant, what to expect, and more. Even though not everything can be covered in just one article, it will give you a good foundation on what to do next.
The Eviction Process: Step 1
The first step is to identify why you are going to evict the tenant. There are several main reasons why landlords will begin the process:
- Rent Payment. Does your tenant owe you rent, but just refuses to pay it? They may have given you a story such as they lost their job, had an unexpected car maintenance bill, etc. Those are unfortunate events, but at the end of the day your business contract says they should pay you for the chance to live in your property.
- Contract Violation. Has your tenant violated their lease in some way? Maybe they have a pet on the property, although the contract clearly says pets aren’t allowed. Are too many people living in the unit? Are they neglecting care of the landscaping, even though the contract said it was their responsibility? Is there an old car in the front yard? Any of these things, along with countless other contract violations, may be enough to evict the tenant.
- Serious Contract Violations. Is your tenant repeatedly late on rent? Are they growing or selling drugs on the property? Do their actions have health or safety concerns of nearby property or people? If so, you have good cause to begin the eviction process.
Once you’ve identified the reason, you can begin to draft the eviction notice.
Step 2: The Eviction Notice
The eviction notice is the document that formally begins the process. It explains to the tenant what the problem is and how they can fix it (if applicable). For example, if they simply owe you rent or have a minor contract violation, your notice can explain the problem and what they can do to fix it.
On the other hand, if there are serious contract violations, your notice can be a “Notice to Quit.” In other words, you are forcing them to leave the property and there’s nothing they can do about it.
Keep in mind that you can actually give an eviction notice even if the tenant is doing everything that they’re supposed to. The main stipulation is that you can’t give this kind of notice until the lease is up. There are other laws regarding this kind of notice as well, which take into account if the tenant is elderly, disabled, and why you are evicting them (such as having apartments converted into condos.) Perceived retaliation against a tenant for some reason or discrimination are also two things that factor into whether or not you can evict the tenant.
Each state has different laws, but most eviction notices are either 30 or 60 days. This timeframe may be as short as 20 days or as long as 30, depending on your state. This gives the tenant enough time to fix the issue or move out.
The most important thing about the eviction notice is to include why the tenant is being evicted, what they can do to fix the situation and how long they have to remedy the problem. Keep in mind that your local court will determine what kind of information is necessary in the notice.
Consider hiring legal counsel to help with the entire eviction process, including the notice. Because the notice is the document that officially starts the process, you need to make sure it is done correctly. There are several potential legal ramifications if it has errors. And considering there is a long list of legal requirements for eviction notices in most states, it’s best to hire an attorney to make sure you don’t make a mistake.
For example, the notice must be accurate and delivered a certain way. If it is deemed invalid, the landlord will have to have to re-file the notice.
Step 3: Prepare for Court
Unfortunately, many eviction processes end up in court. If the tenant doesn’t take action to fix the violation, the situation needs to go to the authorities. On the day of the hearing, both you and the tenant will present your case to the judge.
Make sure to bring as much documentation as possible to support your case. This includes a copy of the eviction notice, your lease contract, bank statements (to show missing payments, if applicable), pictures of the property damage, etc. The more, the better.
Again, this is why having legal counsel is helpful.
Step 4: Evict the Tenant
If the court rules in your favor, the tenant will normally have to vacate the property within several weeks. In some cases, the judge may even tell them to be out within 48 hours.
Once they move out, inspect the property for any major damage. If you find any, you can sue the person for the damages in court.
That just about covers the process. Here are a few common questions to help you understand more about the process as a whole.
When Should You Evict the Tenant?
Each landlord needs to determine their own tolerance to the tenant’s issues. For example, one landlord with a contract that says no pets are allowed on the property may be lenient if they find out the tenants gets fish. Others may be much stricter, and say that because the lease indicated no pets, not even those non-messy fish are allowed.
In general, remember that if you “give an inch, you give a mile.” In other words, if you bend on one rule, the tenant is likely to ask you to bend on other rules as well. The best policy for most landlords is to stick to what the contract says. If the tenant violates the contract and is aware but chooses not to take action, you may need to start the eviction process.
How Long Does the Eviction Process Take?
The overall process time can vary greatly, as you may expect. It all depends on several things:
- How long you give the tenant to fix the problem (30 days, 60 days, etc.)
- If they don’t remedy the violation, how long it takes to get a court date.
- The amount of time given to the tenant by the judge to vacate.
Unfortunately, the overall process can take up to several months.
What are the Laws Regarding Eviction in My State?
Because each state handles evictions differently, the best thing to do is contact a lawyer to learn more about the specifics for your area. Some states tend to give preference to the tenant, while others are more protective of the landlord.
What Rights Do I Have as a Landlord?
The best next step for you to do regarding learning about evictions it to take a look at the Landlord and Tenant Act. It helps highlight your rights as a landlord, as well as those of the tenant. Processes and legal information are also found there, so it’s a great document to know as a property investor.