The eviction process is something that many property managers and landlords will have to deal with at one time or another. Even though you can do your homework and try to only rent properties to the best tenants in the world, things happen.
When the time comes that you need to know how to evict a tenant, here’s how you do it:
Step 1 of the Eviction Process: The Eviction Notice
The first (and most important) step in the process is to issue a notice to the tenant. This is a legal document that communicates one primary message: the eviction process is about to begin if the tenant doesn’t handle the landlord’s grievance. Usually the tenant has to respond in as few as 3-5 days, depending on the issue and your local jurisdiction.
If there is no particular grievance, the tenant actually has a much longer deadline before they have to respond to the notice. Up to 30 – 60 days isn’t uncommon in these circumstances.
Keep in mind that if you want this notice to stand up in court, the document has to include several things.
The notice must explain all of the information necessary for the tenant to understand why the landlord is beginning the eviction process.
The document must explain what is required from the tenant, along with the time frame, in order to remedy the situation.
Information presented in the eviction notice must be 100% accurate. This may sound obvious, but landlords make mistakes. For example, if the landlord’s grievance is that the tenant broke the terms of the lease, they will have to provide proof later in court that the lease was broken.
The eviction process cannot officially begin until the tenant has the information from both of these requirements.
Finally, note that there are a few ways to actually deliver the notice. In general you have 3 options:
- Hand deliver it to the tenant
- Post the notice someplace where the tenant will definitely see it, like the front door
- Send it to the tenant through the mail. If you choose this option, make sure you get a return receipt (certified mail).
One final, important note. Let’s say you file an eviction notice and the tenant fixes the problem on time. That’s great.
But what if the tenant breaks the lease again, in the same way? Depending on your local regulations, you may not have to file another eviction notice before you file for eviction. This can help expedite the process.
Step 2 of the Eviction Process: Tenant’s Response
Once a tenant has received the notice, they should take swift action to respond. Assuming the time frame referenced on the notice is accurate, the tenant must respond within that period or risk being evicted.
The action they take should be appropriate for the eviction notice. For example if it was a notice to pay rent, they need to pay within the timeframe allotted. If the notice is a 30-day notice (or whatever timeframe is allowed in your state,) they need to move out before the period ends.
Note – if the reason for the eviction notice was due to the tenant not paying rent on time, make sure they pay the FULL amount due. Accepting a partial payment can hurt you in the future, as it may lead to the tenant thinking a payment plan is now in place. The court may uphold this, so it’s best to just refuse the situation coming up by requiring the full payment at once.
Step 3 of the Eviction Process: File for Eviction
If a tenant chooses not to respond to the eviction notice, or they do respond by saying they won’t remedy the problem, the final step is to take the tenant to court.
Usually the landlord would have already consulted a lawyer, at least for advice. Lawyers help in two primary parts of the eviction process:
- Compiling the eviction notice
- Filing the eviction
If the landlord hires a lawyer, they can fill out all of the necessary documents.
The other option is to go to court and fill out the paperwork yourself. When landlords file for eviction themselves, they need to include several pieces of information including the tenant’s name, address, a copy of the signed contract and information on how a particular segment of the contract was broken.
Together the two documents are called the Summons and Complaint, and may actually be issued to the tenant without submitting them to court. This is a good way for a landlord to show the tenant they are serious about the eviction before getting the courthouse involved. Once they are submitted to the courthouse, a public record is created, which will be seen later by potential landlords.
If the Summons and Complaint is submitted, the court will then serve the tenant with eviction papers and set up a court date, or the Show Cause Hearing.
Step 4 of the Eviction Process: Removing the Tenant
Some landlords have made the mistake of changing a unit’s locks once the tenant was ordered to leave the premises. They’ll remove all of the tenant’s property from the home and put it out on the street or lawn.
This is illegal, so we recommend doing it the right way.
Once the court has confirmed the tenant must leave, they will be given a window of time to leave the home. If they don’t comply, the landlord’s best course of action is to go to the local police department. The police can legally remove a tenant who has been told to move out.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
The overall process is somewhat simple, but can take a long time depending on your jurisdiction, the grievance (if any,) if the notice has inaccurate information, etc.
When the tenant goes to court, they get to defend why the grievance occurred. For example, maybe they weren’t able to pay rent because they lost their job, but recently started a new one and can pay next month.
Even though grievances come in several different forms, there are several common ones. Keep in mind these are not reasons for being evicted. These are reasons for issuing an eviction notice:
- Notice to Pay Rent or Quit – The most common one, this occurs when the tenant doesn’t pay the full rent when it’s due.
- Notice to Quit – If the tenant has seriously violated the rental agreement, the landlord can issue this notice. This doesn’t allow any options for the tenant to correct the issue and stay.
- Notice to Correct a Violation of the Lease or Quit – This occurs if the tenant broke a portion of the lease besides rent. For example, maybe they have a pet in the home but the contract doesn’t allow pets.
- 30-Day Notice – Most states actually allow a landlord to evict a tenant even if the tenant hasn’t broken the lease. These notices require a longer period of time, such as 30 or 60 days notice. There are also regulations regarding what types of properties or reasons can be used.
- Notice of Waste, Nuisance or Illegal Activity – Just like it sounds, this is used when the tenant performs a grave offense. A common example is if they routinely produce enough noise that the neighbors complain.
The eviction process isn’t too complicated, but we do recommend working with a lawyer to make sure you have your ducks in a row. Doing something incorrectly such as not including enough information on the eviction notice can lead to a drawn out, expensive legal battle. Also be sure to learn more about the specific requirements for your jurisdiction, as each state has different laws.