How do you evict a tenant?

How do you evict a tenant

How do you evict a tenant

Below is a walk-through of the eviction process, including the termination notices required for different situations.

It’s an unpleasant situation, and a costly one. It’s one that can possibly be avoided with proper tenant screening, but we’ll get back to that. We’ll walk through the eviction process so you have a road map to navigate this frustrating process.

The first thing you need to be aware of is a landlord can’t begin an eviction lawsuit without first legally terminating the tenant’s status as a current tenant. This means you have to give the tenant written notice, as specified in the state’s termination statute  If the tenant doesn’t move or address and correct the outstanding issues (pay rent, remove pet, etc) you can then file a lawsuit to evict. This is referred to as an unlawful detainer, or UD, lawsuit.)

Please check your state laws to end a tenancy. Each state has its own procedures as to how termination notices and eviction papers must be written and delivered (“served”).

Termination With Cause

Terminology varies from state to state, but there are basically three types of termination notices for tenancies that landlords terminate due to tenant misbehavior:

  • Pay Rent or Quit Notices. This is typically used when the tenant has not paid the rent. They give the tenant a few days (three to five in most states) to pay the rent or move out (“quit”).
  • Cure or Quit Notices. This is typically given after a tenant violates a term or condition of the lease or rental agreement, such as a no-pets clause or the requirement to refrain from making excessive noise. Usually, the tenant has a set amount of time in which to correct, or “cure,” the violation. A tenant who fails to do so must move or face the possibility of an eviction lawsuit.
  • Unconditional Quit Notices. This one is the most severe. They order the tenant to vacate the premises with no chance to pay the rent or correct a lease or rental agreement violation. In most states, unconditional quit notices are allowed only when the tenant has:
    • repeatedly violated a significant lease or rental agreement clause
    • been late with the rent on more than one occasion
    • seriously damaged the premises, or
    • engaged in serious illegal activity, such as drug dealing on the premises.

Unfortunately, after receiving notice, some tenants won’t leave or fix the lease or rental agreement violation. If you still want the tenant to leave, you must begin an unlawful detainer lawsuit by properly serving the tenant with a summons and complaint for eviction.

Notice for Termination Without Cause

The most common notice landlords use is a 30-Day or 60-Day Notice to Vacate to end a month-to-month tenancy when the tenant has not done anything wrong. Many rent control cities, however, do not allow this.

Tenant Defenses

In the case where the tenant chooses to defend themselves, get ready for delays. It may add weeks and  even months  to the process. A tenant will often point to errors the landlord or property manager made in handling the very specific eviction process, or their poor custodianship of the property, its upkeep and the timeliness of response to tenant complaints regarding repairs/issues.

Removal of the Tenant

If you do win the unlawful detainer lawsuit, you will get a judgment for possession of the property and/or for unpaid rent. But you can’t just move the tenant and his things out onto the sidewalk — trying to remove a tenant yourself can cause a lot of trouble. (For more information, see Nolo’s article Don’t Lock Out or Freeze Out a Tenant — It’s Illegal.)

All that said, evicting a tenant is obviously a BIG headache. Avoid it if you can.

No tenant screening process is fool proof but using these inexpensive reports and tools can sure give you a huge advantage in avoiding potential disasters.

Look at the average cost of evicting a tenant:

Court Costs: $80 +Attorney Fees: $150 + Rent Past Due: $1,500 + Damages: $1,000 + Cleaning/Rent $350+

= Average Cost: $3,083

By running an Eviction Search and possibly a Tenant Credit Report, for a total cost of under $20-$25 from most vendors, a lot of money, and aggravation could be saved. An Eviction Report searches for all eviction records by state or all states that match the tenant’s name and date of birth. The tenant credit report will show you any public records filed on the tenant such as judgments and liens. It’s important to run both reports as an eviction may not always be reported as a judgment or lien if the tenant was not found at fault. The Eviction report however will show that an eviction was filed. Some companies will even give you a free previous address report with your Eviction report to further corroborate the tenant’s activities

Remember: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Happy renting!

To learn more about evicting a tenant or ending a lease, visit NOLO. I’m a big a big fan of their unbiased free legal info.

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