Evicting Tenants

Evicting Tenants

From time to time, tenants won’t work out. Some lose jobs and can no longer pay; others turn out to be irresponsible and a problem at the property. No matter what the reason, when you’re not receiving rent payments as promised, this is serious and you need to act.

No one likes evictions – not you and not the tenant. But rules are rules. You agreed to provide the property they live in; you did. They agreed to pay each month on a specific date; they did not. This is about as black and white as a contract violation can get, and that’s exactly what non-payment is – a contract violation.

You have the law behind you when you go into court over a contract violation such as non-payment of rent. However, the goal of any landlord is to keep the property filled, so it’s hard to accept that you need to throw a warm body out of the property. But if the tenant isn’t paying rent, how do you pay the mortgage, the taxes, the insurance, and your own bills?

Never delay beginning the eviction process for a number of reasons:

    • When you act quickly, the tenant knows you are serious. Some tenants have not had rules enforced before. They need to know that, with you, the rules are to be followed and you will enforce them.
    • Letting the tenant get behind does not help your tenant. Especially early in your landlording career, you will want to be forgiving and will want to work out solutions for the tenant who has run into some “difficulty” that has prevented on-time or in full payment. Recognize that the further behind the tenant gets, the harder it is to catch up. If a tenant pays fourteen days late, he or she has only fourteen days before the next in full payment is due. What are the odds this tenant will have the full amount again that quickly?
    • If you make arrangements to do some sort of work-out with the tenant, document everything and keep the eviction process going in case your tenant doesn’t live up to his or her end of the agreement.

Stop the eviction process only with payment in full. For example, we explain all the additional fees that will accrue once the process has begun. These include the late fee, court filing fees, and processing fees as allowed by our state for the time and effort we spend in the process. If the tenant wants to stay, he or she may bring all of these monies to us at any time in the eviction process in order to stop the eviction and stay in the property. We never, however, stop the eviction process without payment in full.

Everyone who signed the lease agreement is considered a responsible party. This is anyone living in the property who is 18 years of age or older. Oftentimes, this also includes co-signers, such as parents of college students. You want all lawsuits, including evictions and attempts to collect past dues, to name every one of those residents.

Keep the communication going.

You do have options and I hope this is obvious. If you have a good tenant, you certainly want to work with this person. We manage properties for other people and have hundreds of tenants, so we prefer a “this is the company policy” approach. However, if you have very few properties and own them all yourself, you may choose to do a more case-by-case operation for eviction.

Consider:

      • Problem tenants are the ones you consistently have to chase, month after month, for their rent. It’s not as if they don’t know they need to make this payment every thirty days.
      • It’s most important to be strict with the process when a tenant is new. Set the precedent early that you stick to the rules and expect the same from them.
      • Communication is vital. When you can’t get a hold of the tenant, this is the time to act. It’s amazing how many times over the years we’ve been unable to contact a tenant, but once they receive a letter from the court saying an eviction process has begun, we hear from them.
      • Is an “emergency” truly an emergency situation or an ongoing pattern?
      • Will your tenant be able to catch up, or has the situation changed, meaning you need to help them transition to a less expensive property?
      • Is the tenant doing as promised, especially when you’ve agreed to work out late payments? If he or she promises to bring in all past dues including late fees by the 15th, but shows up with only half, it’s most likely time for this person to move on. Delaying further will only lead to more frustration for both parties.

For more landlording information, check out my book The Essential Handbook for Landlords on Amazon. How is your eviction process working?

This post has 2 Comments | Would you like to leave a comment?

2 Comments

  1. Thanks, Jim! I hope it’s been helpful.

  2. Excellent article. Good tips!

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