I am going to start off by telling you that this topic is very touchy when it comes to people talking about it. I am going to attack this topic from the most neutral position that I, Mark Romer, possibly can. It is going to be hard to do seeing how I am a landlord. However, as with most of us, I have rented a house in the past. This will give me a unique perspective that many may not have.
The reason that this topic is so hard to talk about is that many people do not agree with evicting someone from their place of residence. However, you have to realize that you are living in another person’s house. They are allowed, by law, to take care of it and to be paid for the service they are providing you.
Before we get into the actual eviction process, we need to understand what exactly an eviction is. An eviction is the termination of a lease agreement by the landlord. That is it. In most cases, it is nothing personal. It is just business. While there may be some underlying reason the landlord does not want the tenant any longer, it usually is not the case. The tenant is doing or not doing something that they have signed a lease saying they will or will not do. To protect the landlord, we have been allowed to remove that person through and eviction process. That’s right, there is a process. Now, let’s take a look at that process below.
Understanding the Law
Before you even start the eviction process, you are going to have to do your homework. You cannot just tell the tenant to get out. Each municipality has its own set of eviction laws. Of course, there are major laws that exist. However, there are some nuances depending on where you live. Familiarize yourself with them.
To start, you are going to want to take a look at the Landlord-Tenant Act. Almost half of the states have accepted this as the foundation of landlord-tenant laws. Essentially, this will give you a good foundation for your knowledge of eviction. Additionally, you will want to read the specific laws to further your knowledge.
Above all, do not take matters into your own hands. Meaning, you are not allowed to do any of the following to your tenant, their property, or the rental property in question:
You cannot remove their property from yours. This means you cannot take the stuff from inside the house and put it outside. This will land you in a lot of trouble.
Likewise, you cannot physically remove the tenant from the rental property. In other words, you cannot grab them and throw them outside. This should go without saying. Sadly, it has happened, and we have to talk about it.
While it may be tempting, you cannot prevent the tenant from entering the rental property. This means that no matter how bad you want them out, you cannot lock them out of their own home. This would be done by changing the locks. Until you get a formal judgment, you have to allow them to enter the property as agreed to on your lease.
Should you have access to their utilities, you cannot shut them off. This means no “freezing them out” in the dead of winter.
In no way should you harass the tenant. I have heard a story of a landlord unleashing a family of skunks into the house in order to get them out. This is harassment and possibly more. You will find yourself in legal trouble if you do.
After you understand the law, you need to understand that you have a valid reason to evict them. Generally, this reason will be one of the following:
They fail to pay their rent on time. Keep in mind this can happen just the one time depending on the length of time since the last payment. Additionally, if they are constantly late, you will have grounds for eviction as well.
Any violation of the lease agreement is reason enough to evict the tenant. This can be anything from the above failure to pay all the way to subletting without permission. Some of the others include having pets when specifically instructed not to and smoking in the apartment that you do not allow it in.
Another valid reason is if they are causing a significant amount of damage to your property. This cannot be normal wear and tear. They have to be very destructive in order to get rid of them. Remember, you are permitted to do check on your property if you give the tenant the required warning ahead of time. This means no surprise inspections.
The last one I am going to mention is illegal activity. If you have proof that illegal activity is going on in the rental property, you can have them evicted.
In all of the above cases, remember you must have proof. In this country, we are all innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. If you don’t have the proof, then get it.
At this point, I am going to assume that you have taken all the required steps to validate the eviction. This means that you have enough evidence to take to the court in order to evict the tenant. At this point, you need to take the following steps.
Provide the tenant with the eviction notice. This notice should include the date and time to correct the problem or vacate the property. So, even at this point, they have the right to stay if they correct the problem. An eviction notice is not the end of the road. You will have to take additional steps if they have not fixed the problem.
If the problem you have is lack of payment, you need to make sure that the figure you provide them is the final number. Meaning, you will add up all the rent they have failed to pay plus any additional fees that they may have incurred. You cannot ask for this later.
This notice should be given about a month before you file the eviction paperwork with the court. This is not a definitive amount of time, but it will make you look better in the eyes of the court.
The proper way to serve an eviction notice is by taping one copy to the door of the rental property and sending the other copy by certified mail. This way the tenant cannot say that they never received proper notice.
All that is left is to attend court and get a formal judgment. After that, you will be good to go. I hope this has helped you to understand some of the things you are going to need to do in order to evict a tenant. It is a long and painful process. The best advice that I can offer you is to make sure you screen tenants better in the future. This will avoid having to deal with this kind of thing too often. I wish you the best of luck on this and any future endeavors.