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Landlord Resource Center

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What if I need to evict a tenant? How do evictions work?

An eviction is a legal action to expel a tenant from a property. There are central reasons (or tenant behaviors) that are considered cause for an eviction.

WHEN SHOULD I EVICT A TENANT?

The two categories that necessitate an eviction are nonpayment of rent and violating the terms of the lease.

Nonpayment of Rent

This one is pretty straightforward. There are steps you should take when a tenant stops paying rent, and if the tenant doesn’t pay their rent, you can evict them.

Violation of the Terms of the Lease

Every lease is different, but there are some that suffer more violations than others. The most common infractions occur with unauthorized pets, unauthorized occupants, illegal subleasing, improper use of the property, and nuisance behaviors.

Unauthorized Pets
The occupant has pets when the lease prohibits them, has more pets than the lease allows, or has a type of pet that is restricted by the terms of the lease.
Unauthorized Occupants
Often a lease requires all occupants to be listed on the lease. When a tenant has long-term guests or undocumented occupants, this is a violation of the terms.
Illegal Subletting
The lease may state that only the lessee is allowed to live on the property and subleasing to a third party is not allowed. When a tenant sublets the property without the landlord’s knowledge, this is cause for eviction.
Improper Use
Lots of people work from home, and most of the time it isn’t disruptive to other tenants or the property. Sometimes, however, the tenant is running a commercial venture out of their home for which the property was not intended. For example, a tenant is using their apartment as a manufacturing facility is grounds for an eviction. More serious infractions include damaging the property and engaging in illegal activities. When a tenant engages in any of these behaviors, it is grounds to begin the eviction process.

WHAT IS THE EVICTION PROCESS?

Every state sets forth a procedure for legal evictions. These procedures make it even more important for landlords to have accurate record keeping and accounting systems in place so you can document tenant behaviors. Check your state’s rules for landlords and property managers. The eviction process usually begins with notifying the tenant of their termination of tenancy. If the termination is before the end of the lease, there must be legal cause for the termination. If the tenant won’t pay or won’t leave, then the property owner files the case in court. Getting on the court docket can take some time, and tenants can ask for a later court date or a jury trial which can delay the process considerably. Once the case gets to court, if the landlord has followed the proper legal procedures and had cause for the termination, then they will likely be awarded the property back from the tenant along with a cash judgment for the unpaid back rent. From this point, the tenant has ten days to either pay the back rent or vacate. If neither happens, the sheriff comes to put their belongings outside and lock the property. Often, the best route is to find an attorney that has experience with dealing with problem tenants and handling the eviction process.

HOW CAN I AVOID HAVING TO EVICT TENANTS?

Background Checks and Diligent Screening

It’s impossible to know exactly how a tenant will behave once they sign a lease, but you can learn how to choose the right tenants and screen more carefully.

Assert the Terms of Your Lease

It’s good to be compassionate when a tenant comes to you in a crisis, unable to pay rent. However, in our experience, making an allowance often results in the tenant falling further and further behind and eventually having to be evicted. In the meantime, the property is not generating income for a prolonged period.

Come To An Agreement

Try to find compromise and resolution where it’s reasonable. For example, if they have unauthorized pets, you can evict them or come up with a lease addendum, collect a pet deposit, and increase the rent.

Hire A Property Manager

If you are comfortable having a difficult conversation with tenants and backing up your lease terms with assertive legal action when needed, you are in good shape to handle an eviction. If you have had trouble doing this or you think this is outside your skill set, you may want to consider hiring a professional property manager who has experience both with screening tenants and keeping daily oversight of the property.