How To Evict a Tenant
This guide will take you through the eviction process, and will give you the steps necessary to properly evict/kick out a tenant from rental property. Note that we are not lawyers and the aim of this guide is to provide general guidelines. Contact legal counsel before proceeding.
Important notice to landlords in California, Florida, and New York: You will have extreme difficulty in evicting tenants in these states. These states are notoriously tenant friendly, and you may not be able to evict. Please contact your local landlord association or attorney before even beginning the process.
Evictions: The Process is Part of being a Landlord.
If this is your first time having to evict someone, don’t bee to hard on yourself. Evictions are simply part of the process of being a landlord. Even great tenants sometimes have issues. Your job is to be sympathetic but firm. In other words, pay or get out.
While it may seem harsh, at the end of the day, your job is to make money from your rental properties. Letting someone stay in your unit rent free is a surefire way to lose your shirt in the real estate business.
Don’t get me wrong – it can be really depressing to evict a tenant whom you have a relationship with. But sometimes, you don’t have a choice. And when it comes to being nice or making sure you get paid, you need to get paid.
The eviction process starts with having a valid reason to evict a tenant.
Let’s get started:
How Eviction Laws Work
Eviction laws are different from state to state (see our above notice, for example). More so, eviction laws can even be different by county. Some counties enact ordinances or requirements that may make it more difficult then the minimums set by the state.
Because evictions are a legal issue, it’s important that you start from a solid legal basis. We recommend using a lease agreement that is written by lawyers, designed specifically for you state. Your local landlord association or real estate broker may have a standardized set of lease agreements for you to use.
If you’ve used a custom lease agreement, it’s important to take a few minutes and make sure that the lease you used will allow you to evict your tenant. Otherwise, you may lose your case in eviction court when the time comes.
You Can’t Just Throw a Tenant To The Curb
As much as you’d like, you can’t just kick the tenant out after they’ve violated their lease. These type of evictions are illegal and unlawful and may completely wreck any attempt at actually getting the tenant out.
Specifically do not:
- Enter the tenant’s property without consent
- Remove their property to the curb before being awarded an eviction by the court
- hire someone to physically remove or intimidate the tenant
- change the locals on the tenant’s apartment
- shut off utilities (electric,gas,water,heat,etc)
- Harass the tenant in any way or form (stink bombs, loud music, etc).
Remember that evicting someone is a legal process that can take time. If you act rashly or outside the scope of this process, you can seriously harm your case in court.
Do you have a good reason to evict someone?
You can’t evict someone just because you don’t like them. You need to have a legitimate, legal reason for attempting to evict a tenant.
Typical good reasons for evicting a tenant include:
- Not paying the rent
- Doing something against the lease/rental agreement (pets, airbnb, criminal activities, drugs etc)
- Damaging the property
- Breaking local ordinances such as noise, occupancy or health codes
- Causing harm or danger to other tenants
Make sure you have proof (the more, the merrier), so you can prove your case in court.
Should you try and talk to your tenant?
This is a good question. It really depends on the situation, why you need to evict, and what the rental market is like in your area.
For example, in a soft rental market, where you may not be able to get another tenant, attempting to reason with a tenant who is a bit behind on the rent might make sense.
Conversely, in a strong market, you probably can afford to be much stricter with your tenants.
Generally speaking, it’s best to have a written process in place and enforce it equally among all your tenants. Otherwise, you open yourself up to both Fair Housing lawsuits, and the possibility that you may lose your eviction case as well.
File an Eviction Notice or “Notice to Quit”
Once you’ve decided you want to evict your tenant, you need to provide the tenant with an eviction notice. In legal jargon this may also be called a “notice to quit”. Below we’ll provide a general guidelines of eviction notices, however it’s important to note that this process varies greatly by state.
How to File an Eviction Notice
- Include a deadline to pay or move out.
- Include amount owed, including fees.
- Make sure you provide ample notice before the actual eviction. This differs from state to state and can be anywhere from 3-60 days!
- Provide a copy to the tenant, and make sure to send a copy certified mail with return receipt requested via US Mail to provide proof.
At this point, the eviction process has formally begun.
Hopefully, your tenant will “cure” the issue by paying the rent or making repairs, but sadly that’s not often the case. Now the clock starts ticking, and once the specified time has passed, it’s time to file in local court.
How to File an Eviction Notice in Court
The next step is to go to your local court, and file the eviction paperwork. If you’re a bigger landlord with several units, you may have an attorney on retainer who does this for you. In some states, you must file eviction with an attorney. In other states, you can file yourself.
Go to the appropriate court or their website, and ask the clerk for the paperwork necessary to file an eviction. At this point the clerk will issue a summons, and your tenant will need to show up in eviction court.
(Bonus:If your tenant doesn’t show up, then you win the case by default!… Usually.)
Getting Ready for Eviction Court
Assuming your tenant hasn’t already flown the coop, then it’s time to go to court and win your case.
Bring as much documentation as you can, including:
- lease agreements
- bounced checks/failed credit card or debit payments
- communication records (emails, phone, letters, text)
- any other proof for the eviction (pictures of damages, police reports, complaints, etc)
- a copy of the notice provided to your tenant
- proof that the tenant received your notice, with the date.
The court will usually decide at the time of the case.
If you’ve won, then read on.
Evicting the Tenant
Once you’ve won your eviction case, you can now evict your tenant.
If your tenant hasn’t physically left, you can go the local sheriff or bailiff who will help you evict the tenant. In general, it’s better to have the law do this for you. Eviction processes have been known to get violent, so you’re best making sure a professional gets them out if they haven’t already.
How To Get Good Tenants
Alright, your eviction is done. Hopefully it won’t happen again. Here are some helpful hints to help you get better tenants:
- develop a better screening process – did this tenant have a bad record?
- check for previous eviction processes. Often they may be in several states. Sometimes their filed as unlawful detainers.
- Run a thorough employment and credit check – can the tenant really pay the bills?
- Nervous? Demand a qualified guarantor.