Evictions aren’t simple. In fact, landlords often find there are several unexpected loopholes that they have to hurdle. The process can be extensive, stressful, and sometimes unfruitful. However, it’s possible to remove a problem tenant if certain essential criteria are met.
Entering the process, it’s important to know what kind of obstacles you, as a landlord, are likely to encounter. While all cases are (typically) different, there are common threads that unite them, and it’s important to draw what lessons you can from the landlords who have attempted the eviction process before you.
You Can’t Evict Every Tenant
Tenant laws are powerful. They are put in place to protect renters from unruly landlords, but often the laws backfire and prevent landlords from removing tenants who might be doing harm to the property. Landlords are often surprised to find that certain criteria that would seem to qualify for eviction in fact don’t. For example, in many places, living in a state of filth does not qualify a tenant for eviction, even if it seems like it should.
Take a look at SmartMove’s landlord guide to normal wear and tear; according to this guide, you will find that the definition of “normal” is actually rather broad. Everything from faded carpet to scuffed wooden floors can be considered normal deterioration, and your tenants have no legal responsibility to fix these issues. This can be frustrating, because when a renter is doing damage to an apartment by letting it fall into disarray, it can dissuade other potential renters from moving into the building.
Eviction is a Lengthy Process
Like almost all legal proceedings, evictions don’t happen overnight. Once you’ve submitted the proper paperwork and notified the tenant of your intentions, what often follows is a drawn-out dispute that can go to court. Make sure that if you’re going to follow through with your eviction threat, you’ve researched the criteria and determined that you will be able to soundly make your case.
Often, renters will attempt to paint the picture of their living conditions in such a way that their eviction would seem unfair. Appeals of this kind can also extend the eviction process. The more time you spend embroiled in an eviction dispute the more money you will end up spending on legal fees, and if the renter is doing damage to the property then that extra time also means extra money spent on repairs.
File Notices Quickly
If you do plan to evict a tenant, act quickly. It’s in your best interest, and, if you’re acting in good faith, the best interest of the tenant to get along with the proceedings. By acting slowly, you will end up spending a lot of unnecessary money and keeping both yourself and the renter in a state of limbo. Your primary goal should be to remove the problem renter and replace that individual with someone more reliable. Don’t delay that process.
Some landlords aren’t exactly sure when to file notices, and the answer is simple; the moment the renter violates the lease. Especially if the renter is someone who has had a history of lease violations, chances are that their behavior will continue.
Don’t Act Rashly
It can be tempting, especially when you’re dealing with a problem tenant, to take strong action against them. Examples of this might be shutting off utilities, changing their locks, or removing their stuff from the property. Do not do this. We repeat: do not do this. In almost every state, taking matters “into your own hands” is illegal and can backfire.
As LegalZoom explains, pushing out a tenant may mean breaking the law. Many landlords who snap and decide that the tenant must be removed immediately will end up breaking various laws that will, in turn, allow the tenant to stay. The best course of action is to act calmly and with a measured hand. Take the appropriate legal action swiftly and without any rashness. It’s in your best interest to do so—anger on your behalf will only be met by an unruly tenant, and things can get ugly for absolutely no reason. Take the high road.
Evicting a tenant can be a difficult process, but there are cases where it’s absolutely necessary. If you’ve found yourself in this situation, make sure that you take the appropriate legal steps while conducting yourself professionally. This will allow the situation to come to a tidy resolution.