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How to Evict a Tenant Without Losing Your Mind

by Paula Pant on April 30, 2014 · 8 comments

  

Today we’re going to talk about that subject that no one likes to discuss.

It’s the topic that no one even likes to think about.

It’s so miserable that, well, we would all feel better if we pretended that it didn’t exist.

I’m talking, of course, about evictions.

One of the sad realities of being a landlord is that no matter how well you perform your tenant screening, and no matter how good of a manager you are, there is always a chance that you might have to evict one of your tenants. This sucks.  There is no gentle way to say it. It just totally sucks. The media unfairly portrays landlords as being greedy, heartless misers. But in reality, the vast majority of us are compassionate human beings who hate to put our tenants out on the street.

As a human being, on a purely emotional level, we feel their pain. But we also have mortgages to pay.  We have tax bills and insurance bills and repair and maintenance costs and management fees. We just can’t allow people to live in our houses for free.  Besides, if we did allow that, we would be unfair to all of those hardworking tenants who pay their rent in full and on time.

What reasons might you have for evicting your tenant? Failure to pay the rent is one of the most common reasons, but in addition you can evict your tenant for:

  • Destroying the property
  • Violating the law (for example, if you suspect that your tenant is selling illegal drugs from the property)
  • Disturbing other tenants (for example, if the tenant is frequently throwing loud parties)
  • Hosting unauthorized tenants or sub-tenants (for example, if only two people are on the lease but there seem to be eight people living there)

What should you do if you have to endure an eviction?  Here is my three step process for how to evict a tenant.

1. Learn the Landlord Tenant Laws in Your State on How to Evict a Tenant

Pretend that you are back in high school or college, and you’re about to take a massive final exam in which you will be quizzed on every detail of your state’s landlord tenant law.  Study it with that degree of discipline and scrutiny. You should have done this already, by the way.  If you’re a landlord, you should know your state’s landlord tenant laws like the back of your hand. But take a moment to review this carefully so you can make sure that you don’t make any missteps.

2. Document, Document, Document

Over-document everything.  Take photos, take videos, make duplicate copies of every form.  Send everything through certified mail, and make copies of all of the confirmations.  Backup all of your data into a cloud service like DropBox, so that in case your hard drive crashes, you can still access all your records.

3. Ask Landlords in Your Area to Recommend a Good Eviction Company

In many cities across the U.S., you’ll find companies that specialize in handling evictions.  These are referred to as eviction service companies.  They are incredibly knowledgeable about the eviction process and local eviction laws. They also often tend to have close relationships with the police marshals and the sheriffs in your locality.  After all, this is what they do, all day, every day. They can handle the service for you, so that you can make sure that everything is being processed “by the book.”

You don’t want a judge to throw out your eviction because of some type of “i” you didn’t dot or “t” you didn’t cross.

Local real estate investors in your area should be able to recommend an eviction company that they’ve worked with before, so ask around.  If you don’t know any local investors, Google the name of your state plus the words “real estate investor’s association,” or Google the name of your city or state plus the words “eviction services companies.” Yes, you can handle the eviction yourself, but remember that you’re dealing with a highly regulated legal proceeding.

If you overlook some small detail regarding the proper procedure and format, then the eviction might not be granted.  You’ll have to start the process over again, and that will take up even more time. And when you’re not receiving the rent money, that time is incredibly expensive. Furthermore, using an eviction service company will spare you from many, many hours of frustration, headaches, and anxiety.  I would gladly give somebody a few hundred dollars in order to substantially increase my peace-of-mind.

The bottom line is that evictions are never fun.  They stink for both parties; the landlord and the tenant. But using a professional eviction services company can help you minimize both your risk and your frustration.  

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex Craig April 30, 2014 at 7:05 am

You’ll keep yourself up at night if you make it personal. As Michael Corleone said “it’s just business.” Or you follow the advice of Vito Corleone and “make them an offer they can’t refuse.” Meaning you can offer cash for keys. Figure out what the cost for eviction is, and offer them that amount or slightly less. While this may be hard to do from “what is right perspective,” it will get these deadbeats out of your life much quicker and your property rent ready quicker too.

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James April 30, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Alex, so you are actually suggesting paying a deadbeat tenant to leave. Interesting and innovative. That might be a good idea given waiting a year to get rid of a deadbeat would be a lot more expensive. I’m just curious…how would that be coordinated? I mean, if you ask them to move for $1,000 and they do; couldn’t you say, well I lied and I’m not going to pay you any money?

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Alex Craig May 1, 2014 at 11:49 am

James — yes–it very hard to give money to an individual who has been stiffing you on rent. On the inside, you want to go to court and really stick to this dead beat tenant. However, if you are able to offer him an amount to go ahead and leave, then as hard as it is to do, you may actually save money. What we done before is have our eviction attorney draw up a letter stating that the tenant is voluntarily giving up possession of the home. So you would make an agreement with tenant to give you back the house without further damage and if they do, in exchange for their signature of this document, you will give them cash to get out. Consult with your eviction attorney as laws may vary from state to state.

In your example, if you were do get them out and have them sign the doc, then tell them “I lied”, you could get sued by the tenant and get in trouble with your local Real Estate Board, not to mention if the tenant decides to go to the press. The press is always looking for some liberal who has been wronged by the “greedy Real Estate mogul!”

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James May 1, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Alex, good information. It’s amazing to me that someone who has broken their lease by not paying rent, has any rights to the property and if I lied to get them out, that should be commended. Speaking of lawyers, I think ‘Judge Judy’ would see it my way, but that is not reality and in a lot of states, tenants really have ALL of the rights, with the mean, greedy landlord at the mercy of the courts. I hope that I never have to cross that bridge, but it is always good to be prepared…just in case. So far, in ten years, I have never had any legal problems, but I screen my prospective tenants and reject them often, so that I can get the best. What I have found is, if I rent to people who have something to lose, like their own reputation, excellent credit score and their aversion to being found on a public records site for eviction, they will do whatever they have to, to maintain their good name. I like these people! Again, thanks for your reply!

Alex Craig April 30, 2014 at 8:22 am

BTW — great post. All very useful info and unfortunately something that most of us will need to use someday.

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Sharon Tzib April 30, 2014 at 8:46 am

That’s why being in a landlord friendly state is so important. In Texas, you can have an eviction completed in about 3 weeks. Those are the kind of states that make a real estate investor’s life much easier!

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Lisa Phillips April 30, 2014 at 10:05 am

Paula, great article! I love the notes on how not doing this right means you have to start over. Also, advice on eviction companies is great! I will use this as a resource when going into new towns and cities, to find out through a conversation on how eviction works for that locality. Good post.

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James April 30, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Paula, this is a well-written and very thorough article. Thank you. I am going to save it “just in case” I have this situation. I really like your suggestion about storing documentation in DropBox. One never knows when a hard drive will crash. In WI it can take up to one year to get rid of someone and deadbeats know it. That is why screening tenants is going to be your best friend in the end. Thanks again.

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