Self-Help Evictions: What You Should NEVER Do as a Landlord
Now, I have to admit that there have been several times where having the ability to “help” myself to an eviction, especially while using a forklift, might have crossed my mind, but better judgement seemed to always prevail.
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The first question that should be crossing your mind is: “Is this even possible”?
The short answer is YES! The longer answer is that in the residential world it isn’t, but in the commercial world it is possible. Obviously this guy didn’t get the message. I would bet huge sums of cash that most landlords reading this article have had similar thoughts of creative ways to evict, even if they won’t admit it!
What is this self-help eviction thing?
Based on specific wording in your lease agreement, when a tenant has defaulted on the lease (this default is usually for not paying rent), the landlord, with proper notification and within specified time frames, can evict the tenant without having to go to court.
Regrettably, this works sometimes in the commercial world, but you would be putting yourself in severe jeopardy, as the guy in the article did, to pull this trick in the residential word. With that being said, it amazes me how often landlords put themselves in jeopardy by taking actions, that for all intents and purposes, look like self-help evictions.
Here are a few examples of things that you should NEVER do as a landlord
- Lock the tenant out of the property. This is a big NO-NO. By locking them out you are depriving them of the use of the property, and so long as a court has not agreed that they can be evicted and said eviction has occurred, locking a tenant out of the property will not end well for you.
- Remove tenant belongings prior to an official eviction. Again, the courts look at this as you obstructing the tenants right to live in the property without harassment from the landlord. Even if the tenant has moved out prior to a scheduled eviction and they have not turned the keys over to you, don’t remove anything from the property. First the courts will not view that as a prudent move, and you can bet the tenants will claim that their uncles very expensive Rolex was in the property the last time they, the tenant, were there.
- Do not turn off the utilities. Again, this action will be viewed by the court in very unfavorable terms — for you!
- Do not intimidate or harass your tenants. While there may be a fine line that exists regarding this scenario, remember that just because the tenant is violating the lease, (most likely not paying the rent) doesn’t mean that you now have carte blanch to make their life miserable.
Remember… every action you take regarding a tenant must stand up the scrutiny of a judge — more so in today’s world than at any other time. Unfortunately, landlords are by the very nature of what we do, often judged to be the bad guys!
Self-help is not a good thing! Don’t give your tenants extra ammunition that could end up with you spending time in jail, and if you don’t believe that is possible, you are only fooling yourself. Just ask the guy in the story above.
Best of luck!
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Photo: Elvert Barnes