Eviction Education: My Cost – $3403.99, Today’s Special – Free!

by | BiggerPockets.com

Your mistakes are your tuition.
Eiji Toyoda

Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.
Mason Cooley

If you are a landlord, no matter how well you screen for tenants, you will eventually have to go through an eviction.  When I started investing in real estate, it was 3 years before I had my first eviction.  Anyone who has gone through an eviction knows that it can be a painful, tricky and expensive process.  Therefore, it is important to make sure you understand the eviction process in your area before you need to.  If you don’t, your education will be expensive.  My eviction education cost me $3383.99, but if you act today, you can have it for the very low price of FREE!

My lease has the following terminology related to rent.

RENT, ADDED RENT: The rent payment for each month must be paid on the first day of each month to the landlord.  The landlord need not give notice to pay the rent.  Rent must be paid in full without deduction.  The first month’s rent is to be paid when the tenant signs this agreement.  Rent checks returned for insufficient funds shall be subject to a $25.00 late service fee, in addition to a $20 returned check fee.  The tenant(s) shall be responsible for the payment of a late charge of $50.00 for rent not paid on or before the 5th day of the month for which the rent is due.  Said late charge is deemed to be added rent payable by the tenant(s) to the landlord under the terms of the agreement.  It is the tenant’s responsibility to get the rent to the landlord on time.  If the tenant(s) sends a check for the rent, it must be post-marked by the fifth day of the month in order to avoid being charged a late fee.  The tenant(s) must send rent checks to the landlord at the above address.

In case I need to take a tenant to court, it also has this clause.

COSTS AND ATTORNEY FEES: Tenant(s) shall pay the actual amount of all reasonable costs and attorney’s fees incurred by Landlord in connection with successful action to enforce the Landlord’s rights under this agreement.

Download Your FREE Tenant Screening Guide!

Hey there! Screening tenants can be a tricky business, and this critical step can be the difference between profits and disaster. To help you with your real estate investing journey, feel free to download BiggerPockets’ complimentary Tenant Screening Guide and get the information you need to find great tenants.

Click Here For Your Free Tenant Screening Guide

Eviction Education Cost Breakdown

Date Cost Activity
September 5th ($730.00) Did not receive tenant’s rent.  She told my father she had an issue with her checking account.  He gave her the benefit of the doubt, but each week she said she would have it, she had another excuse.
October 5th ($730.00) We still had not received September rent and now did not receive October rent.  Decided it was time to evict and posted 3 day notice on the tenants door.
October 18th $0.00 Finally had paperwork filled out for the court for the eviction.  The court was only opened 1 day a week, so we had to wait until it was open to pick up the paperwork.
October 24th ($20.00) After taking a week to figure out how to fill out the paperwork and waiting for the court to be open, we finally filed the eviction paperwork with the court and received a court date of November 7th.
October 26th ($50.00) Paid Sheriff to serve eviction paperwork to tenant.
November 5th ($730.00) Tenant did not pay November rent.
November 7th $680 Tenant did not show up to court, so we received a verdict of $1480 (September Rent + October Rent + Late Fees + Court Fee).  We are able to then keep the security deposit of $680.
November 9th ($104.92) Sheriff served warrant to tenant.
November 16th ($12.07) Tenant did not move out, so Sheriff removed tenant from property.
November 17th ($327) Tenant leaves the property a mess and with damage.
December 1st ($680) Being December, it is difficult to find renters and the apartment sits vacant.
December 12th ($20.00) We go to small claims court for November rent + property damage.  Tenant does not show up and we are awarded $1173.99.
January 1st $680 We approve a tenant to rent the property, but they can’t move in until February 1st.
February 1st $0.00 New tenant moves in!
Total Cost ($3403.99) Final amount of money that we lost out on as a result of this tenant.

Even though we were awarded a total of $2653.99 from the courts, we have yet to collect a single dime.  The tenant does not have a job, so we cannot garnish their wages.  We had verdicts filed, but who knows if we will ever see that money.

Lessons Learned

 1. Don’t Delay Starting the Eviction

Evictions take time.  The longer you wait, the more money you will lose.  Much better to start the eviction and pay the $20 court fee and cancel it when the tenant pays (their $50 late fee covering the court cost) as compared to waiting and incurring most lost revenue.

2. Understand the Eviction Process

We did not know how to do an eviction before we needed to.  As a result, it took us longer to determine how to fill out paperwork.  We also didn’t realize the court was only open one day a week, so it took us longer to get the paperwork filed.

Related: Evictions – Can You Do Them Yourself?

3. An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

Tenant screening is important.  We do a pretty good job of screening, but this experience reinforced the importance of that.  We follow the basic process explained in Tenant Screening: The Ultimate Guide.

Hopefully this story has helped save you some of the trouble and costs that we’ve spent on this eviction. Be sure to leave a comment below letting me know your worst eviction stories!

Photo: Bart Everson

About Author

Tom Sylvester

Tom is a serial entrepreneur and real estate investor from Rochester, NY. His real estate investments primarily target multi-unit properties. Along with his wife Ariana, they run a blog called Entreprenewlyweds, which helps couples understand how to manage being real estate investors/entrepreneurs while also maintaining a great relationship and family life.


  1. It’s good to read these doses of reality. I fear it would drive away people that think a mutual fund is the answer. But people that aren’t willing to take the effort to get into real estate don’t deserve the benefits.

    • Tom Sylvester

      I agree Greg. Real estate investing can be very profitable, but it is not as easy as the gurus make it out to be. You can definitely build a successful business and eventually remove yourself, but that takes a lot of hard work. Things like evictions are a reality and the people who don’t understand the process and plan for it will be the ones that get the expensive education.

  2. it costs me at least $2500 just to turn over a house for the new tenant…. i can’t imagine how much more it would cost me for an eviction. i hope to never find out.

    great article and very good breakdown..

  3. Brandon Turner

    Great post, Tom! Thanks for sharing this. I just went through the same situation, and am losing about the same amount – though my losses are more from the repairs than anything. It sure can be rough – and shows just how important screening is, and how valuable “Cash for Keys” can be.


    • Tom Sylvester

      Thanks Brandon. I know there are mixed feelings on here regarding “Cash for Keys”. I’m on the side of not doing it, but to each their own. I believe in paying things forward, so if I can put an eviction on a dead beat tenant’s record to alert a future landlord, I will do it. Additionally, I cannot get over the fact of paying someone who does not fulfill their end of the deal. Maybe it is stubbornness, but I would rather pay for each any every eviction than to pay a tenant who did not pay me. Hopefully my future lessons in this arena cost me less.

    • Love this technique! Cash for keys! Along with the “speech”. “(Insert tenant name here), You are an honest and good man/woman. I don’t want to take you to court where I will get a judgment because we both know you owe rent. You don’t want the judgement showing up on your credit report, along with late fees and court costs and time lost at work. I’ll make a deal with you, Ill give you x dollars if you move out by x date. You must leave the premise how you found it when you moved in, and no junk inside then leave me the keys. That’s the deal. I know you will do the right thing!”

      • Tom Sylvester

        J – I do think there is merit to raising someone to a level to allow them to raise themselves to it ” I know you will do the right thing!”. Do you pay them once they are out of the property to make sure they move out? What if they don’t move out, then is your eviction delayed?

        I do not do this, but it would be good for others that may be interested in it to hear.

  4. For some reason all newbie landlords have to learn this lesson, and I guarantee your warning will go unheeded.

    Yes, I learned this lesson many a time, as you will also, this is not going to be the last time you make this mistake. The next time will be when you take a leap of faith because you just need the cash flow.

    Today my much smarter wife noticed this happens every time I get busy with my day job, and don’t have the time needed to lord over my tenants.
    She finally made me realize, if I had put these properties with a management company from the beginning the loses of rent over the years would have made the management fees look like peanuts.

    • Tom Sylvester

      Dennis – I think most newbie landlords learn this lesson because they do not treat their investing like a business. I know I didn’t when I started. Most people involved in business know the importance of identifying and mitigating risks, as well as defining processes and procedures for various situations. If people do not do this, then the 2 quotes at the start of the blog will ring true every time.

      It is great that your wife noticed some of the risks in your business and you guys made that decision. One of the things that I am working on now is defining the process/timeline for having an attorney do this eviction for us. It looks like using an attorney, even with the additional cost of an attorney, will cut this lesson down to 1/4 – 1/2 the cost for us.

      I also work a full time job and own a wine/liquor store, so the only way to make it all work is to define the processes and delegate. My day job can get crazy as well, so it is important to have things defined and delegated so that my business does not suffer when I get pulled away.

  5. Over thirty years, I’ve never had to evict anyone. However, I have friends in Boston who say the courts always rule in favor of the tenants -who have very sad tales to tell. So it can take close to a year to evict. No one ever expects to be reimbursed, but it would be nice to move in a paying tenant.

    • Tom Sylvester

      30 years, that is a great track record. Congrats!

      I know some areas are tenant friendly, but a year for eviction seems crazy. One thing I recommend that landlords do is get intimately familiar with the law relating to eviction and what rights the tenant/landlord each have. Some areas favor the landlord, but most tend to favor the tenant (from my experience). By knowing that, one can better prepare themselves and make sure all of the steps and documents that they take are in order.

  6. Very helpful article Tom! I’m looking to purchase our first rental property soon. Now have a to- do item to understand my city eviction laws and put procedures in place to deal with this type of issue. Thanks

    • Tom Sylvester

      You are welcome Allan and that is exciting that you are getting started. Do you have a place in mind or are you still looking? One thing I would recommend is to post in the “Real Estate Deals and Analysis” forum. I did this when I was preparing for my first property and received great feedback.

      Good luck!

  7. Thanks for the post. It reinforces many of the things I have learned here and incorporated into my business (especially the Don’t Wait rule). Another one – Understand and accept that people lie.

    • Tom Sylvester

      There are a few quotes that I have on my monitor “Keep moving forward” “Think holistically, work incrementally” and “What is the next action”. These are constant reminders. I’m tempted to add “Don’t Delay Starting the Eviction”. Even though these are few and far between, it is such an important concept.

  8. There is some outstanding advice in this article. I work for a property management company with a lot of houses plus a lot of commercial property. I get a number of calls from tenants every single month “explaining” the reasons they cannot pay the rent on time this month. Many of them make you feel sorry for them – you would have to be totally heartless not to feel bad for some of them. Some of them start getting crazy after the same relative passes 4 or 5 times! ( I keep detailed notes in my computer).

    I always thank them for letting me know the rent will be late because I do appreciate knowing. I always explain to them that I still have to follow our policies, which means in our case that we always send out the 7 day letter on the 7th day. Tenants quickly learn from your actions whether they can get away with paying late! Always follow your lease to the letter. If you promise a 7 day letter on day “whatever” send it!

    This is business and it is your money. Giving a tenant the benefit of the doubt will only make you feel like a nice person UNTIL they never pay another penny and you are now a month or two or three down the road.

    Then you are mad that you trusted them. You have no rent, you still have to get them out, probably have to clean the place up and then try to get it rented again.

    • Tom Sylvester

      I love this line ” Tenants quickly learn from your actions whether they can get away with paying late!”

      That is really the key. If you start out firm with your actions, tenants learn upfront what they can get away with and what they can’t. For me, this starts from the first phone call.

  9. mine was a bit more painful.
    I believed that they will come through just to find out that they went on vacations (over 4-5 months) with my money.
    my cost after all expenses was about $5500.
    the only thing I learned is DONT DELAY.

  10. Eviction are caused by not screening, if you have to spend any time in court you need to blame yourself.

    Clean up your act,

    Success is planed, any fool can fail, playing with borrowed money.

  11. Sam – While screening is an important aspect of preventing evictions, it is not full proof. There are things that sometimes are not found while screening. Or a tenant’s situation can change and cause issues.

    I agree that we made a lot of mistakes, which is the reason that I shared this story. I learned from it, and I hope others can learn as well. Sharing knowledge and learning about how to be better investors is why this site exists.

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