How to Know When to Evict, Press Charges, Or Swallow Your Pride

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If you’re an active real estate investor, there is very little chance that every renter or buyer you work with will be 100% headache-free. Prudent real estate investors perform multiple checks on anyone and everyone over 18 years old looking to move forward on their vacant investment property for rent or for sale.

The fact that you or your property manager will be dealing with both great and mischievous tenants, tenant buyers, and buyers is a great and wonderful thing. This is because the fact you are dealing with renters and buyers means that you are actually investing in real estate and have potential investments/homes for your customers.

Whether you are investing in mobile homes or mansions, people are people. Your renters and buyers almost always do what’s in their best interest. A renter’s credit history, rental history, criminal history, and work history may likely predict this renter’s future. While this article is not about how to prescreen and work with potential renters, tenants, or buyers, we will be discussing your options if and when anyone ever defaults in making payments.

Related: How to Evict a Tenant: The Definitive Step by Step Guide

How to Know When to Evict, Press Charges, Or Swallow Your Pride

Repayment Plan

If a tenant defaults and does not make their monthly payment to you, then you are in the driver’s seat, and it is your responsibility to contact the tenant and alert them of the coming eviction or a possible repayment plan, or to ask when they plan to vacate the property.

  • Good tenant: If a renter has been paying on time, kept the home clean, and lets you know in advance if late, then by all means, you and your renter will want to establish a clear and logical repayment plan for the amount due plus late fee.
  • Bad tenant: If a renter has been giving you headaches, paying late, and occasionally breaking other parts of the lease, than it may be wise to simply use this last late payment or no payment as the catalyst to finally remove the occupants.


Pro Tip: Experience teaches that many repayment plans are slippery slopes. Many times if a renter or tenant-buyer needs to create a repayment plan, it is only a matter of time before this resident defaults completely and must move out. In contrast, realize that bad things happen to good people; if your renters start showing effort and keep their repayment plan current, this is a good sign they are serious about keeping the home. While we almost never want an eviction for any of our residents, it is important to act quickly and take immediate action if/when a resident misses his/her payments or simply defaults.

Pre-Eviction Process

The pre-eviction process is the point where you post a 3-day to 10-day notice on the residence’s door instructing them to pay or vacate the property. I wanted to make a separate note of this step because over the years, many tenants have made it clear that they do not want to be evicted from the property or have an eviction filed on their record. This demand letter is oftentimes the wake-up call needed for a renter to pay or pack up. In many states this 3-day to 10-day demand letter is necessary to start the filing of a legal eviction.

Pro Tip: Make sure to always know how your lease agreements, sale agreements and addendums read with regard to late payments, defaults, and evictions.


In many counties, and depending on how the property is owned, the owner of record can simply walk into the local courthouse with paperwork they filled out and pay a fee to begin a legal eviction removing the occupants from the home.


Over the years I have only had to perform a very small number of evictions. Many renters or tenant-buyers will not want an eviction on their record. Most renters in default will leave your home clean and in a timely manner with kind words, a few days’ worth of time left, and even a little cash to see them on their way.

Pro Tip: Many investors will have a higher than needed sympathy for their residents. Oftentimes we can delay an eviction weeks or months longer than we should because we simply want to continue giving our renters the benefit of the doubt that they will pay, treat us right, and stay in the home. Remember that you are running a business, and if an occupant cannot pay, then they cannot stay.

Press Charges

Did your renters or tenant-buyers leave your home damaged or destroyed? Do they still owe you hundreds or thousands of dollars? Were your renters or tenant-buyers vindictive or personally angry with you or your company?

Related: 8 Crucial Items Every Landlord Should Bring to an Eviction

Over the years I’ve come to find that by treating people fairly and listening to their concerns, you will rarely take a property back in worse condition than when you sold it or rented it. If you do receive a property back in worse condition than when you rented it or sold it, then the choice is yours to press charges for damages or simply move along.

Pro Tip: Always aim to get current employment information and bank account information from your occupants. If a judge settles in your favor, you can oftentimes garnish wages if you know where an ex-occupant works.


Swallow Your Pride

In almost every situation, whether good or bad, there is something to be learned, some silver lining to take from every lesson. Whenever we sign legal papers to sell or rent our investment properties, we may incorrectly assume that everything will go according to plan. This is not always the case. As investors, we create value, we make profit, and we learn from our mistakes (and the mistakes of others).

If you decide to press charges on an ex-renter due to damages or an amount owed to you, then make sure the time, money, and mental energy is worth the fight. Besides the monetary compensation, your understanding of why this happened, what fault you are at, and how you can prevent this moving forward is oftentimes the biggest value gained.

In conclusion, with proper due diligence and thoroughly screening all of your buyers, renters, and tenant-buyers you can eliminate the vast majority of your future headaches. I would much rather keep my property vacant for an extra month than have a high-risk occupant in the home causing me frustrations and possibly damage to my investment home. Make sure you are properly prescreening every adult who lives in any of your investment homes. A person who has had outstanding rental history in the past, good credit history, and no evictions will likely be a low-risk and smart choice for you to rent or sell to.

Investors: Have you ever had to make the hard decision of whether to work with your tenants or evict?

Let us know with a comment!

About Author

John Fedro

Investing since 2002, John started in real estate accidentally with a 4-bedroom mobile home inside of a pre-existing mobile home park. Over the next 11 months, John added 10 more mobile homes to his cash-flowing portfolio. Since these early years, John has gone on to help 150+ sellers and buyers sell their unwanted mobile homes and obtain a safe and affordable manufactured home of their own. Years later, John keeps to what has been successful—buying, fixing, renting, and reselling affordable housing known as mobile homes. John shares his stories, experiences, lessons, and some of the stories of other successful mobile home investors he helps on his blog and YouTube channeland has written over 300 articles concerning mobile homes and mobile home investing for the BiggerPockets Blog. He has also been a featured podcast guest here and on other prominent real estate podcasts, authored a highly-rated book aimed at increasing the happiness/satisfaction of average real estate investors, and spoken to national and international audiences concerning the opportunities and practicality of successfully investing in mobile homes.


  1. Terrence Arth

    Hello John, Nice topic. I’ve only had one eviction and that was like, oh during the last century. I learned that tenant stories sound good. Whether they are valid or not is another story and that is for each of us to decide. I learned the most important lesson in Math I ever got. Apparently if your take-home pay is 2.5 or 3 times rent and you fall behind while accumulating other bills, it gets nearly impossible to pay rent, past rent and late charges. Who knew? End result was I burned 3 months rent trying to collect 1. Insist they pay rent ad NOT pay electric, cable, internet etc. They can get funds from city, county and state agencies plus churches and charities for necessities. If they agree to turn off cable, they probably have a legit story. If they don’t, maybe Breaking Bad is more important than their unit.

  2. Lauren H.

    Great article. I’ve only been an owner-investor for 3 years and I’ve run into both good and bad tenants who don’t make their payments on time. For me, it has helped tremendously to establish a set of policies to follow in order to handle these situations objectively. My most useful policy has been this:
    -Always post the required notice even if they are great tenants and keep communication open. If they have a good history, be lenient. If they don’t, get the eviction complaint ready.

    I’ve had one awesome tenant pay late because the VA did not pay him on time. I believed him and just waited. The money eventually came, but not until well after the notice period was over. I had one tenant that I had to evict. His personal habits showed that paying rent was not a priority for him. Evicting him was my best course of action. It cost me 6 weeks unpaid rent, court costs and moving costs. A new policy I put in place after he rented from me is that I do not rent to anyone who is unemployed, no matter how much money they have in the bank or good references supporting them.

  3. Darren Sager

    Great article John! I have in my lease that the tenants agree ahead of time to me sharing information to third party reporting agencies about their tenancy. So if they don’t pay, or I have to file, I’ll share that info with either credit agencies or tenant screening companies like NTN. It lets them know that what they do will be public info and can seriously effect them going forward. As Andrew said, “people will be people” and things do happen. Still, this is a business and we have to look out for each other. Thanks for writing this up!

  4. Mark Beeson

    Ok, I’m guilty. Thought I was fairly smart to have a property manager find a tenant for me for 1/2 first months rent. Nice well meaning tenant but now 3 months behind. I get it; if they can’t pay they can’t stay. Eviction notice going on door. Is it reasonable to expect the tenant to pay back rent after they are evicted? Thanks, Mark

    • Irmina Cummings on

      I have read these post from real estate investors and yes it is a business, i get that in which it goes hand in hand. You provide for your customers. And yes SOME tenants are negligent but not all. I AM A TENANT and i am in aw reading these post. We as tenants responsible tenants want our monies worth! Some of us, myself NEVER see or speak with the landlord. So how can you run a business not knowing who you are servicing. Its all about the money and not satisfaction for most of you. If youre paying $800 or any amount of our money to make your business flourish WE should be satisfied and you wouldnt have to worry it goes hand and hand. Then you have these legally binding papers for some to cover you in your default. Ive never met my landlord and feel it would better benefit me and my family to buy a home that will eventually be ours. We all want something in life, but because of a lease and oh sparks flying out of sockets, a gas and electric bill, a water leak on top of other issues with his house. We would be in default. AND HE KNOWS ABOUT THESE ISSUES AND THE REALTOR. But i guess cause its a business we have to continue putting money into your pockets. NOT JUST AT ALL WE WORK HARD AND SHOULD BE 100% SATISFIED. WE MAKEYOURBUSINESS WITHOUT US WHERE WOULD YOU ALL BE!!!!! UNEMPLOYED

  5. Tara Gallagher

    I have a question and appreciate any advice you can provide. I have a tenant who is difficult. When he moved in he brought a huge commercial vehicle which is not allowed on the property. He stored a bunch of his machinery equipment in the garage without permission. He has been attempting to enter the other tenants residences and one has had to tell him to stop bothering her. I have given him warnings about moving his truck, equipment and not bothering the other tenants but he isn’t responding to my messages or phone calls.
    How do I handle this situation? I think he is causing a lot of problems on this property.
    Thanks for the advice,

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