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My Botched First Eviction (Or Why You NEED to Study Landlord-Tenant Laws)

Nasar Elarabi
4 min read
My Botched First Eviction (Or Why You NEED to Study Landlord-Tenant Laws)

I’ll tell you about an experience that recently happened to me. It all started with this house I bought from an absentee owner who had a family member they did not want to evict. They could barely gain access to the house and had been telling the tenant to move for three years due to the fact that the landlord was planning to sell it — and, of course, he’d been receiving no payment or very little rent.

I was getting a smoking deal from the landlord, so I it was hard to turn down. I lined up some hard money and closed on the deal. Fortunately, the owner had the original lease they signed. The tenant was his first cousin. I did my walk-through before purchasing, and I asked the for the tenant’s phone number but he declined.

I closed on the house because I had a slam dunk deal. I picked up the deal for $25k and could probably sell it as-is for $95k. As soon as I closed the first week of May, I sent a 30-day notice to vacate the property. After about a week, the tenant called me. The owner had one request before selling me the property. And that was to look out for his cousin. I told him I would work with him.

An eviction notice taped to a door.

The First Issues

I asked the tenant to leave in June. Then, he called me back and asked if I could give him until the second week of July. I agreed to do that. I figured he’d leave the second week of July, it would take me about a week to sell, and I would be picking up a check in August. Well, the day he was to move out came, and I could not get him on the line. Of course, this was after he told me I could trust him. (I’ve never heard that one before!)

Related: 10 Invaluable Lessons I Learned From My Very First Tenant Eviction

It was business as usual, and I went ahead and filed an eviction on him. I had never done an eviction before — my rentals are managed by a property management company. I asked the clerk when my court date would be, and she told me. She also advised I would get a letter in the mail for the courtroom and time. That letter never came, so I went down there three days prior to get that information.

My Day in Court

I went to court, figuring the tenant would not show. Of course, he showed up. I thought to myself, “I’ve got this in the bag. No way could I lose this one.” The court started late due to people from earlier times running over. I watched everyone else’s court cases. Some of them were landlords getting screwed horribly due to them incorrectly filing paperwork. And in some cases, the landlord would have to wait until the new month to try to evict them because their case got dismissed the first time. I also noticed the judge wanted everyone to have prorated rent for that month.

For example, if I was putting him out for May and June, then I would need the amount he owed for that month up to the 10th because that’s what day it was. I was thinking to myself, “Math is not a strong point for me.” And the judge was clowning people and making smart remarks for them not being able to quickly calculate the correct amounts. For one guy, she rounded it off to the smallest number. So that’s what I did for myself.  Everybody went — I was the last one after about two and a half hours.


Taking the Stand

Then I went to the stand. I swore to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. The judge asked for my paperwork. I gave them everything I had, which was the lease for $500 a month and my 30-day notice. She asked for a form I was supposed to fill out and the courtroom, which I knew nothing about. She said, “Go over there and fill out [X] form.” I was looking for it and could not find it. She would not help me, either.

Related: 6 Reasons All Landlords HATE Having to Evict a Tenant

Finally, I said, “I got it over here.” I filled it out. Meanwhile, the tenant was saying the judge should throw out his case because I was unprepared. Fortunately, she did not.  The judge looked at my paperwork and said, “This 30-day notice is written wrong.” So she would not give me possession of my house. I asked, “What’s wrong with it?” She said it was written from beginning of cycle to beginning of cycle, whereas it was supposed to read from beginning of cycle to end of cycle. My letter gave him notice on May 1st to be out June 1st. It should have read from May 1st to May 31st. The tenant then stormed out of the courtroom and told me he was calling the city on me. I was still trying to ask the judge questions for clarifications and she advised me she was not my attorney.

In conclusion, this all could have been avoided if I knew my local landlord-tenant law. I hired an attorney and won the next time in court. I got possession of the house. However, I still ended up paying the tenant to move faster before the lockout. That saved me some money in interest payments. I hope you guys can learn from my mistakes.

Have you ever botched court cases because you didn’t understand landlord-tenant laws?

Let me know your experiences with a comment!

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.