Landlording & Rental Properties

5 Steps to Take After Evicting a Tenant (Plus, How to Prevent It in the First Place)

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Evicting a tenant is one of the worst tasks for landlords. Not only does it cost money and precious time to remove a tenant legally, but there is also a clean-up job to do. After evicting a tenant, you need to change the locks, make repairs, and likely remove a trail of trash the tenant has left behind—costing you even more time and money.

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According to Statista, more and more people are renting. In 2019, the number of renters in the U.S. topped 43 million and the trend keeps ticking upward. Of course, this is good news for landlords and aspiring rental property owners.

However, with the rise of residential rental housing, there’s also a rise in eviction rates. A Princeton University report on the number of evictions found that annually in the U.S., around 3.6 million eviction cases are filed in local courts. From these, 1.5 million cases result in successful evictions.

Unfortunately, this process will likely become much more common in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

Let’s examine all the things landlords need to do after a successful eviction. You’ll also find out how to avoid having to evict someone in the first place. However, before any eviction takes place, you need to follow the proper eviction procedures.

Related: I’ll Never Evict a Tenant—Here’s Why

How to Start the Eviction Process

To evict someone from your property, landlords must act in line with the law. Even if the tenant refuses to pay rent or there’s evidence that they’ve damaged your property, you’ve got to do things by the book. DIY evictions are out of the question.

According to Cornell Law School, there are three primary reasons to evict a tenant. These include:

  1. Non-payment of rent
  2. Significant violations of the rental agreement
  3. The lease has expired

Usually, you need to give notice of eviction—for example, for non-payment of rent, you can serve a written “Notice to Quit.” The tenant either pays the rent or they leave the property. But if the tenant has repeated violations, you can serve an eviction notice.

Ultimately, only the court has the power to force a tenant out of a rental property. But after the court rules in your favor and serves the termination notice—what next?

What to Do After Evicting a Tenant

After the court serves an eviction order, one of two scenarios can take place.

In the best-case scenario, the tenant gets their stuff together and moves out. They leave the rental unit in good condition, hand back the keys, and you both part on pleasant terms. You can now breathe a sigh of relief and put the nightmare behind you.

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

Unfortunately, if you’ve had to take the tenant to court to evict them, things rarely go smoothly. If the renter refuses to leave, you need to arrive with someone from the sheriff’s department. The sheriff will oversee the removal of the tenant and their personal belongings.

After you have gotten rid of the delinquent tenant, it’s now time to get the property back into shape for your next tenant. What should you do after you’ve evicted the tenant?

Here are five crucial steps to take.

5 Steps to Take After Evicting a Tenant

1. Change the locks.

Changing the locks is the first step to take after taking back control of the rental unit. And it would be best if you changed the locks the moment the tenant vacates the property—not the next day or the day after. You never know how many copies of keys the tenant made.

It’s also crucial to remember that you can’t change the locks before the court orders the eviction. Preventing the tenant access to the property in a “self-help” eviction is illegal. In the end, the tenant could sue you for wrongful eviction.

2. Check for and document any damage.

Due to the nature of evictions, it's not usually possible to inspect the property with the tenant. Evictions are the end of a long and soured landlord-tenant relationship. If tenants know an eviction will happen, they may cause damage to the property. So, make sure that everything is in working order after the tenant leaves.

If there is damage to the property, you can take this out of the tenant's security deposit. However, you'll need to send an itemized list of the damaged items, cleaning costs, and unpaid utilities. You are entitled to keep part or all of the deposit to cover expenses related to the breach of contract.

3. Repair the property

After evicting, there is usually more damage than regular wear and tear. Getting the property up to a rentable standard may require extensive repairs. In some cases, you can tackle small tasks; in other cases, you may need to hire contractors.

4. Clean the property.

The next step is to clean the property thoroughly. This is usually vital even when a responsible tenant moves out. So, after getting rid of a troublesome tenant, cleaning is always necessary. But remember that a clean property will attract better tenants in the future.

5. Thoroughly inspect everything.

The last step is to do a thorough inspection of the rental unit. Ensuring that everything is in working order and functional will help make certain that future tenants are happy living there with no complaints.

How to Prevent Future Evictions

As the adage goes: prevention is better than cure. So, successful landlords always try to avoid evictions, if at all possible.

Here are some ways to help prevent evictions in the future:

  • Screen and interview prospective tenants thoroughly. Remember—it’s easier to reject a tenant’s application than to get them out once they live there.
  • Develop excellent landlord-tenant relations. If you have a good working relationship with tenants, they are more likely to respect you and the property.
  • Keep the property well-maintained. This will attract a higher caliber of renter.
  • Encourage tenants to pay rent on time. You could use a property management app or offer bonuses for regular rent payments.
  • Consider cash for keys. If a tenant is in breach of contract and you want them out, try offering a “cash for keys” arrangement—it’s cheaper and less time-consuming than an eviction.

The Bottom Line

Evictions are sometimes inevitable. After the eviction, it’s vital to ensure that you get the best tenants in your property. Ensure you always carry out thorough screening to reduce the risk of going through an eviction process in the future.

Questions? Comments?

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Remen Okoruwa is the co-founder of RentDrop, a free software tool that helps landlords and property managers collect rent and maintain their units. Remen has ...
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    Gerald White
    Replied 24 days ago
    Great information thanks for the heads up.
    Victoria Seale from Santa Fe, New Mexico
    Replied 23 days ago
    I recently bought a 4-plex, and I inherited 2 tenants. This seemed like a good thing. 2 units occupied so rent coming in. All tenants paying below market rate, and they were notified that the rent would increase by $100 and water/sewer/trash would be passed thru to them. The problem tenant has been there 12 yrs, and he is in his mid 60s so I didnt raise rents dramatically. He was on a month to month lease, and after I purchased the property, the property manager offered him an annual lease. He wouldn’t sign. Now I’m glad he didnt sign. He is an alcoholic and quickly became belligerent, rude, and profane with me and the property manager. He didnt get that an annual lease was a good thing for his own protection. He has been given notice that he must be out at the end of September, but he wants to see the judge. I hope he doesnt do damage if the eviction goes as it should. Lesson learned, interview existing tenants to see if they are worth keeping. Before purchasing another property, part of the deal was for 2 guys who’s apartment looked like a crack house to be evicted.