Evicting a tenant from your house is never easy in any sense of the word. Serving an eviction notice is usually the last resort when dealing with a tenant for non-payment of rent or lease violations. After all, the eviction process is expensive and often an all-consuming process, eating up your precious time and resources.
Of course, there are many ways to avoid kicking someone out of your house. Some landlords offer payment plans to tenants who’ve fallen behind on rent in order to allow them to catch up on late rent. Other tenants may offer a cash-for-keys deal to get rid of a delinquent tenant fast. The reality is, though, evicting a tenant from your house will be unavoidable at some point for most landlords.
And, the question of how to evict a tenant from a rental unit has never been more prevalent than in 2021—which will likely continue into 2022. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, eviction moratoriums made it impossible to evict tenants for not paying monthly rent—but that has since changed. As coronavirus restrictions have ended and moratoriums are being lifted, it’s important to know how to evict a tenant from your house. Here’s what you should know.
Evictions have been on the rise now that the moratorium has ended
The federal bans on evictions ended in August 2021. Despite this, the legal actions for landlords across the country is unclear because while the federal bans have ended, many states and cities kept have kept at least some eviction moratoriums in place. According to numerous news reports, about 50% of tenants are still protected from eviction under some local or state moratorium.
Still, the statistics reveal that the number of evictions has increased in many cities throughout the country since August 2021. For example, eviction cases increased by 56% in Houston, with a 40% increase overall in Dallas and Philadelphia. Additionally, a website that tracks evictions in six states reported that since March 2020, over 75,000 evictions have occurred in Indiana.
For landlords living in states or cities with eviction protections still in place, the question about evicting is always top of mind. For example, many of these local eviction bans will end by 2021 or early 2022. There are only six states with moratoriums on evictions in place after July 1, 2022. These are:
- New Mexico
Of course, not all evictions were banned during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even in states where moratoriums are in place through 2022, you still have the option to evict an unruly tenant. For example, you can kick someone out of your rental unit if they are engaged in criminal or illegal activities or pose a physical threat to other people.
And after eviction protections end, tenants will still owe rent. In essence, all the bans do is postpone evictions until a later date.
How to evict a tenant after eviction moratoriums end
As moratoriums end around the country, evictions are likely to increase. In most cases, landlords will have to evict tenants who can’t pay the back rent debt that was amassed during the pandemic. That said, whatever the reasons for the eviction, if you decide to evict the tenant, you must follow the correct procedure to avoid any legal issues.
So, what are the proper steps to evict a non-paying tenant or to evict a tenant for other lease violations? Is it a good idea to accept partial rent payments from delinquent tenants? Here’s what you should know.
Step 1. Know the local laws
The first step is to read up on the current eviction laws in your city. Eviction bans may be in place despite the fact that there is no federal moratorium. Plus, certain eviction restrictions may apply to particular groups of renters.
Also, eviction and tenant laws differ from state to state, so it’s always wise to get legal advice. For example, in some states, landlords may be required to give tenants a 30-day notice before filing an eviction action. Other states require a 60-day notice. There may also be restrictions on evicting without cause, so be clear on what the laws are before making any moves.
Related: Ten common eviction mistakes.
Step 2. Determine if you have valid reasons for eviction
You must provide grounds for taking legal action if you want to legally evict a tenant. As such, you should review the tenancy agreement terms and make sure the violation is listed.
Common violations include non-payment of rent, not paying rent on time, and property damage. However, there could be other clauses, such as violating the pet policy, disrupting other tenants, or subletting.
Always be sure to have solid documentation to back up your cause for eviction.
Step 3. Issue an eviction notice
The next step is to serve proper notice of eviction. Most states require this before you start eviction proceedings at the local court.
There are typically three different types of eviction notices, which include:
- Pay rent or quit: The tenant must pay the due rent in the stated time period or face a lawsuit.
- Cure or quit: You give the tenant a short period of time to resolve the rent violation. For example, remove a guest who has become an unlawful tenant.
- Unconditional notice to leave: This type of eviction notice is for serious breaches of the rental agreement.
It’s also wise to remember that you can’t carry out a self-guided eviction. Taking actions like changing the locks or shutting off utilities to kick the tenant out are illegal.
Step 4. File an eviction lawsuit
The fourth step in evicting someone from your house involves visiting your local court. Typically, you must wait 30 days from when you serve the eviction notice to when you take action. However, you should always check with your local and state laws and get legal assistance if necessary. You must also provide the clerk with all your documentation, including a copy of the lease, payment records, and eviction notice.
Step 5. Evict the delinquent tenant
If the judge rules in your favor, you can then get your house—and your life—back. Hopefully, the tenant will agree to vacate the property without a fuss. If not, you need law enforcement officials to help you carry out the eviction. So, you’ll need to call the local law enforcement agency to forcibly remove the tenant.
After the tenant moves out, you may be entitled to claim unpaid back rent. However, before tossing any of the tenant’s items out, make sure you check your local laws first. For example, some states require you to store things for a time, while other states mandate that you get rid of the tenant’s items right away.
Should you accept partial rent payments?
In some cases, your tenant will try to make partial rent payments to avoid eviction. Unless you have agreed on a payment plan with your tenant to catch up on late rent, you should probably avoid any type of partial payment. In many cases, if you accept even a few dollars from a tenant, you will not be able to evict them for another 30 days. So, be sure to block partial rent payments as soon as you serve the eviction notice.
This is one of many reasons to avoid using digital wallets like PayPal, Cash App, and Venmo to collect rent—you can’t block partial payments.
Now that eviction bans have mostly ended, you may be considering the eviction of a non-paying tenant. If so, there are certain things that you need to consider first. Make sure you dot all of your i’s and cross all of your t’s before taking action, and always follow the correct steps to evict someone from your house to avoid ending up in court yourself over a wrongful eviction.
Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.