Rookie Podcast 104: Rookie Reply: Do I Need a Lawyer to Evict Tenants?

Rookie Podcast 104: Rookie Reply: Do I Need a Lawyer to Evict Tenants?

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Real Estate Rookie Podcast

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This week’s question comes from Dan on the Real Estate Rookie Facebook Group. Dan is asking: For those of you that have gone through the eviction process, did you go it alone in small claims court or did you hire a lawyer? 

While Tony (thankfully) doesn’t have experience evicting any tenants, Ashley has had to evict multiple out of her personal investment properties as well as from properties she managed when she was a full-time property manager. She describes the multiple ways you can evict a tenant, all of which will rely on the situation the tenant presents you with.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Hire an attorney if you are inexperienced with tenant evictions
  • Use small claims court to get back rent or payment for damages
  • Offer cash for keys if you are unable to legally evict at this time
  • Understand that many tenants will pay or leave once they receive an eviction notice
  • And Much More!

If you want Ashley and Tony to answer a real estate question, you can post in the Real Estate Rookie Facebook Group! Or, call us at the Rookie Request Line (1-888-5-ROOKIE).

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts.

Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

Ashley Kehr:
This is Real Estate Rookie, episode 104. My name is Ashley Kehr and I’m coming to you live from the BiggerPockets Headquarters with my co-host, Tony Robinson.

Tony Robinson:
And for those of you that didn’t listen to last week’s episode, we are fulfilling one of Ashley’s bucket list items by recording talk show style here live at BP HQ.

Ashley Kehr:
Oh, let me just pick up my coffee cup and take a sip.

Tony Robinson:
But yeah, we’re here in Denver for a couple of days. Ash and I are hanging out with the crew here. Every couple of months we try and come out and just spend some time. We’re literally as far away from each other, I think as you can possibly get on a map. So it’s nice to be able to get together in person every once in a while.

Ashley Kehr:
Yeah. And we’re working on some really exciting things, maybe some more in-person events, all kinds of different content to really just get as much real estate investing knowledge out to you guys and finding the best ways to get it to you. And we love everybody here that works at headquarters. They are awesome and we have a great time every time we get to come.

Tony Robinson:
We’re not here today to talk to you guys about how much we love BiggerPockets. We’re here to talk to you guys about real estate investing. We’ve got a question from the Facebook group today. Today’s question comes from Dan Rodriguez. And Dan’s question is, “For those of you that have gone through the eviction process, did you go at it alone in small claims court or did you hire a lawyer? The local court has advised me of the next steps needed. I’m just wondering if I have to spend the extra money despite already being at a loss with this problem tenants.” Dan also goes on to say that this tenant already has a warrant out for his arrest so he thinks that maybe just doing it himself might spur some action from the tenant. So I’ve actually never had to evict anybody before. Ashley, I think you’ve got some lovely experience with that so why don’t you tell us your experience and how that went for you.

Ashley Kehr:
Okay, well first I’m going to say that when I worked as a property manager, I had no experience at all. I had nobody to guide me. I was learning everything on my own. And so it came up that I had two evictions and the investor I was working for, he’s like, “Oh, you can do them yourself. Just figure it out. You can do it. We don’t need to hire an attorney.” So it’s a very small town and the town judge made me cry because I messed it up so bad. I brought the paperwork in and the tenant is there and she’s saying, “This date is wrong. This should have been served at this time,” and blah, blah, blah and I’m trying to hold back tears. I was so upset and she’s like, “Case dismissed. This is going anywhere.” Well then the next case was right up with the next tenant and before the tenant came in, she’s like, “I’m just going to tell her case dismissed. I’m not going to go through all the things that you did wrong.” So that was my first experience with doing an eviction. So after that-

Tony Robinson:
Wait, can we pause really quick? So these are the kind of stories that as a rookie, you don’t always get to hear. This is good to share because I think people see you and they see Ashley as this very successful, you’ve been killing in the game for a long time, but they don’t see the steps and the struggles you had to go through to get there, right?

Ashley Kehr:
Yeah, I’m crying now just thinking of it. So I did some more research. I talked to a couple attorneys and I figured out that going with an attorney is the best route, at least in New York for me. And so the next eviction I had to do that actually went all the way through, working for apartment complexes. It was very frequent that we would serve a notice that we were going to evict if they didn’t pay and a lot of times that threat enough scares people to pay. And then when they actually get a court date, a lot of times they would pay before the court date actually came up. And then if they got a court date, then they would usually pay at core or they would end up just leaving and having the money owed back to us. So for my own personal properties, I’ve had to do two evictions. And the first one was the first property I ever purchased, which we talked about a couple episodes ago.

Ashley Kehr:
This property was actually an employee of my partner at the time on this property. And we started the eviction process and we used an attorney and we went to court and they didn’t have the money to pay so a judgment was placed against them. So the judgment is for 10 years, so if they ever try and sell something that they own, the proceeds of that would have to go to us to cover the judgment if there is any money from that. We have not seen anything and it’s been five years maybe, but from there they had trashed the house and they moved out on their own. We didn’t actually have to have the sheriffs come and serve them the eviction papers after the court date. They moved out, left a lot of junk. But about a week later, I saw them in the Verizon store buying a brand new iPhone and the guy just like waved at me like, “Oh, hey, how are you?” I was in such disbelief. I’m sure my jaw had dropped open and [inaudible 00:05:00] like, “You owe me all this money and here you are buying an iPhone?”

Tony Robinson:
Priorities. Priorities. But I think you bring up a good point though, Ashley is that the first time you did it, you tried to go at it alone which is totally fine because some people, they can do that and they can swing and it works for them, but obviously that didn’t turn out how you wanted it to that first time.

Ashley Kehr:
Yeah. And I didn’t save money or the investor that I worked for didn’t save money by having me do it. It would have been faster and probably cheaper because the people would have been evicted and we wouldn’t have to wait until the next court date for the attorney to do it. So that was a big lesson to me is sometimes, even if it seems like more money upfront now that it’s actually worth it in the long run than trying to figure it out yourself.

Tony Robinson:
So Dan’s question, he said, “I’m already at a loss with this tenant.” So he’s thinking about just this one tenant, but my question is, Dan, if you have plans to scale your portfolio and maybe it’s just one house, maybe you want 50, maybe you want 100. Does it make sense from that perspective to invest a little bit of money in hiring an attorney to show you the actual process so that way maybe the next time it comes around, maybe then you don’t have to do it because you’ve been trained and coached and you know the process. But if your goal is to scale, maybe don’t think on the micro level of this one tenant, but just the macro level of your entire portfolio.

Ashley Kehr:
And for the attorney that I use now, it’s just as simple as emailing him a copy of the lease, a detailed report of their accounts showing what’s back due, and then they take care of the rest. I don’t have to do anything until the court date. And luckily I’ve only had one other eviction I had to do where the actual sheriffs had to come, but I had an attorney handle all that and it was pretty easy breezy. So I would say it’s definitely worth the investment to hire an attorney for an eviction to get it done right the first time. And then Dan had also mentioned small claims court. So in small claims court, if you’re not actually doing the eviction and you’re just going after them for the judgment, for the money, that is a way simpler process. You can actually just go to the clerk, the court clerk, and there’s a form and you fill it out and then it goes to the judge and then they set a court date. But that is a lot simpler process than actually having to do the eviction paperwork.

Tony Robinson:
Got it. So Dan, hopefully you got some value out of that, brother. Sounds like hopefully Ashley gave you the do’s and the don’ts so you know which way to go.

Ashley Kehr:
Did I scare you? [crosstalk 00:07:22]. We don’t want to see you crying in court, Dan.

Tony Robinson:
So, hopefully you got some buy out of that, brother.

Ashley Kehr:
And just one thing to add to that too, if you really don’t want to do an eviction, you don’t want to hire an attorney, you can do cash for keys. I’ve seen this pretty common, especially since COVID when there aren’t any evictions that you can do are people offering the tenant cash. If you move out on this date, we’ll come here and we’ll give you $500 and in return, you’re all moved out and you give us the keys and then you just terminate the lease between each other too. So it seems that’s becoming more and more frequent that investors are using that because that may be cheaper than waiting until you can do evictions or until you can get a court date or paying for an attorney. So that’s always something to look into too.

Tony Robinson:
Love it. I got nothing else to add, Dan. That was great.

Ashley Kehr:
So when Tony gets a squatter in one of the short term rentals, he’ll know what to do. Well, thank you guys so much for listening. I’m Ashley @wealthfromrentals and he’s Tony @TonyJRobinson, and we cannot wait to see you guys at BP Con in New Orleans this year. So make sure you guys have your ticket and we’ll see you there in October. Have a great week.

 

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