Telling a tenant "It's over." What do you do?

31 Replies

I'm always looking for good ideas. How do you tell a tenant their tenancy is coming to an end when they are in self denial about the gravity of the situation? Here are some things I've done to send the message "it's over", although not always successful in getting the results I wanted, but often amazingly effective. I might use these approaches prior to posting legal notices, or simultaneously while posting legal notices.

Say it simply: 

*"This isn't working for us."

*"If you can't pay, you can't stay."

*"Seems to me you can't afford to rent this apartment/condo/house any more."

*"Let's talk about a move-out plan."

*"It's time for you to move; please choose a better path for yourself than eviction."

*"If you do (or don't do) ______, we will do ______ on this date."

*"It's all about choices."

*"How's that working for you?" (borrowed from Dr. Phil)

Give them information: 

* "Rent Past Due" letter that restates the rental agreement terms, the current amount owed, and what will happen if they don't pay up. 

* Information sheet with ideas to help them round up the money they need to pay for rent and how to make paying rent a priority.

* Two page "Eviction Timeline" for Washington State that I printed from the Tenant's Union website. 

* List of resources that I printed from the Council for the Homeless website-- lists all of the charities, shelters, etc. in Clark County in Southwest Washington State-- you may find something similar in your locale. Let the tenant know they don't have to go this alone and encourage them to reach out to community resources.

Make it tangible: 

*Give them the "move-out packet", the same as you give for every move-out, with instructions for vacating the property and cleaning the unit.

* Set a large garbage can outside their unit and line it with 3 mil thick garbage bags (put a few at the bottom of the can and one liner in place). Let the tenant know as they fill the bags with garbage you will be glad to help them out by disposing of them. 

*Bring them moving boxes (obtained from local grocery stores prior to their breaking them down).

*Give them information about local self storage facilities.

"Give them information about local self storage facilities."

As in, you might be able to afford the rent to live there ; )

You've got a great list here. It's not an easy conversation to have, similar to firing an employee. It takes careful, considerate thought, and then just do it. 

Guess I'm not tactful enough. If I can't work with them there's a problem.  I just post the eviction notice.

I don't write any more letters or notes to them. If I see them I just ask, when will you be out? If that doesn't work I might just say "get the h3ll out!"

If I'm tossing someone out it wasn't some little issue or oversight or difference of opinion, it's hammer time! :) 

Originally posted by @Bill Gulley :

Guess I'm not tactful enough. If I can't work with them there's a problem.  I just post the eviction notice.

I don't write any more letters or notes to them. If I see them I just ask, when will you be out? If that doesn't work I might just say "get the h3ll out!"

If I'm tossing someone out it wasn't some little issue or oversight or difference of opinion, it's hammer time! :) 

There are certainly those times to just let the eviction process "roll 'em out". Although it takes some effort, it is less costly and easier for me if I guide the tenant to move out on their own. It's better for them too in the long run. This often results in less damage and a quicker turnover for the unit.

Actually, I've been pretty good at just convincing them that moving along is in their best interest and not going to court. I might say, "if we go to court, I'll be getting my money if my grandkids have to collect from yours!" Meaning I'll keep a judgment active until I die or they do or both of us are gone. I had a few who thought they had a case, turned out they didn't, sooner or later they paid. All of my issues were with the low-mod income crowd, you can only go so far with some folks.

Originally posted by @Bill Gulley :

Actually, I've been pretty good at just convincing them that moving along is in their best interest and not going to court. I might say, "if we go to court, I'll be getting my money if my grandkids have to collect from yours!" Meaning I'll keep a judgment active until I die or they do or both of us are gone. I had a few who thought they had a case, turned out they didn't, sooner or later they paid. All of my issues were with the low-mod income crowd, you can only go so far with some folks.

 This is spot on. I tell them they don't want an eviction on their record or a judgement following them. If it goes to an eviction and they're still in the property waiting for the Sheriff to lock them out, I'll tell them a bit about the process and how, once it comes to that, it's over and they need to have all their stuff out or it gets set on the curb. That gets most moving and out at least before the Sheriff lock out and saves a week or more. 

I've found the process similar to @Bill G. . By the time a tenant is facing eviction, or lease non-renewal, all the reasoning in the world has been covered. I've had several tenants who lost their jobs and/or rental assistance, and refused to leave. Actually, one did respond to the cash for keys scenario...she had been a good tenant, and when she got a job, her rental assistance was terminated and she was really hurting. We stayed on good terms and I gave her a good reference for another landlord a year later.

But usually, when a tenant digs in, they know the process and aren't too concerned about it. I just follow the eviction procedure. I explained it once in detail to a tenant, and she just said, "Do what you have to do". I actually think that's good advice.

I've done the same thing, explaining to the tenant exactly how it's likely to go. I'll sometimes add, I've never lost in an eviction case.  Note to Will Barnard, are you a Texas landlord, yet?

@Marcia Maynard  

To @Aly L's comment her tenant told her to "Do what you have to do",  in one place where we operate, the situation exists that a Tenant has a greater chance of being accepted into social housing if s/he are evicted for non-payment of rent.  As a consequence, such a tenant cannot be convinced to leave quietly.

@Roy N. has an interesting point. I recall now the tenant that accepted cash for keys was told by Catholic Charities that if she showed them proof of eviction, they would assist her. We actually did file, as well as write a letter to CC so she could have the paperwork, but they then denied her any funds. We canceled the eviction and gave her the cash, and she moved in with relatives until her job was able to fully cover her rent a year or so later. 

Originally posted by @Jon Klaus :

I've done the same thing, explaining to the tenant exactly how it's likely to go. I'll sometimes add, I've never lost in an eviction case.  Note to Will Barnard, are you a Texas landlord, yet?

 If you are referencing if I have taken down an apartment building, no I have not yet, but I have been a TX landlord over the years, just not at this time.

Originally posted by @Will Barnard :
Originally posted by @Jon Klaus:

I've done the same thing, explaining to the tenant exactly how it's likely to go. I'll sometimes add, I've never lost in an eviction case.  Note to Will Barnard, are you a Texas landlord, yet?

 If you are referencing if I have taken down an apartment building, no I have not yet, but I have been a TX landlord over the years, just not at this time.

I was partially referring to your DFW initiative, but also to how much easier it is to part ways with a troublesome tenant in Texas than in California. 

Originally posted by @Roy N. :

@Marcia Maynard  

To @Aly L's comment her tenant told her to "Do what you have to do",  in one place where we operate, the situation exists that a Tenant has a greater chance of being accepted into social housing if s/he are evicted for non-payment of rent.  As a consequence, such a tenant cannot be convinced to leave quietly.

I have a similar issue in one of my farms.  The muni has an assistance program of $1K cash for those in an eviction emergency.  There has to be a scheduled sheriff lockout to qualify.  So those tenants want to go all the way through the court eviction process in order to get the cash and then go sleep on someone's couch.  It makes it difficult to get cash for keys offers accepted.  Going all the way to a sheriff lockout gives the tenant almost 2 months of free rent and time to live in the unit.  My cash for keys offers compete dollar-wise.  But many tenants who don't want to move don't want the money as much as they want more time in the unit.

Originally posted by Aly NA:

I've found the process similar to @Bill G. . By the time a tenant is facing eviction, or lease non-renewal, all the reasoning in the world has been covered. I've had several tenants who lost their jobs and/or rental assistance, and refused to leave. Actually, one did respond to the cash for keys scenario...she had been a good tenant, and when she got a job, her rental assistance was terminated and she was really hurting. We stayed on good terms and I gave her a good reference for another landlord a year later.

But usually, when a tenant digs in, they know the process and aren't too concerned about it. I just follow the eviction procedure. I explained it once in detail to a tenant, and she just said, "Do what you have to do". I actually think that's good advice.

With some tenants there really is no working anything out.  They know the procees and fully understand the consequences.  They really mean it when they say "do what you have to do".  I've wasted so much time on tenants like this, thinking I could show them the light (especially when they have children) by working something out.  Now I spend the money to file the unlawful detainer as soon as possible.  I can always pull the case if they move or we come to a different agreement.  I now accept that a non paying tenant that doesn't respond to a quit or pay is going to cost me $500, no matter what the outcome.  

Honestly in this situation less is more. I would just send them a letter that we are not renewing there lease. K.I.S.S principle is probably best in this situation.

I like Brandon Turner's "cash for keys" approach.  He knows it costs him $2200 for the eviction process, so he simply offers them cash, if they will vacate within 3-days and leave the unit clean, when they do. 

Of course, as @Jon Klaus  points out, it's a lot easier and less expensive to evict someone in Texas.  So very kind of the Sheriff's office to help us out!!

The cash for keys is a great option that we typically use to get out someone who is not paying their mortgage. Interesting to see it here used the same way, to get them out, save you money, and its a win-win for everyone, especially if you have to go to court. 

Wonder why people feel they have a right to occupy something that is not theirs. I equate it to a car, you miss one month, they repo it the next. Its a lot harder when the building is bolted down. Has anyone repo'd a mobile home when they missed payments? 

$2200 to evict? Wow, I bet some LLs just pay a grand to Big Bob to take care of the light work......hehehe.

Obviously Texas is a landlord friendly state, any idea how florida and arizona compare?

The tenants who understand what eviction means, know the process and scoot before it goes too far are easy to deal with.  The tenants who know how to work the system and dig in intentionally get the hard boot.  It's the tenants who don't seem to get the point or who are in denial about the situation that are the most challenging for me.

Tenants who are really worried about getting evicted and want to prevent it are the good ones.  I agree, the "professional" tenants are the ones who abuse the system.

It cost us $111 each for our last two evictions.  You gotta love Texas.

Originally posted by @Marcia Maynard :

The tenants who understand what eviction means, know the process and scoot before it goes too far are easy to deal with.  The tenants who know how to work the system and dig in intentionally get the hard boot.  It's the tenants who don't seem to get the point or who are in denial about the situation that are the most challenging for me.

I've had a couple of those.  They are not trying to game anybody or any system. They really don't know or understand how an eviction goes down and/or they are in denial about being able to bring the rent current at the last minute. In both cases I worked with the mother/wife in the family and talked about the time frame, what a lockout actually is and how it works.  Your kids will come home from school before you are home from work and the police will not let you enter the property. Both times those women figured out what to do with a household full of stuff and where to stay and were gone before the scheduled date.  One even left the house free of trash and broom swept clean.

That being said, they were totally uncooperative and refused to work with me until it was too late.  They refused to negotiate cash for keys or set a move out date. I guess that suggests they probably were in denial.  But somehow they rallied once they knew what a lockout actually was. 

Even as inexpensive as it is to evict someone in Texas, I at one point was evicted.i was much younger and was to busy living the party, than paying attention to bills. But, my landlord at the time was very innovative.

His offer:

"Move out within 3 days, leave the unit clean and without need of repair. I will pay first months storage and for a moving truck. Please call me to take this option. 

If you fail to call, I will put your stuff to the curb, and change the locks while you are not in the unit, without any further notice!"

I was young and stupid, and did not know that he couldn't legally do this. But I did know at the time he could remove the door. So I accepted his offer, and avoided the eviction process all together.

"One even left the house free of trash and broom swept clean."  I've never seen anything close to this.  At least not in a full eviction. 

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