My first eviction!

31 Replies

I have my first eviction in Milwaukee and was hoping to get some insight on what to expect

  • Previous tenant vacated 12/1 
  • New tenant moved in 12/20 - paid Dec prorated rent and a deposit
  • Tenant paid January rent
  • Mid January tenant complained of bed bugs.  Her lease says she is responsible for extermination costs but we had pest control come out twice to deal with the issue and were going to take it from her SD.  The entire apartment is hardwood, no carpet or cloth material was left behind from previous tenant.  Previous tenant moved into another unit of ours and has never complained of bed bugs.  This building has never been serviced for bed bugs since we bought it in July
  • February - she did not send it rent or notify us that she wasn't sending in rent.  When we asked where rent was she said she was withholding it because of the laundry and storage costs associated with the bed bugs.  We gave her a 5 day notice, and then she asked for a few extra days to find a shelter.  We gave her another 5 days, then she says apparently she is handicapped, and she lost her job, and she just had surgery and wants more time. We say no 
  • We gave her proper 12 hour notice to show her unit and she refused.  We gave her proper 12 hour notice again and we legally entered her apartment and showed it to a prospective tenant.  We then informed her that we have rented the unit for March 1 and she says she is going to pay us Feb rent with her tax return.  We said we need all of February rent by the 25th and March rent is due by the 5th or we will give another 5 day and start eviction.  She does not pay.
  • We inform her that the unit is rented and she needs to vacate, if she stays past February 28th she will be responsible for Feb and March rent plus the costs of extermination and court costs.  She refused to leave so we are going to court

Besides her lease and extermination bills, what sort of documentation do I need to bring?

What questions will they ask me?

Anything else I need to do?

Luckily, Milwaukee is landlord friendly.  The rent is only $600 and the extermination was $220 so I might be out $820 (I have a SD for 1 month) but I really want to do this myself as I have never had an eviction. So I see it as worst case scenario it is a $820 learning experience.  

Glad your state is land lord friendly. I have been there, what you are going through. Best of luck, ma'am. 

No experience related to evictions in Milwaukee, but from my experience in court in our landlord friendly jurisdiction, judges are only interested in facts as they pertain to law, specifically... landlord-tenant law. They will ask the tenant if rent was paid or not. They will review the documents related to the service of the legal notices to make sure notice was properly served. Dates and events. Not interested in the background stories. Less is more; document and show facts, be truthful and concise. Court is quick, judgement in quick. Have your documents in order. Most tenants don't show up... they lose, you win. If you get a money judgement, take it to collections as soon as you can. Hard to collect, but will add more to the tenant record to be found by the next landlord... if they look. 

If you have the time, I would go to your cities magistrate court one morning as an observer. It will give you an idea of the temperament of the judge, what they want to hear , what they don't want to hear, how documents are presented, and in what form. It's like a Cliff's Notes for the actual process. Nothing beats an in person experience though, and it's easier to observe when you don't have anything at stake. Hopefully you'll never have to go through this again, and maybe she won't even show up, and you'll have a default judgment. Then, don't forget the marshals fee and the actual move -out expenses . Here, you have to have 4 people on standby when the Marshall serves the eviction.

Bonus: I guarantee you'll be entertained, at the least, hearing what deadbeat tenants say when questioned by the judge. 

Judge: did you pay rent?

Tenant: I was going to pay rent.

Judge: but did you pay rent?

Tenant: I planned on it!

cut to two more exchanges like that; then

Judge: Judgment for the plaintiff!

Next:

Judge, I order you to vacate the premises; do you need some time to move?

Tenant: yes your honor; it will take me at least 3 months to find a place.

Judge: YOU HAVE 3 DAYS!

@Marcia Maynard  -  Good to know!  I have all the proper documentation so I am not worried.  

@Matt Sicignano  - That is a really good idea.  I wish I would have thought of it sooner but I live 2 hours away and if we file Monday we should have a court date this week so I may not have time

Can't really help you other than, consider yourself morally supported.  Good luck.

Make sure you have all the necessary paperwork to bring to court.  

Hi Brie nice to meet you my name is Sky-Mikesell here in charlotte it is also landlord friendly... 

judges here and most places just want facts.   as long as you have a copy of the lease and any other correspondence as required for notification purposes according to your state then you will be fine.     common question.    

in hearing you the only thing that would concern me is how little the bed bugs have cost .. our experience with bed bugs is we have never paid less then $1k  to get a house properly treated and the only proper treatment legal right now in NC in heat treatment bc there are not sprays that work to permanently rid bed bugs.    so if you have to list out costs that have or will damage you in court as a result of this tenant i would get that pricing from exterminator before court. 

good luck. 

@Brie Schmidt  Here's my account of my first eviction.  http://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/52/topics/1763...

Never wait to act.  You can give more time even though you start the process.  

You should have statements from your exterminators that there were NO bedbugs.  Just the fact that you stepped up will not garner you credit if the Judge can assume that you rented a bedbug infested apt. but exterminated ONLY upon tenant complaint.  

As soon as bedbugs are mentioned you should have the tenant document why they think there are bedbugs.  I had one tenant complain and I just said have their doctor document to me that they are treating you for bedbugs.  Never received anything.  Now might be a good time for you to educate yourself to meth mites.  

My first court date my tenant complained about "issues" and the court gave a month later date to resolve.  I knew i wanted my writ of possession so I ASKED IF I WAS getting it.  Judge said yes.  I believe the tenant thought I could NOT remove them until the "issues" were settled a month later.

DON"T ASSUME.  Ask the clerks each step.  I had assumed I would NEED the Sheriffs to remove but it was the clerks that said just call the cops.  Even the cops thought I had to call the Sheriffs.  

At court ONLY talk to the judge.  DO NOT engage the tenant and be factual in your statements.  My tenant rambled and you could see the judge was irritated.  

I got my immediate possession but the security was still up for decision.  In our pretrial I mentioned that my costs were probably going to be more than the deposit BUT I would agree to take that and not persue further  The tenant agreed and I did not have to itemize the SD and actually came out ahead.

I would be concerned that you were trying to rent the place before you had legally removed the tenant.  Hopefully you and written agreement from the tenant that they were vacating.  The judge could be pissed at you for trying to intimidate the tenant by showing and renting the apartment.  HE/SHE is the decider and they don't like landlords doing self help.

Good luck to you.

@Dawn Anastasi  - Besides the lease, 5 day, and copies of communication and extermination invoices, anything else I need?

@Sky Mikesell  - We paid for 2 treatments and they charge $110 a visit.  I will have to see what the method is.

@Bob Bowling - Thanks for all the information!  Being my first one that advice really helps.  I will get a statement from the exterminator and previous tenants about the bed bugs.  As for the last part, she told us she would be out, and then kept asking for a few more days.  We agreed to a few more days but told her we were renting out the apartment.  The 5 days notices we use say:

This notice terminates your tenancy at the above address pursuant §704.17(1), Wisconsin Statutes and requires you to vacate the premises described above within five (5) days after this notice has been served upon you unless you pay the unpaid amount of $___________, which was due on the date this notice was signed. 

I agree with @Bob Bowling 

 - bed bugs can make this situation stickier than it would otherwise be.  It will be very good to know if there is any evidence (collected by the tenant and/or the exterminator) that, in fact, there were/are bedbugs present.  If there were then you may encounter more problems than you thought with the eviction, because bedbug issues are fairly untested in the court systems and they seem to occupy a somewhat special legal space as far as pest control issues go.  I have recently dealt with this problem and after consulting with a lawyer, I concluded that for my particular situation, I would not want to risk court proceedings.

If you think that the bedbug issue is bogus and want to make sure there are no bedbugs present, you can hire a bedbug sniffing dog to check it out for you (serious!)

I have to agree with @Sky Mikesell  : if you really had bedbugs, a couple of hundred bucks worth of treatment is unlikely to have solved the problem and you should really have it checked out further so your next tenant doesn't inherit the problem.

Basically this tenant didn't have the money to pay and instead of just being honest about that they tried to pull out all the stops.  My guess is they will continue to pull out all of the stops in front of the judge.

The biggest thing is to maintain your composure in front of the judge because you already know the tenant is going to lie and smear you, that is just what they do when it gets to this point.  She will lean on her handicap as a way to gain sympathy with the judge.  Will it work?  Who knows, depends on the judge.

Other than being professional and having the paperwork for the judge to be able to make an informed decision, it is pretty much much out of your hands which stinks.  It works to your advantage to be in a landlord friendly state/city. 

Good luck @Brie Schmidt  

Andrew - there is no bed bug ordinance.  There is a pamphlet that states it is considered a shared responsibility for remediation.  I have not talked with the exterminator directly but will reach out Monday.  I already have a statement from the previous tenant that he never had an issue with bed bugs and when he moved to our other unit he has still never had an issue with bed bugs.  

@Michael Noto  -  That is what we think.  Every day it is something new.  She lost her job, she will prepay rent till May with her tax return, she is moving out tomorrow, or she is going to see us in eviction court.  I only talked to her one time when she signed the lease, my PM has been dealing with her so I have no emotional connection to her.  

@Sky Mikesell  

@Andrew S.  

Both mentioned something I meant to touch on.  Bed bugs are a major problem for certain areas.  On a $600 rental how do you protect yourself from tenants that infest your property that could then cost you several thousand dollars to eliminate?  Is there bed bug insurance?  Would renters insurance cover this?  Maybe there should be a bed bug walk thru service.

I will also say that the amount of money involved sounds kind of low.  I had to get involved with a bedbug issue with an inherited tenant.  The bedbug dog did find bedbugs.

You need 4 things:

1. Summons and complaint

2. Small claims eviction complaint

3. Affidavit of non-military service

4. Affidavit of service of notice terminating tenancy

Originally posted by @Brie Schmidt :

Andrew - there is no bed bug ordinance.  There is a pamphlet that states it is considered a shared responsibility for remediation.  I have not talked with the exterminator directly but will reach out Monday.  I already have a statement from the previous tenant that he never had an issue with bed bugs and when he moved to our other unit he has still never had an issue with bed bugs.  

@Michael Noto  -  That is what we think.  Every day it is something new.  She lost her job, she will prepay rent till May with her tax return, she is moving out tomorrow, or she is going to see us in eviction court.  I only talked to her one time when she signed the lease, my PM has been dealing with her so I have no emotional connection to her.  

 If there is one excuse after another, generally it's just someone trying to string things along for as long as they can.

Originally posted by @Bob Bowling:
Both mentioned something I meant to touch on.  Bed bugs are a major problem for certain areas.  On a $600 rental how do you protect yourself from tenants that infest your property that could then cost you several thousand dollars to eliminate?  Is there bed bug insurance?  Would renters insurance cover this?  Maybe there should be a bed bug walk thru service.

 In the Milwaukee area you can get a bed bug inspection service to come through and make sure that the unit is free of bed bugs.  There's a one-time cost and you get a certificate stating that the unit is bed bug free. They use a bed bug sniffing dog.

You can put an extermination clause in your lease as well.  But when you have a multi-unit, how do you prove that it was tenant #1 or tenant #2 that brought in the bugs if the bugs wind up in both units?  The bugs can travel in walls between units.

If you catch the bedbugs when they are only in one unit, you can demand that the tenant be responsible, but that person could skip out on you, and ultimately as the landlord you're left holding the bag for remediation, otherwise how are you going to get the unit rented out again?

@Dawn Anastasi  Thanks!  You are always such a help!

I will look into getting the bed bug certification for her unit when we get her out.  She is in the upper unit and we did check with the lower unit and they do not have a problem with them.  We told them to contact us immediately if they notice any bites, but that was over a month ago and nothing.  

Originally posted by @Brie Schmidt :

@Dawn Anastasi  Thanks!  You are always such a help!

I will look into getting the bed bug certification for her unit when we get her out.  She is in the upper unit and we did check with the lower unit and they do not have a problem with them.  We told them to contact us immediately if they notice any bites, but that was over a month ago and nothing.  

 Brie,

I agree with you and others that this sounds like a tenant that is trying to play the system and there is a good chance that she "made up" the bedbugs as part of the story.  Also, you may have really favorable bedbug ordinances in your area (although, according to my lawyer, only limited case law exists on bedbug issues in most places).  That said, your life will be so much easier, if you can show that the bedbugs don't exist in the first place.

Thanks Andrew!  I am going to speak with the pest people tomorrow

@Brie Schmidt  does your state have any statues requiring tenants to deposit with-held rent with the court. Here if the tenant does not pay rent for issues related to habitability then they must deposit the rent funds with the court. If they fail to do that, I would focus solely on the non-payment of rent. Here if the tenant shows up, the court require mediation. It's not written anywhere but it's what is done. Doing what @Matt Sicignano  suggested ferrets that out ahead of time. 

I would focus on non-payment. If tenant brings up bed bugs. Provide proof that you dealt with them and use the facts (short, sweet and to the point). Don't muddy the waters with who pays for what. You can settle that after the fact when you send them the SD accounting and then sue them in small claims court for the balance. Right now getting them out is the priority.

If the tenant shows, they will try and make it about bed bugs. Your job is to keep if focused on non-payment of rent.

Since this is your first eviction, it might be worth the cost of an attorney to learn the ropes and minimize down time. They can guide you on what to provide them for court and then you will know for the next time when you DIY.

Good luck @Brie Schmidt  

I suspect the tenant is lying. But, permit me to play devil's advocate here for a second. If the previous tenant had no bed bugs and the current tenant now claims she has them it's possible that your problem tenant is telling the truth... having brought them with her from her previous residence.

You might confer with your problem tenant's previous landlord to see if she made any similar previous claim--if you're permitted to inquire along such lines in your state, check with your lawyer--this could be useful. If there was a legitimate problem you know to be on guard. If, by contrast, she made a similar bogus claim and the previous landlord can provide documentation of this fact it can only help you.

Oh, and FYI once you're done with this mess you might look for a flat fee eviction attorney in your area. This could help you control costs when dealing with evictions. Consult Google or ask around.

@Brie Schmidt  good luck in this endeavor.

Quick question: Have you thought about proposing the tenant "cash for keys"? Sometimes is better a "not the best" quick agreement, than a good long legal fight (plus costs).

Thanks for the advice.  I prefer to do this one myself so I can learn from it.  From what I understand the process is pretty quick so I should have it resolved in the next few weeks.  I also gave her a chance to leave on her own and avoid eviction court, and she choose not to.  

What date did you serve the 5 day pay or quit? Did you use certified mail? 

Did you end up accepting the rent for February after the 5 day pay or quit?

If she has documentation that you gave her until the 25th, you might need another 5 day pay or quit since she didn't pay you on the 25th. This may be because you changed the terms after she received the first 5 day notice. 

Did you issue another 5 day, if so, what date?

I'm sure you've read this, but who knows!:

Milwaukee County Sherriff's "Steps For The Eviction Process"

Apparently you need 5 copies of the listed documents.

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