Does anyone represent themselves in unlawful detainer cases?

8 Replies

My wife and I went to the courthouse to observe unlawful detainer (aka eviction) cases.  They seemed very straightforward and something we could tackle on our own.  In Virginia, things are pretty speedy and we think that worst case scenario, we would have to re-file and it would cost us about a month of rent.  In this case, that would be cheaper than an attorney.  Does anyone else have experience doing this on your own?  Any advice?

In Virginia, we have a 5 day notice to pay or quit.  After that, we can file for unlawful detainer.  At the hearing, if the defendant doesn't show up, we can get immediate possession which then we must take to the sheriff to schedule eviction.  If the defendant does show up, and they agree they are late, they have 10 days before we can get possession.  Otherwise, if they don't agree they are late, the judge sets a trial date.  100% of the cases we observed did not have a trial date set because one of the two other scenarios held true.

I do them myself and they are pretty simple.  Costs about $100 or so and takes 2 months or more to get a tenant out.  If you decide to collect rent after you post the 5 day notice, you have to give them a receipt that has the words "with reservation" on it or a letter to let them know you are collecting with reservation (I suppose you could put it on the 5 day notice?).  You have to file a Writ after judgment is granted which also costs money and wait for sheriff to call you with an eviction date.  The possession will last a year before you have to possibly go to court again if you decide not to complete a Writ.You're also supposed to mail a notice to the tenant to let them know they also owe for the current month on the 1st since the court date is usually a 3-5 weeks from when you mail off the UD paperwork otherwise they won't add it to the judgement amount.

Thanks for the response @Jassem A.

The 5 day notice that I found online included language that payment would not prevent me from trying to obtain possession, but I'll definitely add it to a receipt if I get paid.

I'm really hoping they don't pay.  I'm fairly certain there's some drug activity going on there and I really just want them to go so I can clean it up and start over.  If it goes beyond the 5 day notice I'll offer them cash for keys.

@Eddy Dumire

Good luck. Some people will just leave if you ask them to.  I make it clear on the 5 day notice that I want them out in 5 days if they don't pay and ask them in writing to call me to discuss a payment plan.  If they are hard up, sometimes I'll let them pay weekly or bi-weekly.

I have only went through the process 1 time so far and it went fairly smoothly. We sent the 5 day pay or quit and were never able to get in touch with him afterwards until we saw him in court. My wife works HR for a property management company so we followed procedures to a tee and had possesion within 5 weeks for about $65 total cost along with a few hours off from my full time job. And of course those fees get added into the judgement against him. There is no expectation of ever seeing that money, but he will always have that on his credit until he satisfies the judgement. Tennant showed up and agreed he owed. He was given 10 days to vacate which he did.

When you send the UD you have to include a check for the amount based on the number of tenants.  I think it's 58 plus 12.50 each additional person (Others, Any/All Occupants counts as a person).  You can include this cost under court costs.  You can also put 6% under interest.  You have to call to get a court date before you send it because I'm not sure they will assign you a date if you leave it blank.  You mail a copy to the tenant and orginal and 2 copies to the court along with the check.  On the court date, you have to go to the clerk and sign a military affidavit and they will ask you whether tenants are in the military or not and how you know.  When judgment is granted, you can mail the Writ to the court with 25+12.50/person check and the sheriff will call you with an eviction date.

Your UD should list the court costs and legal fees if it goes that far. Depending on how your lease is written I believe the only costs you could charge would be a late fee. And that's all depending on how you have your leases. I have a few left still that give the tenant a 5 day grace period. Then I'm stuck waiting another 5 days from serving the pay or quit before I can file the UD. BUT I was on top of the 1 I've done and had my property back fairly quickly. That's the ultimate goal to recover your property as quickly as possible and  keep it legal to protect yourself. The lost rent and fees are just an extra if somehow you get them.

The 5 day letter I used specifically itemizes the past due rent, late fees, court costs, and attorney fees.  I put the relevant values in for the first two, but put in 0 for court costs and attorney fees.  I don't think I'd be able to add them into the UD now would I?

I also found that the certified letter wasn't delivered until yesterday so that puts me even more behind.  I'll wait till Monday and file the UD and make the cash for keys offer at the same time.