My First Eviction - does it ever go smoothly?

13 Replies

It looks like I am going to have to evict one of my tenants very soon. fingers crossed a miracle pulls through, but assuming it doesn't....

For those of you that have been through this before - do renter's ever receive their pay or quit notices and actually leave? Or does it always end up going to lawsuit and getting messy? I am terrified of all these legal hoops that I am going to have to jump through!

The management company handles mine and, in SC, if you don't pay, you don't stay...the law is on your side.  Residents are out quickly and the deposit usually covers lost rent.  The rules will be market specific.

@Alyssa Lebetsamer   

What are the circumstances that lead you to believe this will end in eviction?

You may or not be able to save the tenancy. In the event you can't, there are indeed a number of strategies you can use to avoid a lawsuit and/or to avoid a messy departure.

In 22 years, with 17 residential rental units, we've only had to file for unlawful detainer and court ordered eviction three times. In most cases when a tenancy isn't working out, we sit down with the tenant and agree to a move-out plan. This costs less and can result in the tenant vacating sooner than they would if we went through the courts. Please take a listen to BP podcast #83 for more information on that.

To answer your question.... yes... the "Notice to Pay Rent or Quit",  when properly served, can result in either the tenant paying the rent that is due or vacating the unit in a timely manner. When you serve legal notices, you need to be prepared to follow-through. Identify a qualified attorney in your jurisdiction who specializes in landlord-tenant law and retain their services if you need to proceed with eviction. Don't go this alone, especially in California. Once it's in the attorney's hands, follow their guidance and they will take the lead. There is very little that you will need to do at that point. However, you need to be aware of moves and counter-moves that often occur once a tenant is served legal papers. Be strong.

@Marcia Maynard

Tenant hasn't paid rent. Or rather, he paid us rent. And then his check bounced. And he hasn't been able to come up with the money for the rent yet. It's been over ten days, and excuse after excuse after excuse. He swears he will have the money for me tomorrow. And I would LOVE it if he did. But he has been promising me that he will have the money for me "tomorrow" for four days now, and something has always come up. This tenant JUST moved in. It was a newbie error on my part not getting the first month's rent in the form of a cashier's check. It worked out fine last time. It's only my second tenant. :(

personally if they don’t pay I don’t ask for the money

Ihave no contact with them 

I just put a 3 day notice on the door then the 7 and go to court

They have the bank account they are suppose to deposit the rent into.  

Originally posted by @Alyssa Lebetsamer :

@Marcia Maynard

Tenant hasn't paid rent. Or rather, he paid us rent. And then his check bounced. And he hasn't been able to come up with the money for the rent yet. It's been over ten days, and excuse after excuse after excuse. He swears he will have the money for me tomorrow. And I would LOVE it if he did. But he has been promising me that he will have the money for me "tomorrow" for four days now, and something has always come up. This tenant JUST moved in. It was a newbie error on my part not getting the first month's rent in the form of a cashier's check. It worked out fine last time. It's only my second tenant. :(

Let me recap my understanding....

New tenant moved in as of November 1, 2017.  The tenant paid you rent for November with a personal check. The check processed through your bank as NSF. You contacted the tenant about the bounced check and he promised to make good on that the next day, but did not.

At this juncture, this is a simple matter of process. Enforce your rental agreement. 


1. Did you qualify the tenant by doing a thorough application process and background check?

2. Did you establish a tenant file for him which includes a copy of his driver's license (or other photo ID) and a copy of his personal check (that will show his bank account information) and information about his employment situation (for possible garnishment)?

3. In addition to rent, did the tenant pay a security deposit with a personal check? If so, did that one clear?

4. Do you have a strong rental agreement in place that was signed and dated by all parties?

5. Does your rental agreement include a clause regarding NSF checks and late rent? If so, are there fees attached?

6. How have you been communicating with the tenant?

Don't beat yourself up too much, but do rally the moxie to handle this situation head-on. Your need to be calm, professional, fair, firm, and swift. Since you are new to landlording, it would be great if you could find a local mentor to guide you. You need to know and abide by landlord-tenant law for your jurisdiction.

I would start by talking with the tenant, which you have done. Determine the root cause of their failure to pay rent in full and on time.  Determine if there are extenuating circumstances. I would followup on my verbal communication with written communication in the form of a "Rent Past Due" letter and a "Violation Fees" letter. (Sample of ours is available by download from BP tab Tools > File Place > Documents > look for those authored by me).  

Require the tenant to pay with cash at this time and do not accept personal checks for at least the next 6 months. Set up a more reliable means to pay.  Since they are a new tenant, it will take time to regain trust in this relationship and in their ability to follow through on their responsibilities as a tenant. Remind the tenant that housing needs to be one of their top priorities. If they don't pay they can't stay. If they don't have cash in hand today, then they need to get it from a friend or relative - now!  If you haven't already served the Notice to Pay Rent or Quit, do so immediately. Make sure you've done so correctly. Remember that what they choose to do will determine what you will need to do. Keep cool, breathe and be strong. You can do this!

100% guarantee you will need to get rid of/evict this tenant. Do not even consider trying to make him work. He is a dead beat con and will probably force you to evict. Probably a professional tenant. If not he will still be a nightmare tenant.

You're about a week late on filing the eviction. In such cases, time is money. 

I strongly urge you to move quickly, your delaying the inevitable. If you serve the 3 day notice tomorrow, you can file the unlawful detainer on Friday.  

To your success!

Yes, @Marcia Maynard that's correct.

1. Yes, we did the whole background check and application process. He was less than the ideal candidate, but we took him on. His credit is low, but he's in the middle of a divorce and convinced me to take a risk. We didn't have any other interested applicants and he had a good solid income. Mistake #1. 

2. No on all accounts. But if he pays me tomorrow I'm going to get all this info for myself in case this ever happens again. 

3. The security deposit bounced as well. UGH!!!!!

4. Thank goodness, we do have a rental agreement signed by us and him, dated, and all set. 

5. Yes, he is subject to a NSF check fee and a late rent fee. He is agreeing to pay both without any argument.

6. We have been texting, talking on the phone and speaking in person so far. I just started with putting everything in writing. 

I have someone in town who is a realtor and a landlord who can help me with this a little more. I think a phone call is in order in the morning. To be honest, I'm so embarrassed I didn't want to reach out to him before. But putting it off much longer isn't going to do much good. I have the Notice to Pay Rent or Quit filled out and ready to be served tomorrow morning, first thing. Thank you so much for all your advice! The learning curve on this process has been steep.

A Pay or Quit notice does work, but not always.

My experience is limited, as I've only been LL'ing for a few years and have 6 "doors".  But this has been my unlucky year.  Or I should say, "Why I've learned to screen better and not rely on luck, lol."

I had a tenant for almost a year who was always late, but only by a few days.  In April, he was one week late when we put the Pay or Quit notice on the door.  He paid.  Repeat this process for May, except we posted it much sooner.  Then, in June, he didn't pay.  We'd posted the notice the first day he was late.  Filed for an eviction the first day, allowed by law from the notice.  He was a no-show at eviction court.  He lost.  Still refused to move out.  We filed for a sheriff's visit 2 days later, the soonest we were allowed.

All told, from the first day he was late to reclaiming the unit, was 5 weeks.  But I also live in a landlord-friendly state.  It was my first and only eviction (so far).  The process itself was pretty painless, but the whole thing was costly.  The filing fees were $225.  That scumbag stole the refrigerator and new washer.  The lost rent he didn't pay (I did have one month security) and the lost rent until I found new tenants a month later.  As well as a few hundred dollars in damage, albeit minor.  Though he did surprisingly leave the place clean.

I currently have a tenant I've been "working with" that, I'm being a sucker again, lol.  Mother and adult daughter.  Daughter lost her job, but now has another one.  The original job loss exacerbated the problem.  Their payments have been painful and in parts.  When they promise they'll pay on X date, they usually don't.  Now, if they tell me they'll have the rest of the rent on the 24th (it's due the 10th), I'll pre-emptively post a 5-day Pay or Quit notice where the last day for it is the 24th.  So far, it's been "working", if you want to call it that.  I do get the full rent, part of it is just always really late.  Their lease is up in 4 months.  I'm hoping they catch back up and get their act together.  But, if not, 3 months from now they are getting a 30-day notice to vacate.  Of course, that is if they don't get evicted in the meantime.

However, I think your guy sounds like a lost cause and I'd be focused on getting him out of there.  No good will come of this.  He deliberately wrote you bad checks to get into the place.  He knew the money wasn't there.  And wrote the checks anyway.  That isn't just deceiving and super shady, it's also a criminal act.

Sorry you're going through this!  I know it's frustrating and infuriating.  Chalk this up to a lesson learned.  Get this guy out asap and move on.     

Thank you everyone for your responses... i have an update and if possible could use more advice.

He promised me last night that he was going to pay me in full today. SWORE. Obviously I have my doubts, so I told him I would be serving him with the 3 day Pay or Quit notice this morning. If he paid me today like he said he would then no problem, right? So I served the notice first thing this morning. Sure enough, a few hours late I get a text from him saying he doesn't have the money. It's not his fault. It's "never" his fault. He acknowledges receipt of the Pay or Quit notice, and swears (again) he will have payment in full for me by Thursday, which is the final day he has.

Obviously I have very little faith that this money is going to appear. So here is my question: what happens on Thursday night? When I have no money and he hasn't moved out? I know I can move forward with legal proceedings. But those look expensive. Is there any merit at all in taking one day (Friday) and seeing if I can convince him to move out on his own? Without involving the courts? Is that even a thing? I have no rent at all, and no security deposit from this guy. Adding in legal fees feels like salt in the wound. Though I can see it might be very necessary. Especially if he did indeed do all this on purpose. Which he very well may have done.

@alussa lebestamer

To answer your question there is no merit at all in waiting, or in talking to him further. Nothing different will happen and you are just costing yourself time and money and stress.

Things can go smoothly when u turn this over to the professionals and follow their advice. Hoping you can save money by being "understanding" is the surest path to failure.

We all are tempted to think "but this one is different" and it won't be true. Easier to tell from outside than in it. There is nothing to be worked out here.

The writing is on the wall. Contact an attorney today so you are ready to move forward with eviction as soon as the three days is up. This sounds intentional on the part of the tenant, not a mere mistake such as having the funds in the wrong account or a paycheck being held up. The tenant has not only violated the terms of the rental agreement, but has also deceived you. A relationship without respect and trust is a lost cause. Keep your integrity and swiftly follow-through with what you need to do. Document everything, from the beginning. Prepare to bring documentation and the rental agreement to your attorney.

So sorry you are facing this. We're rooting for you!

We have a “Cash for Keys” option to save us money. “If you move out by Friday, I will give you $500 cash for your efforts.” This is also our cheapest option because we get our place back to prepare for the next tenant and we don’t pay $1,200-1,500 for attorney fees, plus 35-60 days of not collecting rent.

We also don’t accept Checks when people move in unless they pay 10 days in advance. Most tenants understand needing a cashier check to move in.

Did he have a previous eviction? If so, he will most likely not take the cash for keys. He will just live there for free for a few months. If his eviction record was clean, we encourage them to take the cash and use it to get themselves in a better place.

California is tenant friendly. Your 3 Day Pay or Quit has to be done properly. We have a PM and her attorney handle it from start to finish because we find our time better spent earning money to pay for the eviction costs. Good Luck ~ Lesson learned ~ 💰 4 🔑🔑