Evictions are one of the least fun parts of being a landlord. They can be very costly, time consuming and stressful. Most probably think that you have to hire an attorney to represent you to conduct a successful eviction. But do you? I have represented myself and used an attorney, either way you usually have to go to court. So, I think the answer depends on several factors. Those factors are:
- The complexity of the eviction process in your jurisdiction.
- Your level of knowledge and experience.
- Your personality.
- Peculiarities in your state and local laws.
Some states have very complex eviction procedures. In fact, I hear it can take many months to get a tenant evicted in places like Chicago and some of the northeastern states. Here in Memphis, TN the entire eviction process can be accomplished in a little over a month with the filing of a couple of forms. So while I will conduct the eviction process here, I might hesitate doing so if I faced messing up a six month long process and having to start over at square one. I would want someone more qualified to handle such a complex process.
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Complications During the Eviction Process
Complications can also arise during the eviction process. For example, if a tenant files for bankruptcy while you are evicting them (and bankruptcy lawyers will be sending them solicitations advising them they can “stop” the eviction process) a stay is placed on the eviction process by the bankruptcy court. That means your eviction is stopped until the stay is lifted. You definitely need an attorney at this point as federal courts are much more complicated.
Your knowledge and experience with the eviction process will also be a factor. You need to know what the eviction process is for your jurisdiction. You absolutely cannot walk into court with out knowing what you are doing. It is just too easy to mess up. Sometimes the judge will help you out, but most times more deference is given to the tenant. In other words, the judge expects you to have your i’s dotted and t’s crossed. Once you have been through a few evictions, you may have enough experience to be able to go it alone.
Your personality is also something to consider. Many do not like getting up and speaking in front of other people. Some do not like confrontation. You also have to remember to keep your cool at all costs. The last thing you want is to be held in contempt because you angered a judge. I have seen more than one landlord shoot themselves in the foot by opening their big mouth in court.
Other Considerations for Evictions
There may also be peculiarities in your state in local laws that prevent you from representing yourself. For example, here in Tennessee if a property is owned by a corporation or LLC (which many of mine are) I am not allowed to represent myself and have to hire an attorney to file the eviction per state law. My case would be thrown out by the judge if I tried to represent my self.
To sum up, I think you should hire an attorney to represent you if:
- You have no or little experience in court.
- Your knowledge on your state and local eviction statutes is limited.
- Your particular jurisdiction has a long and complicated eviction process.
- Your tenant files bankruptcy.
- You personality is not suited towards acting as your own attorney.
- If state law prevents you from doing so.
On the other hand if you have been through the process before, know your local laws and are confident you can present a clear and decisive case, perhaps go for it.
If you want to get some experience and if you have some time to kill, you can always go to the court house and watch the other landlords and attorneys present their cases to see how the process works. It is kind of interesting to watch, much better than any reality show.
Have you handled your own evictions? What was your experience? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.