For property managers and landlords, difficult tenants can be a nightmare.
If a tenant is unable to pay their rent or is causing other problems by occupying your real estate property, you can do your best to put your foot down and try to resolve the conflict.
If that doesn’t work, it’s sometimes necessary to consider eviction.
The eviction process is no walk in the park. After all, you are going to court and undergoing legal proceedings. But when it’s your property and paycheck on the line, eviction is often the right business decision.
How to evict a tenant
- Identify the problem
- Send a formal eviction notice
- File for eviction with your local court
- Attend the court hearing
- Evict the tenant
In this article, we’ll discuss the step-by-step process of how to evict a tenant.
|Note: Eviction laws will vary from state to state. The steps below will cover general guidelines for evicting a tenant, but it’s always best to double check with your state’s rules and regulations before proceeding.|
The eviction process
A lease is a legally binding document. When a tenant signs a lease, they are agreeing to pay rent and abide by the property manager’s rules. In return, they are legally allowed to occupy the rental property for the duration of the agreement.
In a perfect world, tenants will pay their rent on time every month, follow all the rules they agreed to abide by in the lease, and things will go off without a hitch. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. If a tenant stops paying rent, breaks a rule, or damages the property, they are breaking the lease agreement and face the possibility of eviction.
Evicting a tenant might seem harsh, but at the end of the day, it’s your responsibility as a property manager to make decisions that have the land owner’s best interests in mind. You can’t make a difficult tenant change their ways, but you can do your best to ensure that eviction proceedings go as smooth as possible.
|Related: Owning an investment property can come with many curveballs. Stay on top of your game by checking out these 7 property management tips.|
1. Identify the grounds for eviction
This is the first and most important step in the eviction process.
In order to legally evict a tenant, you need to have a legitimate reason. You can’t give someone the boot just because you don’t get along with them. Additionally, you’ll have to give them proper notice of eviction proceedings. The rules on proper notice will vary from one state to the next, so be sure to check with your local state regulations.
Below, you’ll find five of the most common legitimate reasons to evict a tenant:
Not paying rent
This is the most common issue that property managers run into. Paying rent is the primary responsibility of a tenant; if they’re not paying, they have to vacate the property. Most property managers will offer a grace period to accommodate tenants that might be in between jobs or in a unique financial situation. But if a tenant frequently abuses the grace period and fails to pay rent on multiple occasions, this is grounds for eviction.
TIP: Avoid this issue by providing your tenants with an easy and convenient way to pay their rent using property management software.
Damage to the property
As a property manager, it’s your responsibility to make sure the rental property stays in good shape. In the leasing agreement, it’s important to include details related to what the tenant can and can’t do to the building during their stay. If you don’t include these terms in the lease, then you’ll have a hard time enforcing eviction proceedings.
In order for this to be considered a legitimate reason, the damage to the property has to be significant. If you try to evict a tenant over a nail in the wall, a judge probably isn’t going to agree with you. But if the damage is a health hazard to the other tenants, or is ongoing, then you have a strong case for eviction.
Violating terms of the lease
In the lease, you should include all the terms that are necessary to maintain the building or unit. This includes details such as whether or not pets are permitted, rules for subletting, and what modifications the tenant can make to the space (i.e. paint the walls, mount a TV, etc.).
If the tenant shows a blatant disregard for the lease agreement and breaks one or more of these rules – even after you’ve talked with them about it – you can evict them.
|TIP: As a reminder, eviction should be a last resort. You don’t want to go to court over something that could’ve easily been settled by having a conversation.|
Leasing period is over
We can keep this one short and sweet. If the leasing period is over and your tenant won’t leave - that’s grounds for eviction.
If your tenants are involved in any sort of illegal activities, it’s easy to see why you would want them off of your property. Keep record of any disturbances that would point toward any crime or illegal drug use happening in the building.
2. Send a formal eviction notice
Once you’ve identified a legitimate reason to evict your tenant and confirmed that your reasoning is in agreeance with local laws, it’s time to move on to the next step: sending an eviction notice.
An eviction notice is a formal written letter from a landlord or property manager that notifies the tenant(s) of their request to vacate the property. As usual, the requirements for an eviction notice will vary from state to state. Most states require the notice be delivered via certified mail.
In the notice, you’ll want to include important details such as the tenant’s information, the violation, and the date the lease was signed. If you’d like, you can choose to include a clause that gives the tenant a window of opportunity to remedy the situation before you go to court.
3. File for eviction at your local court
You’re not lawfully allowed to evict a tenant on your own; you’ll have to go through the courts first. You must file the eviction at your local courthouse and wait until you receive a hearing date for when to report back. The amount of time between the day you file the eviction and your hearing date varies - it could be two weeks or two days. You have the option to hire an attorney to represent you during the hearing, but it’s not required.
4. Attend the court hearing
It’s finally hearing day, and you want to make sure you arrive prepared. Bring documentation to present to the judge that backs up your reason for evicting the tenant. This should include the original lease agreement, in addition to bank statements showing their lack of rent payment or pictures of damaged property if relevant. It’s possible that the judge doesn’t end up reviewing all of the information, but it’s better safe than sorry.
After both you and the tenant have the opportunity to plead your case, the judge will make a decision. If they rule in your favor, you’ll be given directions from the judge for how to proceed.
5. Evict the tenant
After going to court, all that’s left to do is wait for the tenant to vacate the property. Depending on the judge’s ruling, the tenant will have a set amount of time to remove all of their belongings and leave the premises. If they owe you rent money, they will be required to pay it back. You’ll want to do a final run through of the property after they’ve left to make sure there aren't any leftover personal possessions.
Out with the old
… and in with the new tenant. As a property manager, sometimes having to make a tough call is just part of the job. Now you know what to do if you ever get into a difficult situation with the tenants occupying your rental property.
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