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Eviction: What it is and how to navigate as a Landlord

How To Navigate The Eviction Process As A Landlord

eviction-what-it-is

As a landlord, you know that your tenant, not your property, is your greatest asset — without them, you don’t make any money. Most of the time, your most pressing concern as a property owner is going to be to make sure your tenants are happy. 

Happy tenants renew their leases, and less tenant turnover means a more stable business overall.

But you may also be wondering: 

  • What happens if my tenant stops paying rent? 
  • What if they do permanent damage to my property? 
  • What happens if my tenant violates our lease agreement?

 

In these situations, you may need to consider evicting your tenant. 

Reasons To Evict A Tenant

You might consider evicting a tenant if they:

  • are not paying rent,
  • violate your lease agreement,
  • are consistently late on rent payments,
  • have committed a crime on the property, 
  • have done intentional damage to your property,
  • have unauthorized occupants living on the property,
  • are still living on the property after the agreed-upon move-out date, or
  • are neglecting the property in a way that is creating violations of health or safety.

 

Suggested Reading: Top Reasons to Evict a Tenant

Sending The Eviction Notice

If the scenario isn’t urgent, the best first step is usually to start by having a conversation with your tenant. It’s worth seeing if you can resolve the situation without legal action. 

If an in-person conversation can’t fix the situation, the next step is to send your tenant an eviction notice.

There are three broad types of eviction notices:

  • Notice to pay or quit — If your tenant has not paid the rent, you will use this notice. A “pay or quit” notice lets tenants know they have a certain number of days to pay the rent. If they don’t pay, they must move out. Some states dictate the number of days you must give your tenant to pay before facing eviction.

 

Note: If you accept a partial payment after serving this notice, you cannot evict your tenant unless you serve a new notice to quit with the remaining amount owed. That means that if they fail to pay the remainder of the amount owed, you will not be able to default to the original pay or quit notice served — you will have to start the process over. While it’s up to you whether or not you accept partial payments, we generally suggest requiring payment in full to avoid delays.

  • Notice to cure or quit — If your tenant has violated a term in your lease agreement, you would use a “cure or quit” notice. As with the “pay or quit” eviction notice, your state laws may require you to allow a certain number of days for the tenant to remedy the issue. 
  • Notice to quit — An “unconditional quit” notice does not allow the tenant to remedy the situation either by paying rent or correcting a lease violation. In most states, these notices are only allowed under specific circumstances, such as:
    • repeated violations of a significant lease or rental agreement clause,
    • consistent late rent payments,
    • severe damage to the premises, or
    • serious illegal activity or crimes committed on the premises.

 

Your state also likely has laws governing how to serve your eviction notice. For example, in Texas, landlords have four options: 

  1. Give the notice in-person to anyone who lives on the property and is 16 years or older,
  2. Mail a copy of the notice to vacate by regular mail, registered mail, or certified mail, 
  3. Post the notice on the inside of the front door of the rental unit, or
  4. Post on the outside of the front door of the property.

 

In general, it’s a good idea to deliver the letter to your tenant in person. If you cannot reach your tenant, you can send the letter by certified mail, or post it to your tenant’s door.

Even if a tenant violates your lease, you can’t change their locks, remove their belongings, shut off utilities, or force them to leave the property. Doing so is illegal and is sometimes referred to as a “self-help eviction”. 

Suggested Reading: My Tenant is Not Paying Rent—What Do I Do?

Filing For Eviction

After serving your eviction notice, here’s how you handle filing your eviction.

First, your tenant will have a set number of days to remedy the issue. If they don’t, you can formally file for eviction at your city or county courthouse. Bring a copy of your lease, all relevant documents, and your tenant’s contact information. 

Next, the court will determine if the eviction case is valid.

If they determine your case is valid, the court will serve your tenant a summons for a hearing. You and your tenant will be expected to attend that court hearing to discuss the matter before a judge.

Be aware that once you have filed for eviction for non-payment of rent, if you accept any payments from your tenant, the eviction case must be dismissed. 

If your tenant is a member of the Housing Choice Voucher Program, commonly called “Section 8,” you must notify your local housing authority of the eviction and request that any subsidy payments be put on hold and that nothing is mailed to you until the case or trial is over. Because accepting any payment during the eviction process nullifies it, this is a very important step.

The Eviction Hearing

At your eviction hearing, be sure to bring anything that you believe proves you have a valid reason to evict your tenant. You will have the opportunity to show this evidence to the judge. If they attend, your tenant will also have a chance to refute your reasons for eviction. 

In general, it’s a good idea to bring the following to your court hearing:

  • Your lease agreement
  • Your tenant’s rental application
  • Photos of any damage done to the property, if applicable
  • Records of late rent payments or non-payment, if applicable
  • Records of any communications between you and your tenant
  • A copy of the eviction notice and the date you provided it to your tenant
  • Receipts from the Post Office showing your eviction letter was delivered on a specific date

Enforcing Eviction Rules

If you win your eviction case, the judge will set forth a specific amount of time in which your tenant must completely move out of the property. If your tenant still hasn’t moved out within that time frame, you can hire the local sheriff to remove them from the property.

Suppose your tenant leaves behind their belongings in the process. In that case, you must follow state laws regarding abandoned property. These laws may require you to give your tenant notice of the abandoned property. They also may regulate how you must store abandoned property and how you must dispose of it if tenants don’t claim their belongings. 

Will I Get My Money Back?

If you are evicting your tenant because of missed rent payments or damage to the property, the judge in your eviction hearing may assign a specific amount of money that the tenant owes you. 

If the tenant doesn’t pay you this amount, you can file a lawsuit against them in small claims court. Unfortunately, it may be more cost-effective to cut your losses than to pay the legal and court fees involved in a lawsuit.

Avoid Evictions By Thorough Tenant Screening

Eviction is sometimes unavoidable. Even if you’re a great landlord, it is still possible to encounter a tenant problem that will lead to eviction. The best way to prevent a situation where you have to evict your tenant is to ensure you’re taking a disciplined approach to screening potential tenants

If all this talk of evictions and legalities has convinced you of working with professionals who can handle the marketing and screening process for you, get in touch! We review all candidates with our approval criteria to find you an excellent tenant. And for all new landlords, we guarantee that we’ll get your home rented in 21 days, or else your first two months of management are free. 

You can reach out to our team in your market today. >>


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