I’m here with Paul Farr. Hey, Paul. How are you?
Paul: Good, Matthew. How about yourself?
Matthew: I am doing great. Paul is with Springman, Brayden, Wilson, & Pontius P.C. and he is an eviction attorney and he and I are talking eviction mistakes today.
So Paul, you and I talked a little bit before this and we’re going to roll through five eviction mistakes that you see most often landlords make.
I’m going to read them off real fast and then we’ll jump into each one and talk about a little bit.
The first thing right off the top of your head you said when I asked you what are some mistakes people make, the first one was taking money during the eviction process.
Can you talk to us a little bit about that?
Paul: Sure. So let’s just take the typical demand for payment, you know, non-payment of rent.
You file an eviction case, you’ve served your demand, “Pay or move within 10 days.”
If the tenant pays in full within the 10 day period of time they’ve cured.
Or if they move within that 10 day period of time they’ve cured, there are no grounds for eviction.
But what can happen is the tenant offers, “Hey, I’ve got X amount of dollars.
Would you take it?” If a landlord takes that money, they’re done with that demand.
The landlord does not have to accept…at least here in Colorado, a landlord does not have to accept anything less than payment in full during that period of time.
Once the 10 days are expired, landlord doesn’t have to accept any money.
Again, if they do then typically that’s a waiver.
You’ve done something affirmatively to reinstate the tenancy.
Matthew: All right, taking money, that was number one.
When you start the eviction process with a tenant, you’re required to give notice and you’re saying you see a lot of mistakes happen around the notice process.
Paul: That’s true. One of the most common is a bad address.
So the sheriff’s department, can only supervise a move out on an address that’s on the writ of restitution.
If it turns out that the address on the writ of restitution is different than the actual address of the property.
Once the sheriff shows up, you got to start all over. So that’s actually a pretty common one.
Another thing would be a failure to add, say, you got a detached garage, you’ve got a detached storage shed or something like that or a garage unit and family.
So, you should note that on the demand because there are sheriff’s departments out there who say, “Look the address says this.
It doesn’t say anything about the detached garage, storage shed…”
Matthew: Wow. And so it’s so important that you get this thing started on the right foot because you don’t find that out until the end of the process.
I mean you’ve gone through the whole process and then at the very end.
The sheriff’s saying, “Hey, you essentially didn’t start this thing right and now I can’t get all their stuff out of the detached garage.”
Paul: Right. You got to start another eviction to get the stuff out of the garage.
Matthew: Wow. All right, next one is number three is all about documentation and records.
Showing up and, you know, just my word against their word that doesn’t typically work in Colorado eviction cases?
Paul: No. These cases are, typically, they’re in an intermediate level trial court we call county court here.
They can be in the district but for the most part, we go with the intermediate level trial court.
Keep in mind tenants have the ability to dispute that landlords should have a possession judgment.
They can file a counterclaim at the time of the initial court date and then the court has to set a hearing or a trial on the issue of possession.
One of the ways the landlord has to…the landlord bears the burden of proving their case.
More likely than not, the landlord is right.
One of the principal ways to do that is through business records.
So if all of your receipts are, at least what you got, stuffed into a shoebox.
The judge or the magistrate will have absolutely no interest whatsoever in sifting through that shoebox full of stuff.
What they’re looking for is, you know, clean records, professional-looking invoices that may support the claims for damages and things like that.
And if you don’t have those then you can easily defeat the eviction process simply because you didn’t meet your burden.
Matthew: Yeah. I mean there’s nothing worse than being right but not being able to prove that you’re right and you show up and, you know, it doesn’t work.
That would be very frustrating.
The next one, number four, and I saw this a lot when I was first getting started in the business, is like the landlord trading work for rent.
Talk to me about why that’s a gray area that causes so many problems in the eviction process.
Paul: Mostly because it’s one guy against the other. Did the work get done?
How much was the work worth?
If there was no writing and this is just some sort of oral agreement, many times tenants come into court and say, “Hey, you know, the guy said if I fix the window in the back, then I get a discount on my rent.
There are no records to back it up so you know trading work for rent is definitely a bad thing because it’s difficult to prove.
If you want your tenant…if they’re qualified to actually do work on the property for you, fine. Have a separate contract just like you would with any other contractor.
Matthew: Yeah, it’s okay for them to pay your rent and then for you to pay them back and have that money trail and scope of work.
That gets back to good records too. I mean the scope of work is pretty important.
But I will tell you I have never seen that workout, Paul.
All I’ve been doing this almost 13 years now and I’ve never seen trading work for rent, work.
I’ve rented thousands of houses and managed thousands of clients, never once has that worked so I’d warn people against that.
Number five is making verbal promises throughout the eviction process. So talk a little bit about that.
Paul: Well, once the eviction starts, for example, let’s say we have a demand for compliance.
So get rid of the dog because the lease says no pets. The eviction case starts. Tenant says.
The eviction case hasn’t even started, the demand of 10 days to cure is gone.
Tenant says, you know, give me a few more days to get rid of the dog.
The landlord goes, “Okay I’ll give you till next Tuesday.” And then the case gets filed on Monday.
Tenant gets rid of the dog on Tuesday, goes into court, files an answer, says, “I shouldn’t be evicted, you know, I did what I was supposed to do.”
Landlord says, “Well, you didn’t get it done within 10 days.” The tenant says, “But you gave me an extra couple of days.”
That oral contract is going to be enforceable if the court believes that the tenant’s credible.
And, you know, oral statements made during the pendency of an eviction, once that demand has been served, have to be very careful about what it is that you say or promise and, again, documentation is very critical.
It’s a good idea to keep correspondence logs, copies of the emails, copies of the texts if you choose to communicate by text, things like that.
And make sure that your people, if you’ve got staff, are advised to do the same.
Matthew: Awesome. This has been great.
These have been the top five eviction mistakes that Paul sees in Colorado.
Paul Farr and me, Matthew Whittaker, with GK Houses would both love to help you if you have specific questions about your situation.
We would love to help you with that. We’re at GK Houses. We’re a property management company here in Colorado and Paul Farr is an eviction attorney in Colorado.
Paul, thank you so much for joining us. This has been super helpful.
Paul: You’re welcome.
Matthew is the CEO of Evernest. He is a student of the book Good to Great and is passionate about building the best property management company on the planet (and maybe even the universe if Elon Musk will hurry up). You can usually find Matthew at the baseball field with his son, at a dance recital with his daughter, or at his favorite restaurant with his wife, when he’s not in the office. And if you can’t find him in any of those places, it probably means he’s traveling.