How to Evict Your Tenant

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As a landlord, you want to develop a good relationship with your tenants.  The most reliable tenant is one of longstanding who pays their monthly rent on time and keeps the property in good condition so that, should they eventually move, they do not cause excessive costs to prepare the residence for the next tenant.  However, there are some tenants who present problems with their lease causing a landlord to reach a point of decision to evict the tenant to resolve the problem.  Here are the steps that define how to evict your tenant.

Review the Landlord and Tenant Act

Now would be a good time to review the Landlord and Tenant Act, the federal law that most states have adopted to regulate matters between landlords and tenants.  It covers the key requirements affecting leases for rental properties.  They are: lease requirements, which outline the parameters of the lease such as duration of the lease, amount of monthly payment, the security deposit requirement, regulations regarding guest policy, pet limitations, noise limitations, maintenance, privacy expectations and cause for eviction.  This law is the primary guide, along with the language of the lease agreement that will help you determine if there is cause for eviction.

Determine if eviction is the proper, legal course

Usually, the cause is the tenant’s failure to pay rent.  However, there are other just causes for which eviction is warranted.  Infractions against the rules of the lease such as failure to meet noise limits, pet restrictions, damage to property or guest restrictions may be cause for eviction.

Review the issues carefully against the language of the lease contract.  It is best if there is a pattern of behavior by the tenant that demonstrates willful disregard for the lease, such as habitual weekend parties that violate noise restrictions rather than a single incident of infraction.  However, if the infraction causes a permanent change of conditions, such as the acquisition of a pet when the lease clearly forbids it, that may be an actionable event warranting eviction.

Serve notice of intent to evict

In most states, it is required to give written notice of intent to evict with description of the specific cause(s).  State law will typically define the minimum amount of time allowed by law for the tenant to resolve the matter prior to filing court papers to complete the eviction.  The allowed time may vary by state from as little as 3 days to 30 days from giving notice to filing for eviction.

The notice is typically referred to as a notice to vacate, meaning that the notice is the tenant’s warning that unless the matter is resolved, or the tenant voluntarily vacates, the landlord will file eviction papers with the court.  The written notice allows the tenant a specified time by state law to satisfactorily resolve the issue to prevent eviction.

Should the tenant decide to voluntarily vacate, this action does not absolve the tenant of liability for whatever cause is leading the landlord to file eviction papers, such as repair of damage to the property.   For this reason, it is a good idea to have verifiable references given by the tenant at the beginning of the lease process so that should the tenant vacate in the middle of the night without notice to you, there is recourse to find the tenant through the references in order to secure payment for their liabilities.

File eviction with the court

With the knowledge of the law and the evidence that the tenant has breached the contract for defined cause in written notice, and having delayed during the state’s required waiting period, you can file for a court hearing for eviction of the tenant.  The court will notify you and the tenant of the day if the hearing.

For the hearing gather all documented evidence of cause for eviction so that you can present it in court.  The court will likely decide in your favor if there is sufficient evidence of the tenant’s failure to meet the lease agreement, and will issue a date of eviction, by which date the tenant must vacate the residence.

Eviction should not be enforced by you

Personal involvement in this fashion is not how to evict your tenant.  This is the sheriff’s obligation following the ruling of the court.

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  • Stapler Confessions

    This is a good overview of a process that is very state-specific, but I’m curious why don’t recommend that landlords speak with or hire an attorney? In my experience, the process is a lot smoother when everyone is represented — it’s easier for the LL and tenant to manage their expectations and resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

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