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The Eviction Process from Beginning to End

Even with the best tenants, you always run into the possibility of an eviction. If you are considering an eviction, you need to know how to go about it and what to expect through the process. Before you get started, be sure to read this guide. It is important to note that the specific laws may vary depending on your state or local laws, so be sure to check them to ensure you are acting according to law.

Knowing That Eviction is Part of the Business

For some landlords, the idea of starting an eviction may be scary, especially if you like your tenants for the most part. As a landlord, however, you need to know that managing your rentals is part of the business and, if necessary, so is an eviction. It is nothing personal, so you need to take your personal feelings out of the potential eviction in order for it to be successful. This is the type of mindset you must have in order to push the eviction along. Otherwise, you may end up sidetracked with an eviction that is taking much longer than it should. Eviction may seem like it is harsh, but if the tenants are not paying rent, it is something that is necessary.

Never Take Matters into Your Own Hands

Even though you may think that it will be easier to simply evict tenants without going through the necessary steps, it is illegal in all states to do a self-help eviction. You must follow the rules and regulations in your state. Some examples of things you cannot do without going through the necessary legal steps include:

  • removing the tenant from the property by force;
  • removing the belongings of your tenants from the property;
  • changing the locks on the home and essentially locking them out of the property;
  • turning off any essential utilities to the property such as water, gas, and electric; and
  • harass the tenants as a way to make them leave the property.

You will need to go through with the eviction process in order to remove the tenants from your property even if you think it may be easier and faster to do things without following the rules.

Make Sure You Have a Valid Reason for Eviction

You cannot evict someone just because you do not like them. Before you start the eviction process, you need to ensure that you have a legal and valid reason for the eviction or you may find that the judge will not rule in your favor. Some common reasons that are enough to begin the eviction process include:

  • failing to pay rent on time or at all;
  • violating terms of the lease such as having unapproved pets;
  • causing a lot of property damage to the rental;
  • breaking any occupancy, noise, or health ordinances; and
  • causing health or safety hazards in the property.

Even if you do have a situation that falls within one of these categories, you will need to have documented proof before you can do anything. Make sure you document everything so that you can back your case up in the court room.

Present the Formal Eviction Notice

If you do have a situation that meets one of those categories and you have proof of it, then you can officially start the eviction process. To do that, the first thing you will have to do is provide the tenants with a formal eviction notice. In most states, this is the first part of the legal eviction procedure. You will need to look at your local laws to determine how many days' notice you need to provide to the tenants. This formal eviction notice is usually a document that is fairly simple in nature. It will provide the tenants with an ultimatum that will require them to fix the issue in order to avoid the eviction. For example, if they are behind on rent, the notice would detail that you need to receive the full rental amount in a set amount of days in order to avoid eviction. When you are creating your eviction notice, these are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Include a specific date for them to either remedy the situation or vacate the property before you file for an eviction.
  • Detail how much they owe you (if the issue is failure to pay rent) including any fees.
  • Make sure you post this notice within the set amount of days to go along with the ultimatum date so you meet your local legal requirements.
  • Put the notice on their front door. You should also send it to them through certified mail with a return receipt requested through USPS so you can verify that it was received by them. You may even want to check with your state laws to see if a specialized service company is required for this step. If so, you will have to pay them a small fee to deliver the notice.
  • Consider using an eviction notice document to ensure that you fulfill all of the necessary aspects and can add in components that you require.

Once you have sent the eviction notice, the ball is in their court. In some cases, this may be enough for them to take care of the issue or move out. In fact, there are many evictions that never have to move past this point because they are fixed by the tenant after the notice has been delivered. However, this is not always the case. If nothing has changed since the eviction notice was sent and the deadline provided to the tenants has come and gone, then your next step is to file the eviction with your local courts.

Formally File for Eviction

Prepare for the Hearing

Before you head into the hearing, you will need to prepare all of the documentation you will need to prove your case. At the very basic level, you will need the following documents:

  • The lease agreement
  • Any bounced checks from the tenant
  • Records of all payments, if any, no matter the kind
  • Records of all communication between you and the tenant, which includes emails or phone calls
  • A copy of the eviction notice that was provided to the tenant
  • Proof of when they received the notice, which is the receipt from USPS

You may need some other items depending on your reasoning for the evictions. Typically, if a tenant comes to the court hearing, they will try to do everything to prove their innocence, and you need to ensure that you have everything you need to prove your case. If you are unsure of whether you will need something, bring it anyway just in case. You will be thankful that you have it even if you do not need it as opposed to not having it and needing it for the court case.

Be Prepared

Do your homework before you go to the hearing and be prepared for anything that the tenant may throw at you.

Going to court can be stressful, so you should do everything you can to ensure you are as prepared as possible. Always be honest and let the documentation that you bring do all of the talking for you.

Evicting the Tenant

If the court case is ruled in your favor, there will be a court order for the tenant to vacate the property in a set amount of days. This is something that comes straight from the court and both you and the tenant will be provided a copy of the ruling. If the tenant does not show up in court, some judges may automatically rule in your favor, so it is always a good idea to go even if you think they may not come. The amount of time that the tenant is given to leave the property may vary, but it can range depending on your local laws from 48 hours to 7 full days. Either way, the end is in sight.

If they have not left by the date on the court order, you can then have someone from your local Sheriff's department physically come and escort them and all of their belongings out of the property. In some areas, you may have to pay a crew to meet the Sheriff so that the removal from the property is fairly fast and efficient. This is another cost that will have to be paid by you as the landlord. After the Sheriff has transferred possession of the property back to you, you may want to change the locks—also at your own expense—so they cannot get back into the property later. At this point, the eviction process is completed in full and you should have your property back so you can rent it out again.

How to Get Past-Due Rent from an Eviction

Since failure to pay rent on time or at all is a common reason that people are evicted from properties, there are some local courts that will allow you to file for eviction as well as a small claims suit at the same time. However, if you are not allowed to do this, typically on the court order for the tenant to leave, there will be a component that mentions exactly how much money is owed to the landlord and when it should be repaid. This is called a judgment. If you do not get this money from the tenant, you do have a few options to still get your money.

  • File a claim in small claims court to get the funds – Use your eviction court order and your judgment that was provided to you during the hearing to get this process started. There is typically another filing fee for you to file with this court.
  • Garnish their wages – You may be able to take your judgment to their employer so that the garnishments may be made. Some courts require that this comes through them, so you should check with your local laws before doing anything.
  • Use a private debt collector – The last option is to use a private debt collector to get the funds. You will have to pay them for the services, but they will report the debt to the three major credit bureaus. This also helps other landlords know that this person may not be a good tenant when they run the credit check.

Evictions can be very stressful for all parties involved. Once you go through it for the first time as a landlord, you will want to take extra steps in order to prevent it from happening again in the future. While there is no way you can completely eliminate the possibility of eviction for one of your tenants, you can greatly reduce the probability of it happening by conducting background checks and credit checks for all applicants and thoroughly checking references. While it may cost you a little bit more in the beginning, it will save you a lot of time and money from pursuing an eviction later.

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