Have you ever had to deal with an eviction? Even with the most thorough tenant screening and the most high-quality residents, as a property manager, you always run the risk of needing to evict someone.
If you are currently considering an eviction, it is crucial that you are up to date on all the rules, laws, and regulations that you must adhere to in order to carry out the process without the risk of getting into legal hot water. Don’t know where to start? Luckily, we do!
Below, we have provided a comprehensive guide to the eviction process from beginning to end to answer the question, how does an eviction work? However, it is important to note that each state will have its own set of rules on eviction that you must adhere to, so make sure to brush up on your local laws!
1. Know That as a Property Manager, Evictions Will Have to Be Dealt With
For some newer landlords and property managers, the thought of evicting a tenant can be stressful. This is especially true if you personally like your tenants. As a rental property owner, however, it’s important to know that doing what is best for your property and business must be a priority.
This means that if a tenant is irresponsible or is failing to pay their rent, eviction may be a necessary action. While tenant eviction may seem like a harsh consequence, it is sometimes your only option.
As a landlord or property manager, you can (and should) always take the necessary steps to screen tenants before you choose one to occupy your rental home. However, even so, it’s important to know that evictions will simply come with the job.
Sooner or later, you may have to deal with a tenant who doesn’t pay their rent or fails to abide by the lease agreement. It is important to prepare for the situation now, so that you will know how to handle an eviction when the time comes.
2. Never Skip the Necessary Steps
While you may be tempted to take matters into your own hands and carry the eviction out quickly on your own terms, this is never a good idea. Skipping the necessary steps of an eviction process is illegal in every state.
It is crucial to follow the rules in your state as closely as possible. Here are some examples of things that are strictly illegal in any state:
- Trying to remove the tenant from your rental property by using force.
- Removing a tenant’s belongings from your property.
- Changing the locks on your rental property in order to lock out the tenant and prevent them from entering.
- Turning off any utilities that are deemed essential such as water, gas and electricity. This is considered a safety hazard to the tenant.
- Harassing the tenant until they leave the property.
In order to effectively remove a tenant from your rental property, you will need to go through the entire eviction process, even if you want to skip steps in order to make the eviction quicker or easier.
3. Ensure That Your Reason for Eviction Is Valid and Aligns with Your Local Laws
Before you decide to evict a tenant, you will need to make sure that you have a valid reason for doing so. Unfortunately, you cannot simply evict a tenant just because you don’t like them.
If you don’t have a valid or legal reason for evicting someone, the judge may not end up ruling in your favor. Here are some of the most common reasons for eviction that are considered valid in most states:
- If the tenant fails to pay their rent on time or misses their rent payment entirely.
- Violating the terms of your lease agreement. Examples of this are a tenant having an unauthorized pet on the property or having more tenants living in the home than allowed.
- Causing excessive damage to the rental property that goes far beyond normal wear and tear and having no intention of fixing the issue (note: situations like this are why landlord insurance is so important).
- Breaking occupancy, noise, or health laws put in place by local regulations.
- Causing any health or safety hazards on the rental property.
- Engaging in illegal activity on the property.
Even if you end up in a situation where your tenant is engaging in any of the above behaviors, you will need to obtain documented proof of the incident in question before you take any further action. Make sure that you have documented everything to the best of your ability before you take the case to court.
4. Present the Tenant with a Formal Notice of Eviction
Let’s say you find yourself in a situation where your tenant has committed an offense that is worthy of an eviction and you have solid proof of it. This means that you can officially begin the process to get them evicted.
The first thing that you will need to do is provide the resident with an official eviction notice. In the majority of states, this is considered the first step in the eviction process.
Before you present the formal notice of eviction to the tenant, you will need to check your local state laws in order to determine how much notice you are required to give them. This time frame can be anywhere from days to weeks to a month.
This official eviction notice will most likely be in the form of a simple document that informs the tenant that they are being issued an ultimatum. They can either fix the issue in question or be evicted from the rental property.
For example, if your tenant has fallen behind on their rent payments, you can inform them that they can either pay the owed amount in full in the following days or they will be evicted. This part of the process may vary from state to state, as some states will require you to give the tenant an opportunity to fix the problem, but some won’t.
In most states, this requirement is based on the violation. For example, in the state of Idaho, landlords are required to offer tenants who have not paid their rent a chance to fix the issue before they are evicted.
However, if the tenant is being evicted due to illegal activity on the property, landlords are not required to give them an opportunity to fix the issue and must only provide the tenant with adequate notice.
When you are creating your notice for eviction, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind:
- Make sure to include a specific date that will serve as their deadline for them to either fix the violation in question or leave the property before you file for an official eviction.
- If the eviction is due to missed or late rent, detail how much money the tenant owes you in full, including any late fees you have issued.
- Make sure you issue this document within an adequate amount of days so that your tenant has proper notice and you are adhering to relevant local laws.
- Place the note on a conspicuous part of the rental poverty, such as the front door. You should also mail it to the tenant through certified mail. If you do this, it is a good idea to request a return receipt via USPS in order to verify that the notice was received.
- Consider referencing an eviction notice document to make sure that you have included all of the necessary information.
Once you have sent the eviction notice to your tenant, the onus will be on them to determine how to proceed. In some cases, this notice will be enough for the tenant to either resolve the issue entirely or move out of the rental home.
In fact, most evictions do not require further action past this point, as most tenants will see this as a wake-up call to immediately remedy the situation. However, this is unfortunately not always the case.
If the deadline that you have provided to the tenants has come and gone and nothing has changed, then you will have to move to the next step in the eviction process.
5. Prepare Yourself for the Eviction Hearing
The next step in the process is to have an eviction hearing, however, you’ll want to be prepared before this begins. This mostly involves gathering all the documentation you need in order to prove that the eviction is warranted and necessary.
Here is a list of documentation that you should bring to the hearing:
- A copy of the signed lease agreement.
- Any bounced checks you may have received from the tenant.
- Records of any and all payments, no matter the kind.
- A copy of the formal eviction notice that you have provided to the tenant.
- Proof that they have received the notice of eviction. This is where the receipt from USPS will prove to be useful.
You may need to gather some other documents and items depending on what your reason is for evicting the tenant. Generally, when a tenant comes to an eviction hearing, they will try and do everything they can to prove that they are being wrongfully evicted, which is why avoiding self-help eviction tactics is so important.
This is also why it is crucial to bring everything you may need in order to prove your case. If you are unsure of whether or not something will be useful, bring it anyway. You may end up being glad that you have it given the chance that it turns out to be useful in court.
Be prepared for anything that the tenant may throw at you. If you have the right documentation of the violations committed by the tenant, then your proof should speak for itself.
6. Evict the Tenant
If the court case ends up ruling in your favor, the tenant will be served with a court order to vacate the home in a certain number of days. This will come straight from the court, and both you and the tenant will receive an official copy of the ruling.
If the tenant fails to show up to the hearing altogether, the judge may automatically rule in your favor, so it is always important to show up and be on time for your hearing.
The amount of time your tenant has to vacate the property will be anywhere from 48 hours to seven days, depending on your state and your local regulations. So, while the amount of time you have left in the process may vary, you can rest knowing the end is in sight.
If the tenant has not left the property by the deadline they were given by the judge, you can then contact your local sheriff’s office and have them and their belongings removed. After the sheriff has transferred the tenant out of your property, it can be a good idea to change the locks for your own peace of mind.
At this point, the eviction process will be complete and you can start preparing the rental home to be rented out to new tenants. Make sure you know what to do with the tenant’s possessions if they’ve left anything at the property after the eviction.
7. How to Get Missing Rent from a Tenant after an Eviction
Failing to make rental payments is a common reason for eviction, so there are some local courts that may allow you to file a small claims suit at the same time as your eviction hearing. However, if your state does not allow this, there are other ways to get the money that is owed to you.
- File a claim with your local small claims court after the eviction process has ended. You can use your documentation from the eviction process to get the process started and state your case. However, keep in mind that you may have to pay even more filing fees for this.
- In some cases, you may be able to take the issue directly to the tenant’s employer and garnish the tenant’s wages. However, it’s important to keep in mind that some courts will require that this action be taken through them, so this is another aspect of the eviction process that may vary from state to state.
- Your last option can be to hire a private debt collector to collect the funds for you. This may cost a fee, but they will officially report the debt, which will effectively put it on their record and warn future landlords.
Eviction Process: In a Nutshell
At the end of the day, even though many different states have their own rules when it comes to the eviction process, it is always important to carry out the proceedings as diligently as possible.
Evicting a tenant is never easy, but if it’s done right, you will be able to remove a problem tenant and replace them with one that pays their rent on time and abides by all the terms of your lease.