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What Exactly Happens When You Need to Evict a Tenant?

Taking legal action against a problem tenant can be stressful for new landlords. However, evicting a tenant is a simple and straightforward process. Many states will protect the tenant’s legal rights while allowing the landlord to freely conduct business without undue burden or hardship.

The steps below were designed with landlords in mind. The overall goal of this guide is to introduce you to the eviction process. It’s also an excellent bookmark to use as a refresher reference for later use.

Step 1: Document Your Observations of the Tenant’s Violations

As a general rule of thumb, it is important to keep a separate file for each tenant and take note of any lease agreement violations. Each note entry should include photographs, recordings (where applicable), the date, time, and name of all parties involved or observed. Be careful not to violate a tenant’s right to privacy when collecting evidence.

Step 2: Try Having a Reasonable Discussion with the Tenant

Life happens. Occasionally, a tenant might be experiencing a major life change that may be a key contributing factor to the violation. Evicting a tenant can be a nasty and expensive process. Perhaps having a talk with him or her will help resolve the situation before it escalates.

Step 3: Serve the Correct Notice to Remediate or Vacate

A tenant, who continues to be a nuisance, can be notified to remedy the violation or leave the premises.

The notice can be mailed or hand-delivered to the tenant. However, he or she could contest that they never received it. Detail-oriented landlords might benefit from using a process server or requesting a signed return receipt.

Step 4: File a Lawsuit in Court and Obtain an  Eviction

If the required notice proved to be ineffective at solving the problem, then it is time to file a complaint in court. Eviction actions under $10,000 should be filed within the justice court system. Amounts exceeding this number are usually filed within the Superior Court System.

If the court rules in your favor, you will be issued a Writ after the judgment. This writ is court-given permission to remove the tenant from the unit.

Step 5: Remove the Tenant and Their Belongings from the Premises

A tenant that refuses to leave the premises will have to be forcibly removed by the sheriff. Law enforcement officials will usually allow the tenant one or two days to pack their belongings and leave. Do your best to comply and discuss any special circumstances with the sheriff that may hasten the eviction.

At this stage, it’s common for tenants to leave personal belongings behind. In some states, you are required to hold their possessions for a certain number of days after the Writ has been served. Landlords are usually permitted to move the belongings to an unoccupied unit or self-storage facility after evicting a tenant.

After this time period, you are free to clean the unit and rent to another tenant.

Try to Recoup Your Losses in Civil Court

After evicting a tenant, you may be able to reclaim a few of the costs associated with the eviction processing, including:

  • Past due rent and late fees
  • Court costs and service fees
  • Reasonable storage costs
  • Additional damages as deemed appropriate by the court

Pursuing remedies should be discussed with a licensed attorney that can help you determine if suing your former tenant in civil court is right for your situation.

Final Thoughts and Considerations

It may be worth the time and effort to build in strategies that make managing the eviction process easier, particularly if you own a larger complex. This could include checklists, template notice letters, and making yourself (pleasantly) familiar with your local courthouse library and clerks.

On the other hand, working with a company like Property Management Pros can help you avoid the stress and difficulties of managing tenant evictions. Please contact us here to find out how we can help you with your properties.


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Disclaimer: Property Management Pros is not intended to be marketed as a Property Management Franchise, but rather a License. Every state has different laws regarding real estate and brokerage laws dealing with Franchises and Licenses.