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In an ideal world, tenants will pay their rent in time every time and get along with their fellow occupants. However, landlords know it is a far cry from reality.
Challenges can often arise when dealing with tenants. Whether you're a new or seasoned landlord, you might face a difficult tenant and wonder what your options are.
That’s where eviction comes in.
As unpleasant as it may be for all parties involved — eviction is often a long and complex legal procedure — it may be the best solution in some situations.
Here is everything you as a landlord should know about the eviction process.
What is Eviction?
Eviction is in short, a landlord’s nightmare.
This legal procedure consists of removing an unlawful detainer from their rental property.
The eviction process is a last resort solution to get rid of a tenant. It is a long, expensive, and often emotionally draining experience.
When possible, it is best to find an amicable solution to convince the tenants to vacate the premises.
However, it is often the only way for landlords to get back possession of their property when confronted with a bad tenant.
The eviction process is only permitted in situations permitted by law. From the moment an eviction notice is sent until the tenants have left the property, landlords must respect a strict procedure.
The rules and conditions for a lawful eviction vary from state to state. You as a landlord should familiarize yourself with the tenant law — for example, tenancy at sufferance, tenancy at will, and more — in every state where they own property.
The eviction process has become even more complicated due to the Covid-19 pandemic with the eviction moratorium, too.
Landlords may only start the eviction process if they have a just cause, for example:
- failure to pay rent
- if the tenant violated the terms of the lease
The landlord can also file for eviction without just cause if the tenants are not leaving after the lease has expired.
The Eviction Process
If you decide that the last resort option of eviction is best for your specific situation, here is how to proceed with the process legally.
One item to mention before we get into the eviction process: we recommend consulting with a local real estate lawyer for some eviction help before starting.
Step 1: Have a Valid Reason for Eviction
If the tenants' lease has not expired, you as the landlord must have a valid reason to start the eviction process.
Here are some of the legitimate motives that can push a property owner to evict the occupant.
- Non-payment of rent
- Lease violations (unauthorized pet or subleasing without authorization, for example)
- Criminal activity (drug traffic, for example)
- Damaging the property
- Occupying the property without a lease
On the other hand, you may not start the eviction process as retaliation or based on discrimination.
You cannot take the matter into your own hands either, such as:
- threatening the tenant
- changing the locks
- removing their belongings
Step 2: Present Eviction Notice
You as the landlord must start the eviction process by presenting the tenant with an eviction notice.
The eviction notice must comply with the rules in your state to be valid, too.
You must also serve the tenant with the eviction notice, either by:
- presenting them with the letter in person
- taping it to the front door or the unit
- sending it by certified mail
Step 3: File an Eviction Lawsuit
If the tenant does not leave the property within the delays after receiving the eviction notice, you will need to file an eviction lawsuit against your tenant with your local court system.
After you file an unlawful detainer lawsuit, you will need to gather evidence to prove your case, including:
- your reasons for filing for eviction,
- the terms of the lease, and
- any communication between you and the tenant.
Step 4: Judgment
The next step in the eviction process is judgment. The court will set a date for your hearing and decide to rule in your favor or your tenants' favor.
If the judge agrees to the eviction, your tenant will have between two and seven days, depending on the state, to vacate the property.
If you do not respect each step and delay throughout the eviction process, you may lose the case.
Therefore, it is best to seek legal eviction help from the get-go.
The tenant may also file for an appeal within ten days.
Step 5: Remove the Tenant
If the court rules in your favor, you can take the final step of the eviction process and take action to remove the unlawful detainer and their possessions.
Depending on your state, you may need to involve your local law enforcement.
Next, we’ll look at the most commonly asked questions associated with eviction.
Q. How Much Does an Eviction Cost?
The cost for filing an eviction order with the court is $50.
However, the actual price of the eviction process is significantly higher, especially if you seek legal eviction help.
TransUnion SmartMove evaluates the true cost of the eviction process to be between $3,500 and $10,000, including the rent loss, legal fees, and other related expenses.
Q. How Long Does an Eviction Take?
The eviction process can be a lengthy procedure, especially if tenants fight back and drag on legal procedures.
Depending on the state and circumstances, it can be between two weeks and up to several months.
It can be frustrating for landlords who suffer from the loss of income. However, they should resist trying to force their tenants out to avoid the occupant suing them and delaying the eviction process even further.
Q. What is an Eviction Moratorium?
An eviction moratorium prevents property owners from evicting occupants from their properties for not paying their rent for a set period of time.
Eviction moratoriums were common in the winter in colder areas. However, since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the federal government and several municipalities have set up an eviction moratorium to prevent a wave of evictions and overcrowding.
Landlords can still engage the eviction process against tenants for reasons besides non-payment of rent (for example, illegal activities).
Q. Eviction During COVID
The CDC ordered an eviction moratorium in September 2020 to avoid a wave of evictions and allowing people to quarantine in their homes instead of at friends or relatives. The ban was extended until July 31st, 2021.
To qualify for the current federal eviction moratorium, tenants must justify a loss of income due to COVID-19. Rental assistance programs have also been set up to assist tenants who lost their jobs during the pandemic.
The eviction ban does not erase the debt but delays its payment until the end of the moratorium.
Eviction: The Bottom Line
The eviction process should be a last resort measure for landlords, because it is often a lengthy and costly procedure, with few property owners recouping their losses in the process.
In most cases, it may be best to attempt and work out a deal with your tenants, such as offering cash for keys or setting up a payment plan.
Keep in mind that the best way to avoid the eviction process is to find the right tenant for your rental property. You can find out how to do that using this free resource.