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STOP! Think and Be Careful When Evicting a Tenant

Thu, Oct 22, 2015

real estate investing

Investing in real estate may be one of the best ways to secure passive income for your financial future, but that doesn’t make it a primrose path. There are plenty of headaches that can come from being an owner. There are more headaches in store if you’re also acting as landlord. Whether or not you employ a property manager or management company, every owner should be aware of the dos and don’ts of the eviction process.

No one ever wants to evict a tenant. Legal entanglements are always a pain, and evictions can be particularly rough.

The eviction itself is a hassle, but then you have to deal with filling a vacancy, and quickly. So if you or your manager sees the need to evict a tenant, where do you begin? What should you do? What should you definitely not do?

We’re here to help you navigate it all.

When Evicting a Tenant, DO:

Try Talking to Your Tenant

Eviction should never be your first reaction to a problem with a tenant. Mistakes are made from time-to-time. Use your good judgment and, when possible, see if the tenant can be reasoned with to rectify any problem or smaller, more trivial breaches of your lease agreement. In some cases, it may be as simply as a misunderstanding. Before you jump to evict, talk it out. If that doesn’t work, then pursue the legal action you think is necessary. But a peaceable solution should be your first reaction.

Serve a Proper Notice

Proper notice is a big deal when it comes to renting. Make sure your notices are hand-delivered, formal, valid, and given with a proper deadline (usually 30 to 90 days) to rectify the problem or breach of contract that is prompting the eviction. Why deliver by hand? Tricky tenants may try to deny receiving the notice. They can’t do that if your manager gives it to them in person.

Eviction notices will either be Section 8 or Section 21. It’s vital that both of these are filled out correctly and with the right details: otherwise, it may waste you the time and effort of having the reissue the notice when inaccurate information comes to light in court.

Follow Proper Legal Channels

When handling an eviction, go ahead and spring for an attorney. There are very precise laws on eviction that you must follow to smoothly and successfully go through with an eviction. Getting solid legal help on the front end will be your saving grace in the long run.

Related Article: 3 Reasons To Hire A Great Property Manager

When Evicting a Tenant, DON’T:

Neglect Your Obligations

If you’re trying to evict a tenant, you’ve got to make sure your end of the lease agreement has been held up. That means ensuring that maintenance issues have been diligently addressed. Landlord obligations are many, and if your management hasn’t been meeting them, it may prove your attempts to evict fruitless. That’s why it’s so important to have a solid manager that you trust doing the job, or, alternatively, that you’re well-informed and diligent in fulfilling your duties as landlord.

Change Locks or Throw the Tenant (or Their Things) Out

Never ever spring for a vigilante eviction. Changing locks, turning off utilities, removing a tenant’s personal belongings...these actions can land you or your manager with a criminal offense to their name. You can be sued for unlawful eviction. Don’t do anything that can even be perceived as an unlawful eviction. Tenants will jump on it if they can, especially when feeling backed into a corner by an eviction notice.

That also means paying close attention and being familiar with your local laws. In addition to physical means, it also includes being careful with what you say. Anything that is threatening or intimidating to a tenant can be used against you in court. Evictions can bring out a lot of strong emotions and impulsive words and actions, so be guarded.

Be Trivial

Most of us see the lease agreement as a pretty straightforward document. You set forth requirements, rules, and regulations to be followed by the tenant, and the breaking of any of these is grounds for eviction. Easy, right? Not so much. Back in 2013, a California case saw a landlord trying to evict a tenant for breach of contract: namely, she did not have renter’s insurance as required by the lease.

The court determined that the failure to maintain an insurance policy was not material and a “trivial breach” because the requirement benefits the tenant, not the landlord. This opened up many questions as to what should and should not be in a lease agreement (or, at the very least, that not every breach of the lease agreement stands up in court as grounds for eviction).

Use good judgment when determining whether or not to evict a tenant. When going through the process, ensure that all of the proper legal guidelines and being followed to the letter. If you can avoid an eviction altogether, great! If not, the best you can do is ensure that things get done the right way.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for anyone looking to evict a tenant? Share your dos and don’ts in the comments.

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image credit: Christopher Brown


Chris Clothier
Written by Chris Clothier

Entrepreneur, writer, speaker, ultra-endurance athlete, husband & father of five beautiful children. Chris puts these natural talents on display every day. As a partner at Memphis Invest, Chris addresses small and large audiences of real estate investors and business professionals nationwide several times each year. Chris is also an active writer, weekly publishing real estate, leadership, and endurance training articles.