Renting out a rental property is not always an easy ordeal.
There's tons of responsibility, and landlords are typically required to do things they may not enjoy.
One of the things a landlord or a property manager doesn't look forward to doing is the eviction process.
Landlord-tenant laws require landlords to follow certain guidelines and procedures when going trying to evict a tenant. And, since they can face legal repercussions if they fail to follow laws correctly, they are obligated to carefully follow the entire process.
However, it can be very tricky, especially for landlords and property managers who have never evicted a tenant.
In this guide, we'll be going over the complete guide to evicting a tenant, including what can lead to one and how to carry one out smoothly, legally, and safely.
To begin, let's go over what an eviction is and what causes it.
What Is an Eviction?
An eviction is the legal process in which a tenant is removed from a rental property. This can also be known as a repossession or an unlawful detainer.
A tenant can be evicted for many reasons, most of which are pretty self-explanatory. Below, we'll be going over a complete list of reasons that a tenant may be evicted.
Tenant Does Not Pay Rent
One of the most common reasons for an eviction is that a tenant did not pay rent. Although a landlord may be a little flexible with the due dates and may accept late payments, the unpaid rent can get to a point where action must be taken.
Some of the situations that may stop a tenant from paying rent include a change in occupation status, business closure, major medical condition, or a change in family status. If the tenant owes rent from many months, the landlord may choose to put them on a payment plan.
However, if the tenant violates their lease continuously by not paying rent and the past due rent continues to pile up, you may need to send an eviction notice. This written notice serves to let the tenant know that they are being evicted. We'll cover more about these notices down below.
Illegal Activity on Rental Property
Another thing that a tenant could be doing that can quickly get them evicted is conducting illegal activity on the property. This could include selling or distributing drugs, doing prostitution, gambling, or running a business out of the property. All of these are violations of the rental agreement and can be grounds for eviction.
Also, it is important that you, as the landlord, notify local law enforcement about any illegal activity. If you simply allow the illegal activity to continue, you may be creating problems for the neighborhood and be held liable.
If illegal activity is happening within one of your properties, there's some good news. This kind of eviction process can be done faster than others. This means you can get the tenant evicted much faster, as per eviction laws.
Violating Other Lease Provisions
Another common reason for landlords to start an eviction process against their tenants is because they violated the lease agreement in some other way. Some common examples of this may include the tenant having a pet, the tenant having a roommate, or problems with the HOA.
It is important to note, however, that most of these violations should not lead directly to an eviction. For example, if the tenant has a roommate but agrees to kick them out immediately, they should not be evicted. However, the landlord or property manager should then monitor this tenant very closely.
If the tenant continues to make the same violations, then an eviction should follow. The landlord or property manager should make sure to collect as much evidence as possible of the violations in case they need to be proven in a court hearing.
Destroying the Property
Tenants who damage the property past the point of normal wear and tear can also be evicted from the property. This could include holes in the walls, broken windows, torn carpet, or cracked flooring. These damages are typically discovered during a routine inspection that the landlord conducts.
Eviction laws vary, but some states allow you to use the security deposit to cover the damages. However, many times, this amount of money is not nearly enough to cover the damages. This is because state eviction laws can also limit how much can be collected as a security deposit.
Although there could be some other reasons, most of them are similar to what we have just discussed.
In the next section, we will be going over the actual process of evicting a tenant.
How to Evict a Tenant
Although laws vary by state, the general process remains roughly the same. Below, we'll discuss every step that a landlord typically takes to evict a tenant.
Review Local Laws and State Laws
The first step before you even draft any eviction notices is to review all relevant local and state laws. These laws vary by state, so it is important that you search for those that pertain to your specific state. Not sure where to find them? Visit DoorLoop's Laws Page to discover more about your state's specific laws and get a solid starting point.
Knowing these laws can also help when you are writing your lease agreement. If you include them in the original signed lease agreement, it will be easier to evict the tenant.
There might also be some laws regarding evictions and COVID-19. It is extremely important that these laws are reviewed, because they can completely void your eviction efforts.
Determine the Reason for Eviction
Every landlord needs a legitimate reason for wanting to evict their tenant. Right now would be the time to refer back to the original lease agreement and check for specific tenant violations.
If the tenant is in direct violation of the lease agreement, it could be a lot easier to start with the eviction proceedings. If this is the case, it is especially important to document enough evidence of the violations before serving a formal eviction notice.
This documentation is typically in the form of photos, videos, or even communications between the two parties. It is important to be as thorough as possible in this step, because the more evidence that you have, the more likely you are to win the case.
Issue a Formal Eviction Notice
If all attempts at compromise have failed, it is time to officially evict the tenant. The first step in doing this is to serve the tenant a written eviction notice. The purpose of this document is to inform the tenant that they are being evicted and give them a set time period to take action.
An eviction notice will typically grant the tenant a few days to correct their violations. If they do not do anything within that time period, they should be informed that their case will be taken to court.
There are three different types of eviction notices:
- A pay or quit notice
- A cure or quit notice
- An unconditional quit notice
All of these notices serve a different purpose. The pay or quit notice orders that the tenant pay any unpaid or overdue rent. If not, they will have to be evicted. The cure or quit notice is essentially the same thing, but instead of paying back rent, they must fix the violation that they are committing.
Finally, the unconditional quit notice requires the tenant's belongings to be collected and the tenant to vacate the property immediately. This is the most impactful of the three and is typically only used when violations such as illegal activity occur.
Filing For Eviction
The next step of the eviction process is actually filing for eviction. To do this, you must go through the court system.
When in the court hearing, you will be required to show proof of the violations, as well as proof that you gave the tenant proper notice before filing for eviction. This could be either with a certified mail receipt or the tenant's signature from the day.
Depending on the state, there are different things that courts require during an eviction hearing. For this reason, be sure to visit DoorLoop's laws page to review all of your state's laws.
Evict the Tenant
Finally, after winning your court case, you can evict the tenant from your property. This is done by the judge of the court. The judge will give the tenant a set number of days to evict the property.
At this point, many tenants choose to willingly leave the property, as they have run out of options. If not, it may be necessary to contact law enforcement to assist in removing the tenant. If it gets to this point, the police officer can give the tenant 48 to 72 hours to vacate the property. In extreme cases, physical force can also be used.
After the tenant has been evicted, you may still want to reclaim the unpaid rent. To do this, you must file with a small claims court. They will then handle the procedures to get you your unpaid rent.
Also, it is important to refer to local and state laws regarding what to do with the tenant's belongings. Since many states have different laws regarding this, it is vital that you know exactly what should be done in your specific case.
Performing Evictions Safely
Evictions are stressful times for not only landlords but also tenants. With that said, it's important to take safety measures when serving an eviction and proceeding with the eviction process.
In August of 2023, a tragic incident occurred in Pittsburgh, where a simple eviction notice turned into an hours-long standoff and shootout. When the police arrived to serve an eviction notice, the tenant became violent and started shooting them.
In light of this incident, landlords, property managers, and law enforcement alike need to take precautions and ensure all parties are protected.
Of course, the best way to be proactive in this is to thoroughly screen your tenants from the get-go so you can make sure there is no threat to yourself or neighboring residents. That said, unfortunately things can still happen, so the question from there is how to stay safe moving forward.
Here are some recommendations on how to serve an eviction notice safely:
- Perform a Pre-Eviction Assessment: Before serving the eviction notice, conduct a brief assessment of the tenant's behavior and history. If the tenant has displayed aggressive behavior, has a criminal history, or has threatened violence, take it seriously. Seek legal counsel to determine the best course of action.
- Contact Local Authorities: If you have concerns about the tenant's potential reaction, inform local law enforcement before delivering the notice. They can provide guidance, and in some cases, accompany you when delivering the notice.
- Avoid Confrontation: If possible, serve the eviction notice without directly confronting the tenant. This could mean leaving the notice on the door, sending it via certified mail, or employing a professional process server.
- Consider Mediation: In some cases, especially if tensions are high, consider hiring a mediator to facilitate the eviction process. This neutral third party can help de-escalate the situation and provide a more peaceful resolution.
- Stay Calm and Professional: Emotions can run high during an eviction. It's crucial to remain calm, composed, and professional at all times. Avoid raising your voice or making any threats. This can help prevent the situation from escalating.
- Always Have Backup: If you have any reason to believe the eviction could turn confrontational, don't go alone. Bring a colleague, hire a professional, or request law enforcement support.
- Stay Informed and Trained: As a property manager or landlord, consider attending training sessions on conflict resolution, de-escalation techniques, and safety precautions.
- Document Everything: From the initial rental agreement to any incidents leading up to the eviction, document everything in detail. This documentation will be invaluable in court and can also provide context should any disputes arise during the eviction process.
- Consider Tenant Assistance Programs: Evictions are tough on everyone involved. If possible, provide the tenant with information about local assistance programs, housing resources, or counseling services. This gesture can reduce tension and offer a helpful hand during a difficult time
The Pittsburgh incident serves as a stark reminder of the unpredictability and potential dangers associated with evictions. By following these safety precautions, you can protect yourself, the tenant, and any other involved parties.
Remember, while eviction is a legal process and a right of property owners, it's essential to approach it with caution, compassion, and professionalism.