Tenant Eviction Notices

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Eviction Notices & the Eviction Process

Eviction sucks for everyone involved (we know, we’ve been both landlords and tenants at one time or another).

It’s infuriating as a landlord to have tenants who think they can just live for free while you’re ensnared in the courts and legal process of eviction, but the truth is that they can (until you finish going through the long legal process, anyway). The eviction process takes a long time – usually between two and five months – during which you will have to pay the mortgage but will receive no rent. Start the eviction process immediately! Tenants have many, many opportunities to catch up the rent and prevent the eviction, so start the months-long process as soon as the tenants breach the lease agreement.

Managing rental properties is a business, and landlords need to treat it like one. They need to keep good records, use legal eviction notices, and the process should move like clockwork.

Here are some things to keep in mind about the eviction process:

  • Never, ever change the locks, remove tenants’ belongings on your own, or threaten or intimidate tenants. Self-help evictions are illegal in every state, and can result in lawsuits, fines and even criminal prosecution for landlords.
  • As soon as the rent is late (or when you realize the tenant is otherwise breaking the lease agreement), serve the proper eviction notice for your state/province. Legal service options vary by state, but certified mail is accepted in most – always keep the confirmation receipt!
  • Each state has its own language for eviction notices, and there are multiple eviction forms depending on the tenant’s lease violation. Non-payment of rent will require a different eviction notice form than other lease clause violations. There may be different eviction forms for different lease terms (e.g. month-to-month tenancies versus lease terms over one year), or a different eviction notice form for repeat offenses rather than a first offense. Be sure to use the precise eviction notice for your situation and state!
  • After the waiting period, you can file with the local court for eviction. A hearing is scheduled, which you should attend with any proof you can bring with you.
  • Assuming the judge agrees to let you proceed at the hearing, you can then schedule an eviction date with the sheriff or other official representative of the courts. Contact the sheriff the same day, and schedule for the earliest available date.
  • Show up on the day of the eviction to meet the sheriff, and bring a contractor to change the locks and start cleaning up the property as soon as possession of the property has legally changed hands.
  • File for a money judgment against the tenant, for the back rent, fees and utilities that they owe you!

Don’t let anyone bully you into feeling guilty for evicting renters who have broken their end of the lease agreement. Providing housing is a valuable – and costly – service that landlords offer, and it is a business. You have to pay the mortgage regardless of whether renters feel like paying the rent that month, and good luck telling the property tax collector “Well, my tenants didn’t pay the rent, so I’m not going to pay the property taxes either.” Honor your responsibilities in the lease agreement, and hold renters to the same standard of honoring their responsibilities. It is a two-way contract, after all.