How Does Eviction Work?

More rumors surround the subject of eviction than perhaps any other rental topic. Landlords and tenants alike seem to rely on word-of-mouth information, which seems rather inappropriate considering that the eviction process follows fixed guidelines. States and local municipalities set these guidelines, and very few are identical. One feature of virtually all eviction laws is a requirement that landlords give tenants written notices before filing eviction court cases.

This is where things get confusing. It takes more than a notice from a landlord for a situation to become an eviction case. A complaint must be filed in court for a case to be officially recorded. Even after a case is recorded, the outcome is not necessarily that a tenant will be evicted.

When You Have to Evict Birds

There’s nothing fiercer than a momma protecting her young, and this goes for birds as well as humans. And, while society’s view of animals – especially pets – has seen a remarkable shift in recent decades, the age-old conflict of unwelcome birds occupying man’s roof eaves, dryer ducts, and stove fan vents continues.

It’s no fun having to dislodge a nest of invasive English House Sparrows, let alone beautiful natives like Purple Martins, Chimney Swifts, Red-Headed Woodpeckers and Mourning Doves. The hatchlings shriek and the momma dive-bombs, and falling off a ladder becomes a distinct possibility.

Get Ready to Evict Your Tenant

Your new tenant just moved into your rental unit. He seems like a great guy. He has a sterling credit record and great references. The security deposit and first month’s rent check came two days early.

Not only that, when you stopped by to drop off an extra set of keys, the grass was already mowed, and the house looked cleaner than when he moved in!

Well, it’s time to get an eviction plan in place.

That’s right. It is time to list the specific measures you’ll take to evict Mr. Perfect Tenant if the time comes. That’s because no matter how wonderful your tenant now seems, things can turn bad. No one wants that to happen, but, when a tenant breaks the rules, you can’t afford to lose time researching the next step.

Why Does Eviction Take So Long?

You want your tenants out and you want them out today. You have been more than patient, your tenants are taking advantage of you, and things are only going to get worse.

So, why can't you just kick them out immediately? Wouldn't any judge understand that eviction is appropriate under these typical scenarios?

• Tenants haven't paid rent in months.

• Tenants let other people move in and never told you or asked permission.

• The last time tenants let you in to inspect, you saw the unit was trashed.

These examples – among many others – are lease violations and landlords do not have to put up with them. And, yes, action is definitely called for. Unfortunately, far too many landlords make wrong assumptions about the action they are permitted to take.

True Stories: The Cost of Eviction

When someone says, “evicted”, do you picture notices posted on doors, courtrooms with stern judges, and piles of your tenant's abandoned junk? Those are realistic features of what can be a very unpleasant experience.

But have you ever thought about eviction in terms of the actual price tag? The legal fees, the court costs, lost rental income, and other damages that turn an unpleasant experience into a landlord's horror story? At a minimum, you could spend $2,500 on one eviction.

Let's break it down:

What Do Landlords Need to Prepare for Eviction Hearings?

When it comes to evictions, the Boy Scouts got it right: Be prepared.

Granted, the Boy Scouts probably weren’t talking about evictions (if they were, then hats off to the organization for teaching some real-life skills), but their advice is solid nonetheless. The eviction process is probably the messiest and most anxiety-producing you’ll experience as a landlord. Having your proverbial ducks in a row when you head into court for your hearing will help calm your nerves and ensure a more successful legal outcome.

The Tip of the Iceberg

Before you read further, let’s make one thing clear: If you haven’t done the eviction legwork ahead of time, there’s no point in heading to court. Eviction hearings are merely the visible tip of the iceberg, with all of the substantial work and preparation less visible and obvious.

This means that well before you go to court, and even before you’ve made the decision to evict, you need to begin documenting your actions and those of your tenants.