The eviction process is a slow, stressful, and expensive one for Landlords. Ideally, with the right Tenant Screening Process, you’ll be able to avoid it entirely. But unfortunately, there are times that Landlords have to consider or initiate eviction proceedings. If you ever find yourself in this situation, it’s important to know as much about the process as possible. With that in mind, here’s a step-by-step eviction guide to take.
What is an Eviction?
An eviction is a legal process through which a Landlord removes a Tenant from a rental property. The most common reason for an eviction is a Tenant not paying rent, but evictions can also be necessary for other reasons, for example, a Tenant not complying with any terms of the Lease or presenting a risk of harm to others.
While Landlords with a fixed-term Lease cannot terminate it without cause, those with a month-to-month or shorter-term rental agreement can. In these situations, Landlords simply provide adequate notice, which varies from state to state, and then can terminate the Lease without cause.
Each state has its eviction laws, with unique requirements for notice periods, suitable reasons for an eviction, and procedural steps. In addition, federal laws can impact eviction proceedings, most notably in recent months through the extended federal eviction moratorium due to the COVID-19 crisis. As a result, Landlords need to research and understand both state and federal eviction laws before beginning the process.
A Step-by-Step Guide to the Eviction Process
Once you know all applicable state and federal laws, you’re ready to begin the eviction process. Here’s a roadmap for how the process should go.
Have a Valid Reason for the Eviction
The first thing to consider is your reason for the eviction. To be successful in eviction proceedings, the underlying reason needs to be a legitimate one. Some of the most common reasons for eviction are:
- Rent is not paid
- Lease violations
- Property damage
- Illegal activity
- Tenant presents a risk of harm to others
- Lease expiration
Landlords should refer to their Lease to confirm that the Tenant is violating the Lease and to ensure that the Landlord is complying with all Lease terms. In addition, it’s important to refer back to state laws to review a list of legitimate reasons for eviction in the state where your rental property is located.
Talk with the Tenant and Try to Resolve the Issue
After confirming that you have a valid basis for an eviction, the next step is to talk with the Tenant about your concerns. Whenever possible, it’s best to resolve the issue – whether that means the Tenant leaving voluntarily or fixing the underlying problem – without having to evict the Tenant.
Sometimes a direct conversation with the Tenant will do this. It’s best to have this conversation in a public place, for example, a coffee shop, rather than at the rental property. In this conversation, the Landlord should be understanding but also firm.
- Explain to the Tenant the underlying problem and refer to the Lease to show your legitimate reason for taking action
- Tell the Tenant what they need to do to resolve the problem – for example, leave the premises or pay all rent
- Give the Tenant a deadline for resolving the issue
- Tell the Tenant that if they don’t take the necessary action by the date given, you’ll begin the eviction process.
The goal of this conversation is to find a way to resolve the issue without having to initiate eviction proceedings. Get creative to find a resolution, whether it be a rent payment plan, forgiveness of unpaid rent if Tenants leave by a certain date, or even a “cash for keys agreement, where the Landlord pays Tenants some amount to voluntarily leave the property by a certain date. This sounds counterintuitive but the reality is that it’s often a cheaper and less stressful alternative to eviction.
Issue Formal Notice of Eviction
If the Tenant does not resolve the issue, then it’s time to issue a formal Notice of Eviction to officially begin the eviction process. Each state has its own requirements for this notice, but it usually must include:
- The date by which Tenant needs to either pay rent or move out
- The reason for the eviction
- If the eviction is due to missed rent, the total amount of rent due
This notice should be posted on the Tenant’s door and mailed to the Tenant. When you mail the notice, make sure that you get a receipt so that you can provide proof of when the notice was sent. Additionally, we offer read receipts with emails, which gives Landlords another way to send notice and provides an added layer of evidence that your Tenant received timely notice.
A Landlord must allow a minimum number of days to pass between when the formal notice was given and when eviction paperwork can be filed. The number of days required varies from state to state, so it’s best to use a state-specific Notice of Eviction form.
File the Eviction Paperwork with the Court
If the Tenant hasn’t either cured the problem or moved out by the date in the eviction notice, then the Landlord should file eviction paperwork with the local courts. When doing this, you’ll pay a fee, show proof that you gave the Tenant proper notice (for example, receipt from mailing the eviction notice), and receive a hearing date.
Prepare for and Attend the Court Hearing
The hearing will be your chance to prove that the Tenant should be evicted, so it’s important that you’re prepared and have adequate evidence to prove your case. This means having all documents organized and ready, including:
- The signed Lease
- Payment records
- Any bounced checks
- Phone, email, and text records showing that you’ve communicated with the Tenant and you have given adequate notice
- A copy of the eviction notice
- Pictures of the property or photo documentation of property damage
- Proof that Tenant was given proper notice
At the hearing, you’ll present your evidence to establish your case for having the Tenant evicted. If you win, the judge will tell the Tenants how long they have to be out of the property. This is usually between 48 hours and one week, depending on state laws.
If the Tenant is not out by the prescribed time, you should contact the local authorities to escort the Tenant from the property and put their possessions on the curb.
Tips to Help the Eviction Process Go as Smoothly as Possible
Here are some Pro Landlord tips to help this process go as smoothly as possible:
- Hire a local eviction attorney. This person will know all state laws and ensure that you comply with them. You can search for local attorneys on our resource page
- Never take matters into your own hands by doing things like removing Tenant’s possessions, changing locks, or turning off utilities
- Establish a thorough Tenant Screening process to avoid the need for evictions