Understanding When and Why You Can Evict a Tenant
Eviction is not a legal recourse that you want to be pushed into using, but sometimes there's no way around it. You don't want non-paying tenants living in your home, damaging your cash flow or your actual property. It's even worse if the tenants are disregarding another lease clause, such as bringing in more people than they're legally allowed or including unauthorized pets in the home. Before you go through the eviction process, it's important to understand when and why you can legally evict a tenant.
Why You Can Evict a Tenant
The most common type of eviction is for nonpayment. Your rental agreement explains when the rental payment is due, and when it is considered late. After the rental payment is considered late, the tenant may be subject to a late fee if included in the contract. This also starts the timer for an eviction for nonpayment. Each state has its own laws concerning how long it takes before you can start the eviction process if the tenant stops paying. Do not attempt to file for the eviction before this time period is up, or the tenant may get it dismissed from court due to improper notice and procedure.
Other valid reasons for evicting a tenant in most areas of the country involve the tenant using the property for illegal activity, willfully damaging the property, breaking clauses in the rental agreement - such as bringing an unauthorized pet on the property - or causing repeated disturbances in the neighborhood.
When to File for an Eviction
A typical time period required by a state before the eviction lawsuit can be filled is as little as three days. Generally, the first notice letter you send gives the tenant the option to cure the default by paying the rent, plus any associated late fees, or make an arrangement with you. If you are considering an alternative arrangement for paying rent, be careful about setting a precedent that has you chasing your tenant for rent every month. Someone that is having a hard time once in a while may need some help, but perpetual issues with finances aren't going to build a stable tenancy.
How to File for an Eviction
The eviction process isn't particularly complicated, but you do need to make sure that you follow every part of the process exactly. Hire a process server to take the eviction notice to your tenant. You have to use the server instead of delivering it yourself. The tenants have a specific amount of time to pay the rent they owe or to move before you go to court and file the unlawful detainer lawsuit. If they move before you file the eviction, you may need to file a suit for any unpaid back rent instead.
If the tenant doesn't answer the complaint and doesn't go to the court hearing, it's an open-and-shut case. You can ask for a judgment in the amount of the rent owed by the tenant, along with filing fees. You may not have a significant amount of success in collecting on the judgment, but it has a long-term impact on the tenant's credit.
If the tenant does answer the complaint, provide all the documentation you need to prove your side of the story in court. It may go to mediation, in which case you may choose to accept the tenant's payment so they can stay in the property. If there's an issue with the service process or the eviction filing, Nolo reports that it can add a significant amount of time to an eviction case.
If the tenant continues to stay in the home after the court has ruled that the property is returned to your possession, a Writ of Execution is obtained via the court, and the county sheriff or another law enforcement officer physically removes the tenant from the home. You can't do this yourself, or the tenant can claim improper process.
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