Nobody likes to evict a tenant who has fallen on hard times. But sometimes all else fails and you’re left with no other choice. Whether you’re a veteran rental property owner or a professional property manager, it’s likely that you’ve had to go through the eviction process at least once – and had a thoroughly unpleasant time throughout it.
The Cost of Evictions
Evictions aren’t just distressing for the tenant – they’re also costly and risky for the landlord. If a tenant owes you money, it’s usually very difficult to track them down and recover damages. You could sue, pay a lawyer a bunch of money and get a judgment, but that’s a very different thing from actually collecting on a judgment. (After all, if the tenant had the money lying around to pay a judgment, they probably would have just paid rent in the first place!)
Evicted tenants also often vandalize rental properties as they move out. They almost certainly won’t undergo the thorough move-out cleaning you normally expect from your tenants, and so you’ll wind up having to pay that much more to clean up and re-rent the property.
Prevention Is Key
To avoid renting to eviction-prone tenants, make sure you can find evidence of income stability, the ability to save and a track record of responsible tenancy and use of credit. Few people are perfect, and job losses and short-term crises can happen to anyone, but you absolutely do not want to lease to chronic bad renters.
Know What You Can’t Do
There is a legal process for evictions that both parties have to follow. Meanwhile, you cannot unilaterally do things like cut off utilities or change locks. You can’t enter the dwelling except in accordance with landlord access laws, and you can’t remove tenant belongings without court authorization. If you do so without a court order’s authorization, the tenant could come after you with a claim and make you liable for damages.
A Simple Solution: Hire a Property Manager
In any eviction, there are a number of reasons why it’s better to have a professional property manager handle the process than to do it yourself. Here are the six primary reasons:
- Landlords trying the DIY approach make a lot of mistakes that slow the process down or open themselves up to liability. On the other hand, any professional property manager you work with will likely have experienced many evictions in the past.
- Legal help. Your tenants might have their own lawyers to represent them during the eviction process. It’s wise to protect yourself by having a lawyer on your side as well. Your property manager will likely have a lawyer on retainer, the cost of their services being split among all their clients.
- You don’t have to be the bad cop. The property manager can be the bad guy throughout the eviction process, not you. Using the good cop/bad cop routine with your property manager can be helpful in many different contexts.
- Your property manager will have errors and omissions and commercial liability insurance in place to help protect you in the event something goes wrong with an eviction.
- Saved time and energy. Even smooth evictions are never easy. Working with a professional property manager will save you a tremendous amount of time and hassle.
- Access to specialized software. Property managers often have specialized software that automates and documents the eviction notification and communication process. This reduces the risk of eviction filings getting thrown out of court, saving you from needless expenses and delays.
Have a System and Apply It Across the Board
Have an eviction policy written well ahead of time – and abide by it. If you own multiple units, don’t start making exceptions to your own policy, because when you do you open yourself up to unlawful discrimination or retaliation complaints.
Other Eviction Tips
- Don’t get emotional. Eviction is just a legal process. Remember that it’s not personal and, most importantly, an emotional outburst might give you trouble in court.
- Don’t delay filing. You can always cut the tenant some slack towards the end of the eviction process, once you have the eviction order in hand. It’s better to be magnanimous once you have the eviction order than to be a pushover early in the process and get taken advantage of.
- Be careful of accepting partial payments. Accepting a partial rent payment can affect your eligibility to file for an eviction. Many landlords go with an all-or-nothing policy for late rent payments.
- Set a late rent payment fee. Make it high enough to cover your costs and provide an incentive to make rent payments on time, but not so high that a tenant can’t pay the fee.
- Check your mail box. Don’t make the mistake of paying an expensive filing fee only to find out the tenant already paid you!
Do you balk at the idea of navigating the unpleasant eviction process? Are you hesitant to evict problem tenants because of the hassles those evictions will inevitably entail? If yes, we urge you to get a free quote from a professional property manager and learn how they can save you time and make managing your rental properties hassle-free.