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How do I evict a tenant?

By definition eviction means the removal of a tenant (in most cases by a law officer). Other terms used for “eviction” include “unlawful detainer”, “summary possession”, or “forcible detainer”. Before a tenant can be officially evicted, the landlord must go to court and win the eviction lawsuit.

Eviction is a legal process that is far more involved that just locking the tenant out of their apartment. Eviction laws vary from state to state. There are many reasons why a landlord would want to evict a tenant. When you decide to rent out a property, you have some expectations attached. Obviously, you want to be compensated. You want the tenants to take care of the property. And you want to know if you can trust the tenant to pay their rent on time, to be respectful of other tenants, to fulfill the agreements of the lease agreement, etc.

There are some cases when an eviction takes place “without cause.” This is when there is no standing lease agreement or the lease is expiring. This type of eviction is more difficult because of the ordinances in place by government that protect the renter from being evicted without a just cause. Also, 1-3 months written warning/notice is required for this eviction.

Unfortunately, not all tenants hold up their end of the deal and you will need to evict them. Because of eviction laws, you should proceed with caution. There are many cases when improper eviction action by the landlord, gets him in more legal trouble than the tenant. Obtaining legal advice is best, but if this is not a possibility, individual state legislation regarding landlord-tenant issues can be found in the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.

So, what are the steps to actually evicting a tenant?

Well, first you must officially terminate the tenancy. In most states this means giving the tenants written notice of lease termination. This notice may contain such things as a request for the last month of payment, payment for repairs, late payment, cure of a specific problem, etc. If the tenant does nothing to remedy the given problem as it was outlined in the termination notice, the landlord can file a lawsuit to evict the tenant.

Next you must file a lawsuit. The court date is often set once the suit has been filed. The renter must appear in court on that set date or the landlord will most often win the case. In the case that the renter does show up for the court hearing, the laws tend to favor the renter and he may be granted a few months to vacate the apartment. If the renter still has not left after the extra time granted by the court, law enforcement will come and escort the renter from the property. However, most former-tenants know to leave just a few days before this happens.

In many cases when your eviction does become a matter for the court system and the renter is granted additional time on the premises, it doesn’t mean good news for you as the landlord. A case like this could drag on for months and could cost you money in lost rental opportunity and legal fees.

Some steps that you as the landlord can take to make for a smoother eviction lawsuit experience is to comply exactly with local rental housing authorities and eviction procedures and avoid taking illegal actions against the tenant (example: changing the locks on his doors, physically removing his possessions, etc.) Failure to comply with laws as the landlord, can result in a counter suing by the tenant. As the landlord, you should have the upper hand on understanding what you can do to make your case for eviction the most compelling.

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Posted by DF
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