By Erik J. Martin, CTW Features
If you’re a landlord of an apartment building, detached home or another type of residence, you’ve got a lot on your shoulders – from maintaining the property and making needed improvements to finding new tenants to pay the rent. But one of the toughest jobs a landlord ever has to face is trying to evict a renter from the premises. Eviction is often a challenging process that has to be performed carefully and legally, the experts caution.
“Eviction is a legal process of forcing someone to vacate their residence due to violations of their lease or violations of the law,” says Leonard Ang, CEO of iPropertyManagement Leasing. “This requires the landlord to give tenants proper notice as well as multiple warnings in most jurisdictions, and many cities and states have courts specifically to deal with evictions, giving landlords and tenants alike a chance to plead their case.”
Ryan Byers, a Jacksonville, Illinois-based attorney who specializes in civil litigation and residential eviction, explains that the specific procedures of eviction will vary from state to state and could be impacted by local ordinances from city to city.
“However, in most cases, the eviction will require some sort of formal notice to the tenant that the landlord believes there are grounds to terminate the tenancy. Then, if the tenant remains at the premises after the notice, court proceedings must be initiated to seek an order removing the tenant,” he notes.
The most common reasons for eviction include non-payment or incomplete payment of rent, criminal activity, violation of lease terms – such as subletting or having pets without permission – causing significant property damage and any kind of domestic violence, such as stalking, harassment and intimidation as well as physical abuse, according to Ben Michael, an attorney in Austin, Texas.
“Another legal reason for eviction that has become more prominent since the pandemic is not abiding by community health or safety standards. For example, if an area is under strict quarantine rules but a tenant is hosting large parties, that could be grounds for eviction,” Michael adds.
Landlords have to be careful not to break the law or violate the rights of their tenants.
“I have encountered several cases in which a landlord wanted a tenant to be removed immediately. But this is not possible in most cases, as the law provides procedural steps that must be taken before there can be an eviction,” Byers cautions.
Indeed, attempting to evict a tenant for annoying but legally permissible behavior that isn’t covered in a lease agreement usually isn’t going to work.
“Noisy tenants, those who generate strong smells from cooking, incense or other non-noxious sources, or tenants who don’t fit in culturally with their neighbors could all be safe from eviction, depending on the wording of the lease,” says Ang. “Evicting a tenant who is locked into a low rent simply to raise the rent on the next tenant usually isn’t allowed either. And even tenants who are behind on rent payments may be protected by local or state laws for a period of time.”
Be forewarned: If you try to evict improperly, illegally or without just cause, you may find it even harder to remove that tenant in the future.
“You may also end up paying fines or fees to city or state governments,” Ang cautions.
The steps involved with legally evicting a tenant could vary significantly from state to state and municipality to municipality. For best results, it’s smart to hire an attorney who has experience handling evictions.
“In general, to be able to evict legally, you need to first determine what grounds you have for evicting the tenant,” recommends Byers. “This will often dictate the type and amount of notice to vacate the property that has to be given. Once you have determined the appropriate amount and type of notice, you need to ensure it is prepared and properly served to the tenant. If the tenant leaves the property within the time prescribed in the notice, further action is not necessary.”
But if the tenant remains in possession after the notice period has expired, filing a proceeding in your local court will likely be required.
“Typically, the most difficult tenants to evict our those who have been evicted before, whether once or multiple times. These individuals are familiar with the process and specific steps they can take to create as much delay as possible while not violating the law,” Byers continues. “You need to maintain patience with these individuals and continue to follow the appropriate legal process.”