Come Up to Speed
Before you say or do anything, know what your lease says about delinquencies or the tenant’s behavior first. You need to evaluate what sort of leverage you have over the tenant.
What is required of you under the lease? Do you have to send written notice or a warning? What policies have you followed with other tenants in the past? Avoid jumping the gun with a confrontation until you are certain you can deliver on the threat or you give the tenant the power.
Hit the Ground Running
When a tenant doesn’t pay rent — the most common reason for eviction, they may be testing the waters, waiting to see your reaction. If they don’t get immediate push-back, then their test was successful. This will only encourage more bad behavior — like living rent free for weeks while you mull over whether to evict them.
If the tenant is acting out, and you have the right to evict, get right to it by telling them where they stand. Everyone wants to believe that the problem will just go away, but it won’t.
Never delve into the personal reasons the tenant is defaulting. Avoid short-term fixes. Don’t issue multiple warnings. Chances are they’re just getting you off their back long enough to find a new place — and then disappear.
Box Them In
The old adage “shoot first, ask questions later” can apply to eviction cases. If you have a delinquent tenant, time is of the essence. When a tenant becomes unresponsive, and you have the legal right to evict, immediately file the proceeding and get the time lines rolling. You can always settle later — even dismiss your claim if you work it out. Think of the filing fee as your insurance policy against a prolonged vacancy.
By filing, you have provided a firm deadline that offers the tenant incentive to negotiate with you. Now, you have the power.
No Room for Errors
Eviction paperwork is notoriously problematic for the do-it-yourself landlord. Common mistakes include miscalculating the days required for the notice, not including the tenant’s full legal name, and not naming all of the occupants in the property. It is even possible to make mistakes when naming the actual owner of the property. Any incorrect or incomplete information likely will lead to a dismissal. Not only does the landlord need to re-file, they will lose their position of strength.
Presenting the eviction to the court requires calm, and a whole lot of documentation. Come prepared and organized, and you can defeat any bogus defense the tenant may raise to delay the eviction.
If you’re not clear on the rules, hire an attorney to process the eviction. Seems too expensive? In making that determination, factor in what it will cost you if you have to file multiple evictions against this same tenant, suffer a long-term vacancy if you don’t succeed in getting a problem tenant out of your property the first time around, or allow this disrespectful tenant time to damage the property.
Don’t Stop There
While getting the tenant out and the property re-rented is a top priority, don’t let the former tenant off the hook if they owe you money. There are a number of options available for collecting any unpaid rent or damages the tenant caused. You may not be certain of the tenant’s circumstances; there is always the possibility that you can collect what is owed.
By pursuing the tenant, you can create a record on the their credit report. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for the rest of the landlords out there who may have to deal with this same problem tenant.