As a landlord, the last thing you want to deal with is a tenant who refuses to pay, and the legal eviction process that follows. However, as a landlord, this is part of the job. Therefore, you should become familiar with the laws for eviction governing your state.
For your protection, before you rent to anyone, make sure to take photos of the interior and exterior of the property, do a walkthrough with the new tenant prior to both parties signing the lease, and then have a legal lease created by an attorney. That way, you have all the bases covered if the tenant ever defaults on the lease and causes damage to the property.
By failing to pay, your tenant is stealing from you. Although you can evict a tenant on your own, because this is a complex process, you should consider hiring a qualified attorney.
The Legal Eviction Process
You want to avoid doing anything illegal, since it could come back on you and cost thousands of dollars. In addition to being messy and overwhelming, the eviction process is typically expensive. Therefore, if your tenant has simply fallen on hard times, you might try to come to some financial agreement. Otherwise, you have no choice but to start the eviction process through your attorney. Following are the steps typically involved with an eviction.
- A process service or deputy hand delivers to the tenant or posts one of two notices on the tenant’s door. A “pay or quit” notice outlines the number of days remaining before the tenant must vacate the premises, as well as the full amount of rent owed along with penalties and fees. If evicted for any reason other than non-payment of rent, the tenant is served a “notice to comply,” which outlines the reason(s) for eviction and the number of days left to bring the account current before being evicted.
- After the minimum number of days has passed, your attorney moves forward with the legal eviction by filing legal documents with the court. The court administrator issues a court date, at which you and your attorney, as well as the tenant, appear before a judge. Both parties tell their side and present relevant documentation.
- If the judge sides with you, your attorney files a lawsuit and the court sets a date for eviction. The tenant is served with an unlawful detainer, advising of the court date. If the tenant fails to show, the case defaults and you win the judgment. If the tenant does show, the judge again makes the final decision after listening to both sides and reviewing the presented documentation.
Getting the Tenant Out
Usually after losing, the tenant moves out and wages are garnished for the judgment amount. Unfortunately, sometimes a tenant refuses to leave. When that happens, you pay additional fees and your attorney completes more forms that allow the Sheriff’s Department to post a legal notice on the tenant’s door, advising that if they’re not out by a specified date, his or her belongings will be placed at the curb.
If the tenant still refuses to leave, your attorney will contact the local Sheriff’s Department to have the tenant physically removed. At this point, the tenant usually complies, but if not, he or she can be arrested and, based on the their actions, charged with one or more criminal offenses.