There are many great reasons to be a landlord. It’s an investment that gives you a steady stream of income for a long period of time. On top of that, the property you own builds equity and you can sell it for a profit when you want out of the game.
As a landlord, you put forth a good faith effort to make sure that your tenants have a safe and comfortable place to live. In return, you expect your tenants to uphold their contractual obligations. Unfortunately, the tenants you want aren’t the tenants you’ll get.
So what do you do when it comes time to evict a tenant? How long does the eviction process take? And how do you do it correctly?
If you’re worried about performing an eviction properly, then you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn all about the eviction process.
When Can I Evict a Tenant?
Despite your best efforts to find great tenants, there are definitely times when it is necessary to evict your tenants. There are a number of instances in which the law permits you to evict a tenant. The majority of instances involve a breach of the lease between you and the tenant.
Failure to Pay Rent
Failure to pay rent is the most common reason landlords evict their tenants. Leases specify a particular date and time in which your tenant is expected to pay rent each month. Rent is usually due on the 1st of the month, but many landlords accept rent through the 5th without charging a late fee. Any rent collected after the due date is subject to a late fee.
It is important that your lease specifies the due date for rent as well any other pertinent information like the amount of the late fee you’ll charge. It is also important to be consistent. If your lease says that rent is due by the 5th, but you always accept your tenant’s rent on the 15th without asking them to pay a late fee, then the eviction process is going to be much more complicated. Set a date and stick with it.
Breach of Lease
The biggest expectation you have of your tenant is to pay their rent, but they also have to uphold the entirety of their lease if they want to continue living in your property.
One way your tenants can be in breach of the lease is if they have unauthorized tenants living in their home. As a landlord, you are within your rights to specify exactly who can live in your property. In fact, there are legal limits to the number of people who can live in a home. If you find out that there are too many people living on the premises, then you are within your rights to ask them to leave.
You can also evict tenants if they have unauthorized pets in the property. There are many reasons why you might wish to restrict pet ownership in your rental property, and you are well within your rights to prohibit them. If your tenants insist on having a pet, you can file to evict.
Other breaches of the lease can include criminal activity within the property, lack of upkeep of the premises, and excessive complaints from other tenants. If your tenants are violating their neighbors right to quiet enjoyment of their homes, then you can evict.
Non-Renewal of Lease
This is not technically an eviction process, but a notification to the tenant that you are not renewing their lease and expect them to vacate the property at the end of the term. You will need to give your tenant the proper amount of notice, as defined by state or local laws.
Is It Ever Illegal to Evict Someone?
Yes, there are definitely times in which evicting someone would be considered illegal. It can be illegal based upon your motivation for eviction and for how you evict someone.
Fair Housing Act Violations
All landlords need to have an in-depth knowledge of the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act sets out specific classes of people against whom you may not discriminate. These classes include race, sex, religion, familial status, disability, color, and national origin.
You cannot evict because they are a member of one of these classes. This means if you rent to a woman, and she becomes pregnant while living in your property, you cannot evict her for having that child. All evictions must be based upon legitimate, breach of lease reasons.
A self-help eviction is when a landlord circumvents the legal system and removes their tenant themselves. This is often accomplished by changing the locks when the tenant is out of the home.
Most jurisdictions prohibit self-help evictions, but some permit it so long as it is done peaceably. Be sure to consult with an attorney to learn what the laws are in your jurisdiction before attempts to engage in a self-help eviction.
Constructive eviction is when a landlord makes it so uncomfortable for a tenant to live in a space that they feel they have no other option but to leave the apartment. This is accomplished through failure to make repairs, creating a nuisance such as excessive noise, or through harassment.
Constructive eviction will almost always land you in hot water. If you’re truly unhappy with a tenant, but they haven’t breached the lease, you will have to wait until their lease term is over to ask them to move out.
How Do I Start the Eviction Process?
The first step in the eviction process to serve your tenant with notice. Ordinarily, this comes in the form something like a three-day pay or quit or a three-day cure or quit if you’re evicting for something other than non-payment.
If the tenant fails to make the payment or fix the issue, then you will want to serve them with a notice of eviction. This notice should be hand-delivered to the tenant. You will also want to mail the notice to the tenant as a backup. This starts the legal process of eviction.
How Long Does the Eviction Process Take?
It depends. If your tenant does not contest the eviction, then the process will be faster, but it still has to go through the courts. If your tenant contests the eviction, then additional time will be required to get through the process.
Once you’ve notified your tenant that you want to evict them, a court date is scheduled. In many cases, your tenant won’t show up to the hearing, but they will if they want to contest the eviction. If your tenant doesn’t show up, then the judge will award the eviction.
Expect for it to take at least 30 days for the eviction to go through, but be aware that it can take up to 90 days to get your tenant out.
What Else Happens?
Once the judge approves the eviction, the court will send a Writ of Possession to your local sheriff. The posts the writ on the tenant’s door. The writ specifies the precise date and time in which the sheriff will be at the property to officially evict the tenant.
In most cases, you are permitted to be there when the sheriff comes to remove the tenant. At this time you can re-key the lock and take possession of the property again.
How Do I Get the Money I’m Owed?
When a judge finds in favor of a landlord, the landlord is also given a judgment for the amount of money they are owed and, if requested, for court and attorney fees. That judgment stands for a specific number of years, depending upon the jurisdiction you’re in.
Of course, a tenant who wasn’t paying rent already is not likely to hand over the money once they have been evicted. You can enroll the judgment and place a lien on your former tenant’s income and bank accounts. Another option is to hand over their account to a collection agency in an attempt to get the money you’re owed.
Need More Property Management Tips?
How long does the eviction process take? The answer is, it depends. There are a number of factors that come into play when you want to evict a tenant.
Make sure to follow your local laws when you start the process. The best thing you can do if you want to go through the process as effectively as possible is to retain the assistance of an attorney.
Interested in more helpful information about being a landlord? We’ve got you covered. Check out the rest of our blog for information about everything you need to know to make the most of your rental property.