Landlord 101: How to Evict a Tenant

Being an excellent landlord doesn’t mean you’re exempt from getting a few bad tenants. Screening tenants at the beginning of any lease is a good way to mitigate future risk, but it still doesn’t account for the unpredictability of some of them.

In any case, as a landlord, you need to have a firm understanding for when it’s legal to evict a tenant, as well as the lease termination process.
Even if you’re a great landlord, you’ll probably have to go through the eviction process at least once in your career.
Whether a tenant is disturbing other tenants, struggling to pay rent, or damaging your rental property, it’s important to know the legalities behind lease termination and evicting a tenant to avoid a further headache.

When It’s Legal to Evict a Tenant

Before you start turning your wheels through the eviction process, as a landlord you need to understand when it’s legal to evict a tenant.
You need to have a valid reason for eviction, which usually comes down to the following reasons and must be supported by proof during your eviction case:

  • Failure to pay rent
  • Violation of lease agreement (illegal usage, subletting, pets, etc.)
  • Health or safety hazards caused by the tenant
  • Damage to the rental property/premises

If you experience any of these things from your tenant, the next step will be sending the tenant a notice of termination. Termination notices, order the tenant to do one of the following:

  • Pay Rent or Quit
  • Cure or Quit
  • Unconditional Quit

If you find that the tenant continues to remain in your rental unit after receiving one of these notices, the next step is moving forward with an eviction lawsuit.

What to Know Before Starting the Tenant Eviction Process

While evicting a tenant may seem crude, it’s in the business of rental properties and something every landlord should know the ins and outs of.
In some cases, it may be as easy as asking the tenant to leave. In more severe cases, the formal eviction process will be needed.
When it comes to the legal eviction process, there are a few things every landlord should understand:
Get lease agreement terms in writing: No matter what state you live in, if you’re moving forward with evicting a tenant from your rental properly, the first step is providing the tenant a written eviction notice and a deadline.
State-specific tenant eviction laws: Laws vary from state to state. It’s essential to know and consider when writing lease agreements and fully research the laws to ensure you can win your eviction case.
The Landlord & Tenant Act: This act provides a detailed description behind the legalities of the eviction process.
Filing a tenant eviction with the court: Head down to your local courthouse to file your eviction and pay a fee. The clerk will schedule your hearing and notify your tenant with a summons.

How to Evict a Tenant

Remember, eviction is the court-ordered physical removal of the tenant from his or her property through the assistance of a law enforcement officer, so despite how angry you may be with your tenant, you can’t just kick them to the curb.

Stick to What the Law Allows

The landlord cannot:

  • Physically remove the tenant from the property
  • Remove the tenants personal property
  • Change the locks or lock out the tenant
  • Shut off the utilities
  • Harass the tenant

Trying to remove a tenant yourself can cause a lot of trouble, not to mention it’s illegal.
If everything goes well in court and you as the landlord win the case, your tenant will have a specific amount of time to leave your rental unit, which is usually anywhere from 48 hours to 7 days, depending on the state.
In the case of your tenant not leaving the property on time, you have the right to get a member of the Police Department to escort them out and place their possessions outside. Although this is not the most preferred outcome, it happens.

What’s Next After Evicting a Tenant?

If your tenant refused to pay rent, you could move forward with collecting past due rent by attending small claims court.
Small claims court allows you to sue for any back-due rent, which essentially puts the ruling in the judge’s hands.
If a judge determines the tenant owes you money from past-due rent, you will receive your money one of the following ways: garnish of their wages, garnish of their tax refund, or use a private debt collector.

How to Protect Yourself As a Landlord in the Future

If you’ve gone through the eviction process, you know they can be costly, time-consuming and stressful for both parties.
To help protect yourself as a landlord so you can avoid the eviction process in the future, here are a few things you can do:
Conduct tenant interviews/tenant screening: Gather as much information as possible about your future tenant.
Run tenant credit reports: Get a good idea for the applicant’s personal financial situation and whether or not they’ll be reliable when it comes to paying rent.
Background and eviction checks: Make sure you’re renting your unit to someone who doesn’t have a past of crime and trouble.
Rocket Lawyer provides all the documentation you need for properly navigating the eviction process. Create your own state-specific Eviction Notice today.
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By Belen figueira