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April 16, 2024

How to Evict a Tenant

Daniel Berlind
CEO

It’s every property manager’s nightmare – the dreaded eviction. Evicting a tenant is a lengthy and costly process that happens when a tenant refuses to pay rent or violates their lease. In most cases, the property manager must go through the legal system to evict the tenant. This process varies from state to state, but we can provide the basic steps so you know what you’re dealing with.

Reasons You Might Evict a Tenant

At some point, one of your tenants may experience financial hardship or suffer a job loss. While it’s okay to sympathize with them, you’re running a business at the end of the day. If your tenant fails to pay their rent after sending reminders and late fees, it’s time to begin the eviction process.

Excessive damage to the property is another reason property managers choose to evict. Normal wear and tear is one thing, but if you notice that the unit is destroyed during an inspection or maintenance visit, it may be time to take legal action.

Lease violations are also grounds for eviction. Let’s say a tenant has an unauthorized pet or person residing in the property. Typically you will serve a 3-Day Notice to Cure, meaning the tenant has three days to remedy the issue, or you will begin the eviction process. This type of eviction is less common than the reasons above, as most tenants are quick to resolve the issue to avoid an eviction on their record.

Steps in the Eviction Process

Despite your best efforts, your tenant hasn’t remedied the problem. Now it’s time to start the eviction process. Remember, every state has different laws dictating the necessary steps and associated fees. Be sure to review those laws and consult an attorney before taking action.

1. Post the Notice

The first step is to post the Notice to the tenant. The notice informs the tenant of the issue, how it can be resolved, and how long they have to resolve it. The most common notice types are:

  • A pay or quit notice states that their rent is past due and provides a specific period to pay the past due rent in full, including any late fees, or they must vacate the property.
  • A cure or quit notice is served when a tenant violates a lease provision other than the payment of rent, such as having a pet, a roommate, or excessive noise. The tenant can fix the problem (generally within a few days of receiving the written notice) or vacate the property.

Both notices are usually 3-day notices, meaning that after the three days have passed, you can file with the court. Note that the three days usually only apply to business days, not weekends or holidays.

2. File With the Court

Once the notice period has passed, you can file with the court. Check local and state government websites for all necessary forms, documents, and fees. You don’t want to show up unprepared. It’s strongly encouraged that you hire an attorney to guide you through this process, especially if you’ve never gone through an eviction process before.

3. Default Judgment or Go to Trial

After you’ve filed, your tenant has two options. They can ignore the summons or respond. If they ignore the summons, you can request a default judgment. On most occasions, this results in the judge ruling in your favor without having to go to trial, unless the tenant can prove that they missed they summons for a valid reason.

If the tenant responds and files an “Answer,” they intend to fight the eviction. The trial will be set once they file a response with the court, typically within the next month. Additional delays might occur if the tenant files pre-trial motions or requests formal discovery (interrogatories/depositions).

4. Decision

Once the judge has heard both sides, they will make a decision. There are two possible outcomes: the judge will support your side, resulting in the tenant vacating the property, or they will side with the tenant, allowing them to remain in the property.

If you win the case, a Writ of Possession will be issued, and the sheriff will post a notice to the tenant. Soon after, the sheriff lockout will take place. This is necessary to change the locks and prevent the tenant from accessing the property.

The judge can also order your tenant to cover a variety of expenses, such as back rent, damages, penalties, attorney fees, and court fees. If your tenant wins, you may be responsible for covering the costs associated with the case.

Preventing Evictions

So what can you do to prevent an eviction? Implementing a rigorous tenant screening process is your best first line of defense. Your screening process acts as the wall preventing unqualified, bad tenants from making it into your property.

Be sure to include the essential steps: credit checks, background checks (in applicable states), rental history, income verification, and identity verification. These checks assure you that the applicant is capable of paying the rent and has a good record as a tenant at other properties.

Including fraud detection in your screening process can be a big help, too. Instead of risking a denied application, applicants alter their financial documents to make it look like they have a certain level of income or high bank account balances–when in reality, they don’t.

Fraud detection platforms like Snappt are designed to catch these fake bank statements and pay stubs during the application process – before the tenant makes it into your property. To learn more, schedule a free demo.

Lastly, make sure you have an ironclad lease agreement in place. The lease helps the tenant understand what is expected of them and protects you should anything go to court.

Eviction Laws and Processes by State

Alabama 

Alaska 

Arizona 

Arkansas

California

Colorado

Connecticut  

Delaware

Florida

Georgia

Hawai’i

Idaho

Illinois 

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas 

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine 

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Mississippi

Missouri

Montana  

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico 

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota

Ohio 

Oklahoma

Oregon 

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee 

Texas

Utah

Vermont

Virginia 

Washington 

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Wyoming

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to evict a tenant?

The length of the eviction process will vary depending on your state, but it typically takes a minimum of 30-45 days. Since the expiration of the federal eviction moratorium, things have been taking longer.

What’s the easiest way to evict a tenant?

The easiest way to evict a tenant is to follow your state’s laws and instructions to a tee. Consult an attorney and have all the necessary paperwork ready to go for each step. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be.

How much notice do you have to give a tenant when evicting?

You must serve the tenant the initial Notice to Pay or Cure and wait the legal amount of days (typically three business days). Then you may proceed with filing the eviction.

How do I lower eviction rates?

A great way to help lower your eviction rates and avoid bad tenants is to have a thorough tenant screening process. Include steps such as criminal background checks, credit checks, income verification, and rental history references.

Consider implementing fraud detection into your process, too. Applicants who submit fake documents are 7x more likely to result in bad debt or eviction. Yikes! Don’t worry; platforms like Snappt can detect these phony bank statements and pay stubs, catching the fraud before it slips past your defenses.

How do I avoid bad tenants?

Avoiding bad tenants starts with a robust screening process. Your screening process serves as your first line of defense when selecting who will live in your property. Don’t forget to check their credit, verify their income, and speak to their rental references.

To Sum Up…

Navigating the eviction process can be a challenging endeavor for property managers. Understanding the specific steps involved is crucial, so remember to review your state and local laws and consult an attorney regarding any questions you may have.