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Best Practices for Evicting a Tenant

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No matter how thoroughly you screen your tenants, you can’t always avoid an eviction.

Even a tenant who seems to be a perfect candidate can learn bad habits, defer payments, or otherwise break the lease agreement. 

Unfortunately, evictions are complex and expensive. They can cost thousands of dollars, three to four weeks of your time, and even more in lost rent. But no matter how much you’ve invested in a tenant, continuing to tolerate poor behavior is not beneficial for your business. 

When you do face evictions, there are many legal steps you’ll need to undertake. Below are some best practices for navigating the eviction process as smoothly as possible.

1. Budget for the Cost

There are a variety of costs associated with evictions. These include court and legal fees, lost rent, tenant turnover costs, and other expenses.

The cost to file a court claim varies by state, but it’s typically around $50. Legal fees include any legal advice you’ll require while pursuing the eviction.

The cost of turning over a unit is one reason many landlords avoid evictions when possible. Turnover involves everything from cleaning the unit and making repairs to advertising the vacancy and screening the replacement tenant. These tasks are expensive and time-consuming, especially if the evicted tenant left substantial property damage. Plus, you won’t be receiving monthly rent payments from this unit to offset the cost until you finish.

Include some buffer in your budget for potential evictions to ensure you are prepared for each of these expenses.

2. Hire A Good Attorney

Before you pursue an eviction, make sure you have a qualified and knowledgeable attorney. Look for one who specializes in property law and understands the minutiae of evictions.

An attorney can cost hundreds of dollars per hour. You’ll need their guidance to navigate the eviction process but expect a setback to your budget. Even if your attorney costs a little more than you would like, it may be worth it to know the eviction will go smoothly.

3. Keep Records of Everything

It’s critical to keep records of everything pertaining to the eviction. This includes proof of the tenant’s negligence or rule-breaking to back up your charges, such as copies of rent receipts and records demonstrating that a tenant did not pay rent on time.

If you use property management software, you can pull these records directly from your account. Your software automatically records the dates, times, and amounts of all payments in a ledger you can view whenever you need it.

Other records that you should keep on hand in case of litigation include incident reports, complaints from neighbors, communication (text or emails between you and the tenant), and pictures or videos of property damage. 

Be sure to provide proof that you sent the proper eviction notice to your tenant. If you want to be certain, you could send the letter via Certified Mail and hold on to the return receipt. This way, the tenant’s signature will prove that they received formal notice of the eviction.

Finally, keep digital copies or scans of all paper records.

4. Never Harass a Tenant

No matter how frustrating an eviction is, there are some boundaries you should never cross. Never try physically moving a tenant, relocating their belongings, or forcing them out another way. It’s better to let the legal process run its course.

5. Take Advantage of Tax Deductions

One positive of evictions is that their costs are almost entirely tax deductible. 

This means you can subtract all expenses directly related to the eviction from your taxable income, including all court and legal fees. Unpaid rent is not deductible, so it’s better to evict a tenant who stopped paying rent rather than delay the inevitable.  

6. Redouble Your Screening Efforts

If you’re facing a high frequency or volume of evictions, you should reassess your tenant screening practices. Are you running full credit, criminal, and eviction checks? Do you call all references and speak to prior landlords and employers?

If not, consider adopting a new, more thorough screening policy. Tenant screening is available on most property management software platforms. This feature allows you to view a condensed screening report and closely evaluate applicants in a simple format. 

Navigate Evictions with Ease

Evictions are an unfortunate reality for most landlords. However, research and preparation can go a long way toward easing the stress of evictions. By budgeting appropriately, enlisting legal experts, keeping thorough records, remaining courteous, and improving tenant screening, you will be well equipped to handle evictions when they occur.

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