Though the vast majority of tenants are respectful renters, many landlords will have to deal with the eviction process now and again. It’s an unfortunate part of the job that is stressful for everyone involved, which is why it is so important to screen tenants ahead of time for any past issues with evictions or not paying rent. If you are wondering how to evict a tenant, take a look at the guide below so you are prepared for the five steps of the eviction process.
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If you are ready to start evicting a tenant, the first thing you should do is consult the renter protection laws for your state and city.
Eviction Process by State
Tenant rights and eviction laws differ on a state-by-state basis. You should make sure to thoroughly read and understand your individual state and city laws to ensure that you are acting within your rights. You can usually find these laws by going to your city’s official government page. You can also take a look at this resource we’ve put together that breaks down landlord-tenant laws by state.
The Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA)
Written in the mid-1970s and revised in 2015, URLTA was intended to define and clarify tenant and landlord responsibilities at a federal level. Though adoption is not mandatory, most states have accepted at least parts of URLTA. Among other things, URLTA states that landlords are required to:
- Comply with all building codes
- Repair the building to ensure it is in good condition
- Provide trash and recycling receptacles
- Supply hot water and heat
- Maintain the plumbing and electricity
- Keep the area clean and safe
In return, tenants are required to:
- Comply with all building codes in regards to safety and security
- Remove garbage and waste from the rental
- Keep the unit clean
- Use appliances in a reasonable manner
- Keep plumbing fixtures as clean as they are able
- Not deliberately break or deface anything on the property
- Conduct themselves in a safe and peaceful manner
Starting with URLTA is an excellent way to get a handle on the general rights and responsibilities of both tenants and landlords as required by many states.
Step 2: Understand Your Lease
Once you understand your rights under state rental laws, you should be sure to consult your lease for the exact terms of the rent agreement.
Evicting a Tenant Requires a Valid Reason
Eviction is a serious and complicated process, as you are forcibly removing someone from their home. Because of this, there needs to be a very good reason why they should no longer be allowed to occupy your rental. If a tenant has repeatedly violated the terms they agreed to in the lease, then you should have more than enough reason to terminate the agreement. Common eviction causes include:
- Failure to pay rent
- Damage to the property
- Unauthorized pets
- Unauthorized sublets or occupants
- Illegal activity in the unit or on the property
Continue to Uphold Landlord Duties
No matter how frustrated you are by a tenant that refuses to pay rent or that has damaged the unit, landlords are still required to uphold their end of the lease under law. Not only is this legally required, but it will also give you an advantage in court if you can show that you gave the tenant every chance at a peaceful living environment.
Though you can decide to forego court proceedings and offer them an immediate termination of the lease in exchange for moving out, you must continue to provide access to utilities and quiet enjoyment until they leave.
Step 3: Post an Eviction Notice
The next step in evicting a tenant is to provide written notice of your intent to evict detailing the timeline and summary of demands.
Notices to Pay Rent, Cure or Quit
There are a few different types of eviction notices that you can write, depending on the situation and the desired result. The three most common types of eviction notices include:
- Pay Rent Notice: Gives the tenant a timeframe to pay overdue rent (typically a few days), or else they must move out.
- Cure Notice: Gives the tenant a timeframe to cease (or “cure”) activities that are violating the lease agreement, such as unauthorized pets or extra tenants within the unit or else they must move out.
- Quit Notice: Gives the tenant a timeframe for when they must move out, with no chance of staying even if they pay rent or cure behavior.
How to Write an Eviction Notice
In general, eviction notices should be short and to the point. They should summarize the reason(s) for eviction, total damages and rent owed (if any), a timeframe for complying with demands, and when the tenant will be evicted if they do not comply with the demands.
You can usually find state-specific eviction notice templates on government websites, or you can take a look at our fillable templates for landlords. Make sure to consult your state laws before posting the eviction notice, as many states require a certain amount of time between the initial posting and official filing with the local court.
Step 4: Begin the Eviction Process in Court
Once you have posted the eviction notice and waited for the correct amount of time according to state laws, you are ready to take your case to the local courts.
File Eviction with Local Courthouse
Gather your documentation (including the lease, proof of lease violations and a copy of the eviction notice) and head to your local courthouse to speak with a court clerk. The clerk will help you process the official documentation and will schedule a date for your court hearing with a judge. The clerk will also issue a summons to your tenant which requires them to be present at the hearing.
Eviction Court Proceedings
While some states provide specific timeframes for a court to hear your case, Your court date will usually be scheduled for one to two months after your initial meeting with the clerk. Be sure to gather as much documentation as you can before the hearing so you can be well-prepared to make your case. Landlords may represent themselves in eviction hearings or may choose to hire a real estate lawyer to speak for them.
In addition to proof of lease transgressions such as emails, texts, photos of damages or bank account statements, landlords may also bring witnesses who can testify on their behalf. These are often other tenants who have been exposed to the disruptive behavior of the tenant being evicted. After the evidence is presented and both sides have made their cases, the judge will decide whether or not the tenant will be evicted or if they will be allowed to pay for rent and damages and remain in the unit. The judge may also require mediation between the two parties to find a solution.
Step 5: Evicting a Tenant and Regaining Property
If you have a clear reason to evict a tenant and present evidence against them in court, the judge will most likely rule in your favor. The last step in the eviction process is to ensure the tenant moves out of the unit.
Once the judge has decided on the eviction, they will set a date for the required move-out. This is typically about one week after the hearing to allow the tenant to make other living arrangements. Again, the landlord still must uphold their side of the lease and will not be allowed to enter the rental until the tenant has vacated.
However, once a judge has ruled on an eviction, the landlord will be able to call the local sheriff’s office to have an officer present on the move-out day. This can be a good option if you think there could be trouble getting the tenant to leave.
Reclaiming the Property and Past-Due Rent
If the tenant has fully moved out of the unit, the landlord will then be allowed to regain full use of the property to clean the unit and change the locks. Depending on your state, you may or may not have received payment for past-due rent by the time the tenant moves out. In some states, you can sue for payment at the same time as the eviction hearing. In other states, you may be required to file another small claims lawsuit against the former tenant in order to receive back payments on overdue rent.
Protecting Yourself From the Eviction Process in the Future
Evicting a tenant is one of the most frustrating and time-consuming issues a landlord can experience. Make sure to protect yourself from future hardships by doing your due diligence when it comes to selecting new tenants.
Running tenant background checks can allow you to see if tenants have been evicted in the past, or if they have a criminal history that might lead to issues on your property. Make sure to help other landlords as well if you have a bad experience with a tenant! You can report them to credit bureaus so that they are flagged on background checks in the future.
DISCLAIMER: TurboTenant, Inc does not provide legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. All users are advised to check all applicable local, state and federal laws and consult legal counsel should questions arise.