In this episode of Be A Better Landlord, Krista and Seamus explore the essential five steps of the eviction process. Gain valuable insights into landlord-tenant law and more. Stay tuned for expert advice on property management and maximizing your investment
Krista: And I’m joined today by Krista.
Host: and we’re here to make you a better landlord.
Krista: Krista, one question we’ve been getting from our Better Landlord Community is about evictions, which makes a ton of sense considering that 3.6 million evictions are occurring in the U.S each year. Walk me through the steps to an eviction.
Host: So there are five. The first one is going to be some research. You need to review the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, also lovingly called URLTA, in addition to your local landlord-tenant laws. Now, the reason I recommend this step is that URLTA is going to tell you what your responsibilities are as a landlord and what the tenant’s responsibilities are. It’s a good starting point to make sure that any complaints you have align with failed expectations they should be upholding. Equally, you need to review your local landlord-tenant laws because eviction requirements, processes, everything vary wildly from even just county to county. That’s the first place to start, make sure you know your laws, make sure you know URLTA, and then you can move on to the second step.
Krista: Makes sense. And when you are looking up your local laws, feel free to contact your local county to ask deeper questions if you have them. I think a lot of people feel like they have to do this themselves, they don’t. There are individuals out there available to answer those questions. And I will also say that a lot of counties have free mediation services that you can ask for, and that can help avoid the eviction process. So definitely reach out to your local government, just be sure that you’re looking at a gov site, that is your government page, and that’s going to have the best information for you as a landlord. All right, step number one, we’re looking at our local laws right to understand where we are. Move us on to step two.
Host: Yes, step two is to look at your lease again. Outside of the local laws, your lease is the single most important document that you have in regards to your tenant. It outlines what you need to do for them and what they need to do for you. So once you’ve looked over your local laws, you can take a look at your lease. If you are like so many landlords and you’ve been using the same lease over and over, it’s possible that your local laws have changed and the thing that you are upset about or that is causing you pain with the tenant might not be in play depending on any kind of legislative updates. So look at your lease, make sure that anything that’s going wrong is violating the actual lease, and at this point, you should be notifying your tenant if there are any lease violations. Don’t let it slide, don’t let it be a casual “Hey, make sure you pay rent on time.” You really need to be documenting these conversations in order to move forward with the eviction process. The documentation throughout this entire process is so important. One of the things that I’ve started doing with my own properties when I do have a lease violation is not only document it but even send it to the renter to sign it. So we’ve been using eSign to create a really strong audit trail. It also helps a ton to establish that relationship between you and your tenant as a professional one. A lot of landlords have a really hard time interacting with their tenants and not becoming kind of like the friend, and when you’re sending something that is official, a documentation of violation, they understand that this is not a suggestion, this is a serious matter that they have to take care of in order to continue to live in the property.
Host: Absolutely. And sometimes that official documentation is enough to get someone to cure their behavior, especially if it is a behavioral issue or issues between tenants. That kind of very formal notice says, “Hey, stop this immediately,” and a lot of them will. If it’s a non-payment of rent issue, you might not see the same results, but you still need to follow the process because, again, documentation is your best friend. And document throughout the tenure of your relationship with this tenant. Don’t just start documenting things when you feel like you may have to make an eviction later down the road. It’s really important that landlords are documenting throughout the entire relationship with the tenant. All right, so what’s step three in the eviction process?
Krista: Step three is going to be to notify your tenant with an official eviction notice. So that means you need to know how much time you have to give them in order to abide by your local laws. It could be as few as three days depending on why you’re evicting them, where you live, what’s in your lease. It might be as many as 91 days. That 91-day mark is actually a notification period that you have to use in Colorado if a tenant doesn’t pay rent in certain counties. So again, check back on your laws because that’s going to dictate how much notice you need to provide. And so that notice that you’re providing is: Is this how many days you have to wait before you actually give them notice, or it’s once you give them notice, how many days they have to vacate the process before you actually move forward with an eviction?
Host: Yeah, so it’s the latter. It’s the amount of days that the tenant has to act before a consequence arises. You’re basically saying, “Hey, this is a list of what’s gone wrong here, the lease violations. If this is a non-payment of rent issue, here’s how much you owe and when that was due along with any kind of late charges, etc.” And then you want to outline their next steps. So whether that is a payment they need to give you by a certain date, or otherwise, just a quick notice where they have to vacate the property. Make sure to outline that along with the day that you need that to happen. Have all of that together and be sure that you’re sending it in a way that is provable and documentable. So certified mail is a great option, it’s also required in some counties. You could also perhaps post it to the door if that’s allowed in your county, as long as you can prove that the tenant received this notice. That is the most important part of moving forward.
Krista: Yeah, and a lot of our viewers may be like me, a little stingy, maybe extra frugal. I think this is one of the places where certified mail is worth the expense in most cases. When you’re moving forward with eviction, you haven’t been receiving rent, right? So you might be out thousands of dollars. Don’t ruin that by skimping on sending certified mail to make sure that this notice is received, is provable, and then can be used moving forward if you do end up going to court.
Host: Absolutely. So step four, what do you need to do here?
Krista: So step four is the court filing. This is an official complaint that you’re going to be filing with the court that outlines exactly what’s going wrong in the process. This step is absolutely procedural, so make sure that you are doing exactly what you need to do. If you’re in a big city, you likely have local law advice centers. These are free clinics available to landlords to ask the questions, to make sure that they’re taking the right steps. If you don’t have that available, you’re going to need to hire an attorney or use legal documentation available in your area to make sure that you are filing this compliant correctly. This is also a great time to be reaching out to legal representation that you might want to use for the entire eviction process. So far up until this point, it’s been able to be a self-service thing, but when you are actually moving forward with a court filing, this is a great time to reach out to an attorney and say, “Hey, I am self-filing at this point. If I need you later, can you come in?” It’s a great time to start developing that relationship. Another thing to note is you’re likely going to have a fee associated with this court filing, so check on what that’s going to be in your area. Also, be prepared that if the tenant does not take the eviction notice seriously, if they do not leave the property on the timeline provided, you’re likely going to have legal fees moving forward. So make sure that you have those expenses in order, in addition to your loss of rent for potentially months moving forward.
Host: Yeah, and those legal fees can really add up depending on the complexity of the case and how long it goes on, so definitely be prepared for that. So we’ve filed with the court, and now we’re moving on to step five.
Krista: Step five, guys, this is the fun part. This is the part that’s also super unpredictable. This is the court appearance itself. This is where you as the landlord have to prove your case, and this is also where the tenant has the opportunity to defend themselves. So if you think that you’re just going to walk in and say, “Hey, they haven’t been paying rent for three months,” and the judge is going to be like, “Okay, cool, they need to go,” no. This is an opportunity for the tenant to come in and say, “No, this is why we haven’t been paying rent,” or “This is why this isn’t valid,” and then it’s your job as the landlord to prove that, “No, we followed every step of the process, this is why we need this eviction to move forward.” It is not a “judge is going to rubber-stamp the approval.” You really have to do your part, and it’s so important in this step that you have that legal representation. I know I said that this is the point where you might start it, but it’s important to have legal representation all the way through because they will be able to help you prepare for this court appearance.
Host: Absolutely. And this process, as you mentioned, is unpredictable. It can vary greatly depending on the judge, depending on the specifics of the case, and sometimes depending on the jurisdiction. So this is where having that legal expertise really comes into play because they understand the local laws, they understand the local court procedures, and they can help present your case in the strongest possible way. So it’s definitely not a step to be taken lightly.
Krista: Yeah, absolutely. And then once you’ve been approved for an eviction, the tenant does need to be notified and given a timeline on when they need to leave the property. Now, what’s nice is if you’ve been following these steps and you’ve really been keeping documentation throughout the entire process, this is not going to be a surprise to the tenant. They’ve already had at least two notifications from you in the process saying, “Hey, this isn’t working out, we’re moving forward with eviction.” So they should be preparing for it, they should not be blindsided by this moment. This is also the time where you might have sheriff involvement, where the actual eviction takes place, and they remove the tenants and their possessions from the property. Some counties require this, some do not. Again, this is the step where knowing your local laws comes in really, really handy. And I will say, don’t try to strong-arm this yourself. If your county requires the sheriff’s involvement, don’t try to be the tough guy. Make sure that you are having sheriff do this to ensure that you’re abiding by all laws, you’re not breaking any rules, and that you’re keeping yourself out of legal trouble.
Host: Yeah, absolutely. This is not a time to take matters into your own hands. This is where you need to be fully compliant with the law, fully compliant with the court’s orders, and let the legal process and the appropriate authorities handle the situation. So that’s a great overview of the five steps of the eviction process. I think it’s really important to remember that eviction is a last resort. It’s not something that anyone wants to go through, but sometimes it’s necessary for the protection of the landlord’s interests and the property itself. So, Krista, thank you so much for walking us through these steps.
Krista: Absolutely, it was great to be here and great to share the steps with you.
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