Evictions are very serious, and if you’re preparing to evict a tenant for the first time, it’s critical that you understand how to handle the process. Specifically, you need to know how to approach the actual eviction day.
Legal reasons for evicting a tenant
As you know, evictions shouldn’t be taken lightly. In order to protect your best interests, it’s critical that you understand how to properly handle these matters. In particular, you need to know what legal grounds exist for an eviction. Here are some of the most common:
- Direct violation of lease agreement. The lease agreement you sign with a tenant exists to protect your best interests. While you shouldn’t pursue an eviction every time a minor violation occurs, it is within your rights to start the eviction process if there’s a direct and continued violation of agreed upon terms. For example, if your agreement clearly states that pets are not allowed on the property, yet your tenant has three dogs living inside, you probably have grounds for taking action.
- Damage to the property. Normal wear and tear – such as marks on the wall or an occasional stain on the carpet – are to be expected. However, excessive property damage (kicked in doors, broken windows, etc.) may allow you to start the eviction process. With that being said, a tenant’s willingness to replace and fix the issue may prevent you from evicting them.
- Tenant fails to pay on time. Evictions most commonly occur when tenants fail to pay rent or continually pay late. Depending on the city or county your property is located in, there may be a legal buffer period that protects the tenant – but habitual tardy payments are almost always grounds for eviction. From a legal standpoint, it’s best to keep a paper trail of late payments, as well as any correspondence you’ve had with the tenant regarding delinquent payments. All of this documentation can be used in legal proceedings.
- Property is used for illegal purposes. Even if it isn’t directly stated in the lease agreement, illegal activities are always grounds for eviction. If you discover that your tenant is selling drugs or conducting illegal business on your property, you can certainly take legal action.
Whenever you consider pursuing an eviction, remember that you have responsibilities as well. Review the lease agreement and ensure you’re living up to your end of the deal. Otherwise, a court battle could get ugly and you may end up with pending claims against you.
5 things you need on eviction day
- Write of possession. Simply winning a court hearing isn’t always enough evict your tenant. Sometimes you’ll also need a write of possession to legally regain the property and remove your tenant from the premises. This will usually be issued a few days after the hearing, so have patience and don’t overstep your boundaries.
- Authority figure. Once you do receive the writ of possession, make sure you bring a figure of authority with you to serve the writ. This is usually a sheriff’s deputy or a certified process server. Not only will they serve the writ, but they’ll also ensure the process goes smoothly and protect the tenant’s belongings from being looted on the curb.
- Moving help. As you may anticipate, evicted tenants aren’t the most cooperative people in the world. Unless you want the process to take hours, you need to bring people with you to remove the tenant’s personal belongings and place them on the curb. This may involve heavy lifting of couches, beds, dressers, and other furniture. Bring at least two or three people, depending on the size of the home or apartment. (It’s also wise to bring packing supplies and boxes.)
- Tools for changing locks. After removing all of the tenant’s belongings, you need to change the locks to ensure the tenant doesn’t regain access to the property. While there’s no stopping an angry tenant, leaving the locks is almost like encouraging them to return. Come prepared with a new set of locks, keys, and the necessary tools.
- Mental clarity and focus. There’s nothing easy about evicting someone – even if they’ve been a horrible tenant. You’ll need to be focused when you arrive, and a firm resolve will serve you well. If you don’t think you can handle the eviction process, have someone go in your place.
How to handle the emotions of an eviction
Speaking of mental clarity and focus, we would be doing you a disservice if we failed to explain the emotional side of an eviction. While it may seem pretty cut and dry in your mind, evictions are rarely straightforward. Here’s some emotional advice for how to properly handle an eviction:
- Clearly explain the process. Upon arriving, make sure you and the authority figure serving the writ clearly explain what’s happening and why it’s occurring. Rarely is an eviction a total surprise, but everyone deserves an explanation. This open dialogue can make the rest of the process much smoother.
- Stay calm. When explaining the process, it’s common for tenants to shout, get angry, and possibly become physical. It’s critical that you stay calm and avoid letting the situation escalate. A fight or altercation does nobody any good and can even delay the eviction if you aren’t careful.
- Have compassion. Finally, it’s okay to have compassion. Just because you’re removing someone from your property, doesn’t mean you should stop viewing them as a person. Answer their questions, show sympathy, and even encourage them. However, don’t confuse compassion with being a pushover. Don’t let them take advantage of you just because you’re being nice.
At Green Residential, we understand being a landlord isn’t always fun or easy. That’s why we make it our responsibility to handle both minor and major tasks for our clients. Whether one of your tenants needs to schedule a repair or it’s time to pursue eviction as a last remedy, we can help you every step of the way. For more information on why we’re considered the premier property management company in Houston, please contact us today!