You didn’t want it to come to this—no landlord does. The eviction process is messy and intimidating if you’ve never had to file one before, but in some cases, you don’t have much of a choice. To preserve the integrity of the property and begin collecting rent on time once again, you need your tenant to vacate the premises, permanently.
Fortunately, if you know what you’re getting into, the eviction process is somewhat straightforward and predictable. It isn’t fun, but it’s reasonable and approachable, even to novice property managers.
Grounds for Eviction
First, you need to know what qualifies as grounds for eviction. Though it is possible to attempt to evict a tenant for no reason, this generally won’t hold up in court. Instead, you’ll need well-documented evidence of significant infractions:
- Late or missing rent payments. If your tenant does not pay rent on time, or owes a significant amount of money in back rent, you can file for eviction. Typically, this is only done after a number of other efforts have been made to correct the behavior; for example, you may file a formal written warning about chronic late payments, negotiate new terms, or set up a payment plan. If none of those strategies have worked, you can force your tenant to either pay the amount of rent owed, or face eviction (known as a “pay or quit” notice).
- Behavioral problems. You may also need to take action if your tenant is engaging in excessive For example, they may be noisy, egregiously untidy, or they may be harassing your other tenants. Again, you’ll want to talk to your tenant directly and work with them to try and correct the issue. If that fails, you can serve them a formal notice to either correct the behavior or face eviction (known as a “cure or quit” notice).
- Property destruction. In extreme cases, your tenant may have directly damaged your property. If this is the case, you can demand that your tenant pay for or manage the repairs. If the tenant refuses to comply, or if the property damage continues to escalate, you will need to file one of the eviction notice types above (depending on the circumstances). However, because the tenant will remain at your property throughout the eviction process, if you suspect that they’re going to cause more damage, it’s a good idea to be proactive; notify local law enforcement of the problem, and be ready to call them if you notice an action in progress.
- Criminal activity. In extreme behavioral cases, you may discover that your tenant is engaging in criminal activity. If this is the case, and you can prove it with evidence, most courts will side with you on the eviction.
- Eviction without cause. It’s also possible to attempt eviction without cause, such as if you need to make major repairs to the property, though these cases typically require at least 30 or 60 days’ notice.
No matter what type of eviction you plan on filing, or what your tenant has done, be sure to document everything you can along the way. Take pictures, keep track of any communication you’ve had, and assign dates to each major event.
The Initial Notice
Each state has different laws and regulations for how the initial eviction noticed must be filed. For example, in the Katy, Texas area, a written notice must be either hand-delivered or mailed to a tenant that is over the age of 16. If hand-delivering, you must affix the notice to the inside of the main entry door, or, if circumstances prevent you from entering, the outside of the door. The eviction period is calculated from the day the initial notice is given.
After the initial notice, the tenant may move out on his/her own, in full compliance with the written notice. However, if they remain at the property, the case may escalate to require legal intervention.
If the tenant has not moved out by the date listed on the eviction notice, you’ll need to file a formal summons to bring the tenant to court. The tenant has seven days to respond to this summons; if they do not, they lose the case by default. It’s best to file this with the court immediately, and consult a lawyer if you’re unsure of what to do. Improperly filed paperwork could give your tenant a reason to object to the eviction. In the summons, you are required to list the formal complaint responsible for initiating the eviction; you may also demand back payment for past-due rent at this time. In their response, tenants may complain about any legal infractions they’ve witnessed, or problems with the property that prevent it from being habitable.
A judge may make a decision without a formal court date. If a court date is necessary, it may take place anywhere from a few days from the initial response to several weeks later, depending on how busy your local court system is.
If the tenant wins the case, they will be allowed to stay at your property. However, the eviction will still be filed on their record; if their behavior continues, this will help you to evict them in a future case successfully. If you win the case, the tenant will be required to move out.
If your tenant still refuses to vacate the property, you do not have the legal right to forcibly move them out on your own. Instead, you’ll need to pay a fee to local law enforcement and obtain an escort to move the tenant out. Observation of law enforcement may also help you prevent the possibility of property damage or physical confrontation during the process.
If you have an escalating tenant problem, or if you want to avoid the process of eviction altogether, you can always enlist the help of property management services. A property management firm like Green Residential can take care of the eviction process for you, so you never have to worry about it. To find out more, contact us today!