Sometimes tenants can be difficult; but as with most things in life, tenants are temporary. Or at least they should be. Unfortunately, as some unlucky landlords have found out, some problem tenants don’t want to leave. So what can you do? When dragging tenants out by their shirttails won’t do, it’s time to check into your legal rights.
Whatever your dispute with trouble tenants might be, it’s always best to take the high road as your first course of action. Typically this begins with giving tenants a thirty day notice that they need to vacate the property. This may happen with any tenant actually – if you decide your property is no longer available, within the terms of the lease, then you would give your tenant a thirty day notice, although longer if possible. But with tenants who are causing an issue that violates the terms of the lease, thirty days is more than reasonable.
Thirty days is beyond what is typically offered in what are termed “cure or quit” scenarios. These are cases in which the tenant is in violation of a policy – such as having a pet when it’s not permitted – but they may remediate their behavior. When such an issue comes to your attention, you should address it immediately and set a clear timeframe within which the tenant must fix the problem or move out. Eviction looms if the tenant doesn’t follow through.
Similarly, if a tenant isn’t paying rent, they are generally allotted far less than thirty days to pay up or leave the premises. In most cases, the length of time is more like three to five days. Of course, if your tenant has no money, they will be equally unable to pay rent at a new location, so these tenants can be difficult to remove.
With tenants who are just plain broke, a human approach is often the best resolution. Try to help rather than just making demands – can they go stay with family or friends? Are there community resources that might be able to help with transitional housing? While you aren’t obligated to help in these ways, neither party wants to be in this position. Be kind and helpful whenever possible.
Unfortunately, in many cases the reasonable approach won’t get you what you want. Some tenants are resistant to all overtures. So what do you do then? The first step is to get a handle on what your tenant’s rights are. This includes being familiar with Landlord and Tenant Act, a law that specifies how evictions must be handled, in addition to specific Texas tenancy laws.
After issuing an eviction notice with clear language – generally that the “right to occupancy is being terminated” – as well as a timeframe for vacating the property, patiently wait out that time period. It doesn’t matter if all signs show that your tenant won’t be leaving. If you don’t wait out the full time period, your eviction case won’t be legal. Have all your documents in order for the eviction hearing. If the tenant doesn’t show up to the hearing, the eviction will always be decided in your favor. However, the judge may not always decide owed rent issues in your favor. This is why documentation is important.
If a court decides an eviction in your favor and the tenant still resists leaving the premises, you’re in luck because the issue will likely be out of your hands. Enforcement officers will physically escort evicted tenants from the property if they don’t willingly comply.
Even if you’re abiding by the major tenant eviction rules surrounding notice, due process trials, and in some cases the chance to remedy violations, things can sometimes get out of control. This tends to happen after repeated confrontations between the tenant and the landlord, once relations have gone south. It can be tempting to act spitefully against someone who is making your life difficult, but in some cases this can actually be illegal.
Even if your behavior seems acceptable, “self-help” approaches to eviction can really harm the process. Self-help can seem like less work than involving the courts or police…until they end up involved anyway because of your reckless actions.
Specifically, a problem arises if you harass your tenants by damaging their property, turning off the heat or water to the property, or threatening to use force. If you act in any of these ways, your tenant may successfully complain to the police and have charges brought against you. You should also look into the rules surrounding apparently abandoned property – items left behind by your tenant may be subject to storage and notification and you can get in trouble if you dispose of these items before the eviction is complete.
Another legal trap you may find yourself in when dealing with difficult tenants is the issue of frivolous lawsuits. While evictions are legal cases, bringing claims without significant merit before the court or needlessly extending the litigation can be penalized. Keep your claims above board and directly related to key tenancy problems: unpaid rent, damaged property, or significant lease violations. Petty claims will be viewed as just that, and a waste of the court’s time. Also, you may be made to pay a fine, your tenant’s attorney’s fees, or be otherwise sanctioned.
You Have Rights
When your problem tenants refuse to leave, remember that you have rights and that there are legal avenues for pursuing them. But, your tenant also has rights – and even if they are in violation of their lease or the law, these rights are taken seriously in the eviction process. A tenant’s bad behavior doesn’t give you carte blanche to behave badly in return.
Still stumped by how to deal with stubborn tenants who refuse to leave your property? Contact Green Residential today for advice. With over thirty years of experience as Houston property managers, the team at Green Residential knows the appropriate state and local laws inside and out. We can guide you through the legal steps involved in an eviction and make this unpleasant process as smooth as possible.