If you’ve been a landlord long enough, you’ve dealt with your fair share of bad tenants.
Most situations can be defused with diplomacy, but not always. If you’ve almost gotten to the point of tenant eviction before, maybe you’ve asked yourself, “how much does it cost to evict someone?”
The answer? It depends. Many factors come into play in the eviction process, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. That being said, it can cost quite a bit, often thousands of dollars.
The eviction process is one of the infrequently discussed hidden costs of owning a rental property. It is right up there with bed bug infestations and surprise septic system failures that can rack up rental property expenses and devastate your rental property cash flow.
Related: The 6 Hidden Costs of Owning a Rental Property
If you’ve taken the proper steps to find a renter, tenant eviction is usually rare. However, it can happen to even the most experienced and diligent real estate investors. The best thing you can do to protect yourself, aside from careful tenant screening, is to set aside savings and arm yourself with knowledge.
The Eviction Process
Before we dive into the cost of eviction, it’s important to understand the entire process.
It all starts with bad tenants. But what could make them so impossible to deal with that you would want to force them to leave? Some of the main reasons why landlords evict their tenants include:
- tenant not paying rent,
- violating the lease agreement,
- causing trouble with other tenants (in multi family homes), and/or
- criminal activity.
Of course, when dealing with an impending confrontation with a tenant, it is usually best to express your grievances to them personally, before filing an official complaint. If you can work something out without going to court, you will be able to save yourself a lot of money. Unfortunately, this tactic does not always work.
Related: How to Better Communicate with Difficult Tenants
File an Official Complaint
If you and your tenant cannot come to an agreement on your own, it may be time to file an official court complaint. In many cases, this can speed up a tenant’s decision to resolve the issue at hand. Knowing legal trouble could be on the way might inspire tenants to make changes in their behavior or pay back owed money.
You will want to give your tenant some time, and depending on the situation, try to be understanding. They may be going through some personal issues, and giving them time to get back on track could save you from a costly legal process.
If your tenant doesn’t shape up and resolve the issue, serving a notice of eviction is the next step. A sheriff takes care of this for you- for a fee, naturally.
The notice gives tenants a warning that a legal proceeding to evict them is about to take place. It also gives them a time frame in which to respond to the notice. The specific time frame varies by state.
Best case scenario, you hope that taking this next legal step will motivate your tenant. If they take care of the problem, you can revoke the eviction notice. If not, you will have to meet in court.
Related: How to Deal with Bad Tenants
Legal Process of Eviction
This step involves hiring an eviction attorney and presenting your case in front of a court; an altogether expensive and time-consuming process.
Eviction laws vary by state, and this is why it is important to have an eviction attorney, as they will best understand how to defend you and your investment property. A tenant can fight an eviction, and you’ll want to be armed with an attorney’s knowledge to help you win your case.
Evicting a Tenant
Hopefully, you win your case. Now what?
Depending on your local eviction laws, your tenant will have a deadline for moving out. This can range from several days up to a month or longer. There will also be a time frame for them to claim and remove all of their personal belongings.
During this time period, you can choose to leave their items in the rental property until they are collected, or you can place them in storage. You might want to opt for storage when facing another month of vacancy, but storage can cost you as well as professional help to clean out the apartment and move everything.
How Much Does It Cost to Evict Someone?
Transunion Smartmove’s data estimates the cost of eviction to range from $3,500- $10,000.
Where you might fall in this range depends on circumstances including the length of vacancy, total lost rent, and how well the court proceedings go. Transunion reports that only 17% of landlords are successful when it comes to debt collection, so the odds of getting your money back are quite slim.
Here is an estimated breakdown of expenses, which can vary dramatically.
Estimated Cost Breakdown [National Averages]
- Lost Rent: Anywhere from $0-$2000+
- Filing a Court Complaint: $90- $400
- Court Fee: about $50
- Eviction Notice Fee: $50- $400
- Attorney Fees: at least $500+
Talk about hidden costs of owning a rental property- the cost of eviction can pile up fast. In some cases, landlords might get lucky and end up paying less, if everything goes smoothly. However, you can see how that is a best-case scenario. Chances are, when dealing with bad tenants, the eviction process will not be easy or cheap.
Who Pays for an Eviction?
That would be you- the landlord.
All of the above fees and expenses fall on your shoulders, which is why you should have ample savings to cover these unexpected rental property expenses. Otherwise, you will find that a tenant eviction can quickly eat away at your rental property cash flow. If you aren’t prepared, it can even put you behind on your bills.
Real estate investors can still hope to share some of the burden with their tenants. You likely won’t receive rent you are owed, as statistics show that most tenants never pay up. However, there are other things you can do to reclaim some cash.
You will have to check your state’s laws on tenant eviction, but sometimes landlords can charge tenants a storage fee until they retrieve their personal belongings. Landlords are also usually able to set a time frame for tenants to claim their apartment contents.
You will have to notify them, but if they’re not claimed within that time, you might be able to sell anything valuable at a public auction. Typically, the proceeds must go to the county. However, if a landlord files a timely claim, the county can choose to return their money.
How Long Does the Eviction Process Take?
The time frame involved in evicting a tenant can vary as much as the cost itself, and usually the time has a direct impact on the total cost. One of the biggest costs involved in an eviction is lost rent due to vacancy. This is especially true if you are evicting due to the tenant not paying rent.
Across various sources who reported on the time frame for eviction, the general consensus is that it will take at least two weeks to a month. Some sources report eviction processes taking as long as 180 days. This will largely depend on your state and it’s eviction laws.
How Can Landlords Avoid Eviction?
There are two simple ways to avoid this time consuming, stressful, and expensive process.
- Conduct neighborhood analysis and find areas to invest in with high occupancy rates.
- Carefully screen tenants before having them sign a lease.
While vigilant tenant screening is an essential part of being a successful rental property owner, even more important is making sure your investment properties are located in thriving areas that naturally experience high occupancy rates. This won’t make you immune from getting a bad tenant from time to time, but it can significantly increase your odds of consistently securing better tenants.
To effectively do this, you will need top-notch real estate investment software such as Mashvisor, which will allow you to instantly access the real estate data you need. We will also help you perform rental market analysis without the need for you to make a single calculation.
If you are looking to make better, smarter investment decisions, start out your 7-day free trial with Mashvisor now.