It’s the dream of every property manager to have renters who are reliable, responsible, and well-mannered. Nevertheless, it’s possible that you end up with tenants who fail to act as expected. When managing rental properties, it is always good to be understanding and compromise with your tenants. However, there are some bad tenants who may leave you no choice but to evict them. If you are new to property management, you may be wondering if you can evict a tenant or how to go about it. Read on to learn more about the eviction process.
Related: 5 Real Estate Investing Life Hacks to Make the Eviction Process as Painless as Possible
Can a Property Manager Evict a Tenant?
An eviction is an official lawsuit that a property owner or property manager files against a tenant in order for them to move out of a property and relinquish it. A property manager can evict a tenant on behalf of their property management clients. However, good property management requires that you understand and follow the legal eviction process. You must follow your state’s eviction laws. This will protect you from breaking any laws and landing yourself in trouble.
How Long Is the Eviction Process?
If you are a property manager who hasn’t had much experience with the eviction process, you might be wondering how long it may take you to evict a tenant. You may also be thinking of how to evict a tenant quickly so that you can bring in another tenant.
Generally, an eviction can take anywhere from as little as 2 weeks to as long as 3 or more months. Having a general idea of how long the eviction process takes is vital for your planning. However, every eviction process is different and the time it takes may not be clear. How long the process will actually take you will depend on a number of factors such as:
- The state’s eviction laws and guidelines
- The reason for eviction
- The type of rental property
- Whether or not there have been violations in the past
- How busy the court is
- Whether or not the tenant files a counterclaim
How Can a Property Manager Evict a Tenant?
As mentioned, to have a successful eviction process, a property manager should follow the state’s guidelines for a legal eviction. If not done in accordance with the law, the process can easily become messy and costly, with the property manager ending up on the losing end in a court battle. Therefore, it is important that you understand the eviction laws before you begin the process. It’s important to note that laws governing evictions vary from state to state. Most states have a detailed legal eviction process to follow.
Here is a standard eviction process:
1. Establish a legal reason for evicting the tenant
First, you have to establish a valid and legal reason for evicting a tenant. A residential property manager cannot evict a renter due to reasons such as annoying behaviors, minor disagreements, or personal clashes. You can only lawfully evict a tenant if they violate the terms of the lease. Therefore, make sure you understand your lease.
Some of the common legally recognized reasons for eviction include:
- Non-payment of rent
- Late rent payment on several occasions
- Keeping unauthorized pets
- Subleasing without permission
- Extra occupancy other than the listed occupants
- Illegal use of the premise
- Intentional damage to property
- Disrupting or threatening the safety of other renters, neighbors, or community
- Refusing to move out after the tenancy has ended
Related: How to Deal With a Tenant Not Paying Rent
2. Give the Tenant an Eviction Notice
If a rental property manager has a legal cause, they can legally begin the eviction process by giving the tenant written notice to terminate the tenancy. The eviction notice should include the reason you want to initiate the eviction, the steps the renter can take to evade eviction, and the amount of time to have resolved the issue or vacate. State laws will determine how the notice should be written and delivered for it to be enforceable. This is so that the court can prove that you did all you can to notify the renter of the impending eviction proceedings.
The type of termination notice will depend on the type of misconduct you are addressing. There are usually 3 types:
- Pay Rent or Quit Notice: Used when the tenant has failed to pay monthly rent. The tenant is given a few days (usually 3-5) to pay the rent they owe or move out of the property.
- Cure or Quit Notice: Used when a tenant violates a term of the lease agreement. The resident is given a set amount of time to remedy the situation or move out.
- Unconditional Quit Notice: Used in dire circumstances where the tenant has repeatedly violated a key part of their lease, paid rent late on several occasions, failed to pay rent at all, engaged in illegal activity on the premises, or seriously damaged the property. The tenant is ordered to vacate without any second chances. They are not given time to pay the unsettled rent or fix the lease violation.
3. File an eviction lawsuit
When the tenant is given a notice but does not remedy the issue (for instance, by finding a new home for an unapproved pet or paying off the unpaid rent) or voluntarily move out, the residential property manager can proceed with filing a complaint in court (unlawful detainer lawsuit). They may be required to hire an attorney for representation.
The court will then give a specific date for the eviction hearing and notify the renter of the summons. The date the hearing happens will depend on how busy your local court is and the state you live in. This can be anywhere from 1 week to a few months from the date you filed the lawsuit. If the court hearing will take place after a few months, you should let your tenant continue to stay at the premise until a ruling is given by the judge.
4. Court hearing
On the court date, make sure you show up. Otherwise, the tenant will have an automatic win. Both of you will have a chance to present your cases before the judge makes a ruling. In the hearing, you ought to provide proof of your reason for eviction. Therefore, you must bring to court any documentation that supports your case. For instance, bring copies of notices you sent, proof of all rent payments, the signed lease agreement, and records of all communication between you and the tenant.
If the tenant files a counterclaim, the eviction process could drag on for even longer. For instance, the resident might point to oversights in the eviction complaint or your notice, or improper delivery of either. This can delay or even get the case dismissed. Moreover, if the tenant can provide evidence that you misbehaved as a property manager, the rental unit is uninhabitable, or you are retaliating, the outcome could be affected. Actually, the tenant’s misconduct may be excused and the court’s attention shifted to you.
5. Regaining possession of the rental property
If the judge rules in favor of the tenant, they are allowed to stay in the rental unit. You may be required to pay their attorney fees and other court costs. However, if you win the case, you will be able to move forward with an eviction. The tenant will be given a period of time to gather their belongings and move out of the real estate property or unit. They will also be responsible for your attorney fees, court costs, and any other money or damages owed.
However, if the tenant continues to occupy the rental unit after this period, you can invite a local law enforcement officer to present the tenant with an Order for Possession. This gives the tenant a specific number of days to leave the unit before they are forcefully removed.
The Bottom Line
Should you need to evict a tenant when managing rental properties, you should always follow the formal eviction process. Otherwise, you risk losing a court hearing, delaying the eviction process or even owing the tenant a certain amount of money. We also recommend you consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable about the laws of your state.
Nonetheless, as you can see, the process of evicting a tenant is complicated and can take a lot of time. It is a serious legal situation that can sometimes be quite messy, risky, and expensive. It’s also quite impossible to plan into the future due to how uncertain the process can be. Whenever possible, it should always be avoided. To minimize the risk of evictions, it’s important for a property manager to find good tenants through a thorough tenant screening process.
Related: How to Screen Tenants for a Rental Property: 7 Steps
Are you thinking of being a property manager or want to become a better property manager? Be sure to visit Mashvisor’s blog for more property management tips and check out what Mashboard can do for you.