The process of serving an eviction notice and taking a troublesome tenant to court is a headache even for experienced landlords. It is costly and time-consuming, and in the meantime your property can be sitting empty, or worse, occupied by a non-paying tenant. Save yourself the stress by following these five simple golden rules.
1) Build a Good Tenant-Landlord Relationship
Let’s take a moment to understand the reason why conflict occurs between landlords and tenants, resulting in serving up an eviction notice. Landlords typically have a bad reputation in the media, characterized as greedy, unscrupulous and profiteering. Of course, the majority of landlords are businesspeople making an honest living by providing a good quality service. However, it’s important to be aware why some tenants will treat landlords with suspicion. Perhaps your tenant has had a bad experience in the past with the kind of landlord who refuses to return a deposit or responding slowly to requests for maintenance and repairs.
Therefore, before you even begin to rent out a property to somebody, make sure that you do your best to be professional, reliable and trustworthy. Go the extra mile to give them an excellent first impression, and keep it that way.
Building up a trusting relationship from the start will help you later down the line if/when any issues do occur. In short, don’t be that landlord.
2) Do Your Due Diligence as a Landlord
Is your legal paperwork all in order? Are the terms of the contract clearly laid out and have you discussed them in detail with your tenant? Is the property in good condition with all the necessary maintenance up-to-date? Having signed formal documentation with the details of the lease agreement clearly stated will save you untold headaches later on, especially if you serve an eviction notice against the tenant. Do not rely on verbal or tacit agreements alone. Carrying out detailed background checks on your tenants may also be a good safety mechanism to reduce the likelihood of attracting dodgy tenants.
Furthermore, make sure you abide by good landlord practices at all times. This includes giving proper written notice in advance of any property inspections. You are not simply allowed to show up and the property and demand to be let in.
Make sure you can have honest discussions with your tenant about maintenance. If you find they’re dissatisfied with the service you are providing, then it’s time to get the contract out and have a proper discussion with your tenant about where the lines are drawn in terms of your responsibilities. If you’ve fallen short somewhere, then get the work done as soon as possible and apologize for the delay. Make sure there are proper lines of communication open so that you can respond to any maintenance requests effectively and quickly in future.
3) Create a Paper Trail before an Eviction Notice
To cover your back if you do end up in court for whatever reason, make sure to leave a good paper trail which you can use as evidence of your correspondence. Keep a copy of all letters you send to the tenant and any letters you receive from them.
Send important letters by Certified Mail and request a return receipt, so the recipient has to sign when they receive the letter. This means the tenant can’t pretend they didn’t receive the mail as you will have a formal record of the transaction.
Good records will make your life a lot easier during the eviction process and keep the judge on your side in the courtroom.
It’s also wise to go over your property thoroughly before the tenant moves in, and take a catalogue of photos which clearly exhibit the state of the residency and all appliances. Make sure these photos are digitally time stamped. They could be a saving grace in a court situation if your tenant tries to blame you for damage to the property or claims you rented them a home that was unfit for habitation.
4) Be Consistent
Being consistent in how you apply your own principles and practices is extremely important. For example, if your tenant is late in paying the rent and your lease agreement includes a late fee, you may be tempted to cut them some slack.
However, it’s best to enforce the late fee regardless of the tenant’s situation. Consistency builds authority and respect, and lets your tenants know that the late fee is not simply an arbitrary rule, but a means to protect yourself against any losses you may incur for the payment not being there in your business account.
If you start letting tenants off the hook for bad behavior, they may be more likely to push the boundaries further next time. Don’t let this set the precedent for your relationship with the tenant.
5) Pay Them To Leave (Cash for Keys)
If you’re having a really hard time with a tenant and are considering serving them an eviction notice, but want to avoid the stress of a courtroom encounter, then there is one alternative available to you: Cash for Keys. Some landlords feel uncomfortable about taking this option, as it can feel like rewarding tenants for bad behavior.
However, landlords may face a choice between an expensive legal battle while tenant continues to reside in the property, or getting the tenant to leave within a week with an out-of-court settlement. By avoiding the eviction notice process and leaving the landlord free to find new occupant, Cash for Keys may be the more appealing option. Furthermore if the tenant is causing costly damage to your property, this decision may be a life-line for your business.
Essentially this involves paying the tenant an agreed sum to vacate the tenancy, after cleaning the property and removing their personal belongings, in exchange for a return of the keys and a written agreement that the tenancy agreement is terminated. In offering this option to your tenant, you can also iterate that they will walk away without an eviction notice track record and a bad credit-rating.
However, make sure you follow these steps below to protect your interests and ensure they actually leave before you hand them the cash:
1) Make the offer to the tenant, and have a very clear discussion with the tenant about what cleaning you expect the tenant to do before they leave the property.
2) Give them a specific move-out date. Take someone with you to accompany you, especially if you feel under threat or that the situation may escalate. Put your personal safety as a priority and make sure there is another witness at the scene in case anything happens.
4) On the agreed move-out date meet the tenant at the property and confirm that they have left the property in a reasonable state according to your stated demands.
5) Hand over the money only once you have received the keys back from them and they have vacated the property. During the exchange, request the tenant to sign and date a letter that they are relinquishing their tenancy with immediate effect.
If they refuse to accept this offer then an eviction notice may be your final resort.
Tenants not paying the rent, causing noise disturbances in the neighborhood, breaking the terms of the contract with pets or smoking, or even breaking the law on your property can cause landlords a great amount of trouble. It is understandable if your first reaction in this situation is stress, anger and frustration. However, it is important to bear in mind that ultimately the law is in place to protect you and your rights, and if you play by the rules and play fair, you should come away just fine. Don’t hesitate to serve an eviction notice if that is the best course of action available to you.
Having a plan of in place to deal with all scenarios you might face from a difficult tenant and sticking to it consistently, will ensure that you’ve always got the upper hand on the situation and can act in a calm and professional manner. You should be able to sidestep many of the potential difficulties landlords face, and at the very least go straight into the judge’s good books if your case does end up in court.
If you need assistance crafting an eviction notice tailored to the requirements of your state, Legal Templates is here to help.