Evicting someone is a process all landlords hope to avoid. Evictions can be unpleasant and costly but are sometimes unavoidable. If you find yourself in a situation where a tenant fails to pay rent or respect the terms of the lease agreement, it’s time to ask them to leave.
When renting to friends and family, evictions become even more complicated. Start by having a conversation to discuss the problem at hand and clearly state your intention to move on to another tenant or reclaim your property for your own use.
If they refuse to leave, your best bet is to treat them as you would any other tenant and serve them a formal eviction notice even if they didn’t sign a lease agreement (most states offer unwanted guests the same privileges as month-to-month tenants).
Unless you’re using a month-to-month lease, you’ll need a valid reason for terminating the lease before the end of the lease period.
Common reasons for evicting a tenant include:
- Failure to pay rent
- Significant property damage
- Violation of the lease agreement terms
- Illegal activity on the property
Make sure you have proof of the tenant’s violation in case the eviction does go to court.
How to Evict a Tenant
We’ll take you through the steps of a lawful eviction so you can minimize the time and money spent on the process, and get your property back on the market as soon as possible.
Step 1: Check state laws
Eviction laws vary by state, so make sure you know what your state requires. One of the most important things to know is how many days’ notice you need to give a tenant before filing a complaint. If you don’t give a tenant proper notice, they can hold it against you in court and the judge may rule in the tenant’s favor.
Step 2: Choose the correct notice of termination
The type of notice you need to serve your tenant depends on your state, the reason for the eviction, and whether the tenant will have a chance to correct the problem.
Pay rent or quit notice
When rent is overdue, tenants have a given number of days to pay rent in full (canceling the eviction) or vacate the property. This is the most common type of eviction notice.
Cure or quit notice
A cure or quit notice gives tenants a certain number of days to fix a lease violation or move out. This type of notice is also suitable for a material breach, such as illegal activity on the property.
Unconditional quit notice
This type of notice tells the tenant they must move out within a given number of days, either because they’ve repeatedly violated the lease or failed to pay rent on time, or because they have a month-to-month lease that can be terminated at any time with 30 days’ notice.
No matter which type of notice you need, make sure you’re using the correct eviction notice for your state.
Step 3: Deliver written notice
Once you’ve found the correct type of eviction notice, you can deliver it to your tenant and get proof of service. This can be done by delivering it in person or requiring a signature through a certified mail receipt. Some states will require that you notify your tenant in multiple ways, so make sure you’re following the correct procedure depending on your location.
After you’ve served a pay rent or quit notice, don’t accept partial payment from the tenant — doing so could prevent you from legally being able to pursue an eviction, and you may have to start the process over.
Step 4: File a complaint with the court
In most cases, a tenant will either resolve the problem or move out after you serve the eviction notice but if they don’t, this is legally known as an unlawful detainer. The next step a landlord needs to take is to file a complaint with the court and receive a court date. You’ll need to bring proof that you gave the tenant proper notice and they’re now unlawfully staying on the property.
Step 5: Attend the court hearing
If you’ve done everything correctly, it’s unlikely that you’ll lose the eviction case, but sometimes the judge will rule in the tenant’s favor if you’ve followed any parts of the eviction procedure incorrectly or failed to fulfill your duties as a landlord by providing a safe, habitable place to live.
The best thing you can do to prepare is ensure you have as much supporting documentation as possible to make your case — things like text conversations with the tenant, photos of damage, or bounced checks.
Step 6: Reclaim property and collect past-due rent
If you win the case, the judge will issue a subpoena and the tenant will be given a reasonable amount of time to vacate the property. At this point, the landlord doesn’t have the right to remove any of the tenant’s belongings from the property or change the locks. If the tenant still doesn’t move out in the allotted time, the sheriff’s department will have to remove them.
If your case also included a money judgment, the tenant will be required to pay you back the rent owed plus fees and damages where applicable.
This easy-to-follow infographic shows you the exact path to take during the eviction process:
Although the eviction process requires patience and attention to detail, the end result will always be better if you don’t skip any steps or try to take matters into your own hands. You can also take what you’ve learned from the eviction process and apply it to your next lease agreement, working in extra protections that will save you time and money in the future.