Five steps to take if you need to evict a tenant

Eviction is the action of expelling a tenant from their place of residence or property. The process isn’t nice, and it isn’t pretty, but sometimes a landlord is put in a situation where eviction is necessary.

Although it’s not unusual for eviction to occur for reasons such as late rent or damaged property, you still need to approach this decision professionally and legally. Here are five steps to take if you need to evict a tenant.

Following the Eviction Process Carefully

Before detailing the steps required for eviction, it’s important that you follow the process carefully, or you risk financial and legal upheaval. Every part of the eviction process, no matter how small, is subjected to strict requirements before a court considers it valid. A minimum eviction notice, for example, would need a deadline of 30-60 days, or the tenant could sue.

The 5 Required Steps Needed for a Legal Eviction

The eviction process may sound intimidating, but it’s actually easier than it sounds. Although the rules are strict, the formal process can be broken down into these 5 achievable steps.

Step 1: Know federal and state eviction law

Eviction laws in the United States vary wildly based on jurisdiction and are based on common law and state stature. Landlord-Tenant law at the state level is based on the two rules: Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA) or Model Residential Landlord-Tenant Code.

State laws address specific laws relating to security deposits, interest rates, rent recipes, written rental agreements, rent fee limits, and payment grace periods. All states have stringent requirements for re-keying, pet laws, laws that require notice before entry, rental licenses, and disclosures. A lawyer can help draft a legal lease agreement that covers these topics.

Step 2: Have a valid eviction reason

Landlords cannot evict without due cause. Common valid reasons for eviction include:

  • Illegal Activity (drug use, operating a business, etc.)
  • Lease Agreement Violations
  • Nonpayment of Rent
  • Property Damage
  • Expiration of Lease
  • Subletting Without Authorization
  • Disrupting Other Tenants

Document evidence of any violations because you’ll need to present this documentation in court. If you’re as thorough as possible by including text messages, photos of damages, bounced checks or police reports, it’ll help support your case if you’re sued or charged.

Step 3: Issue a formal eviction notice

You may wish to reason with the tenant before evicting them, but if you have due cause, you must notify them via an eviction notice. State that the tenant has 30-60 days to vacate the property before the case goes to court.

In extreme circumstances, your tenant may even try to flee or go into hiding in order to avoid being served an eviction notice; should this be the case, you can enlist the services of people like these tracing agents to find them so that you can then get the process started. 

Landlords can provide the tenant with a notice to pay rent or quit or a notice to cure or quit if they want the tenant to pay their debts or stop committing a violation. A notice to quit has no remedy, meaning the tenant must vacate.

A typical eviction notice will have the following information:

  • The property’s address and the landlord’s phone number.
  • Date by which the tenant must pay, stop the violation, or move out.
  • Include the monetary amount requested or the violation the tenant needs to cease.
  • Outline the current status of the lease, whether it’s active or held.

If the tenant refuses to leave by the stated date, file for eviction in court.

Step 4: File the eviction with the courts 

It’s illegal to evict a tenant without going to court, so don’t skip this step. Take a trip to the courthouse and show the clerk evidence (like a signed eviction notice) that you’ve followed proper eviction procedures. After these steps, you’ll receive a scheduled court date. Your attorney will take care of the paperwork and defend you in your trial as long as you have:

  • The original signed lease agreement
  • Evidence, like bounced payments, checks, payment records, and phone/email records
  • A copy of the written eviction notice signed by the tenant
  • Renters license (if required by your state) and photo ID

You’ll likely win the case if you provide adequate evidence. If you do, you can evict the tenant.

Step 5: Evict the tenant

When you win your case, the judge will give the tenant a notice to vacate within 48 to 72 hours. If they haven’t left by the required date, you may have to call the police to physically escort them off the premises.

Once the tenant is gone, you can go through a small claims court to collect unpaid rent. Don’t throw out the tenants’ belongings unless you’re legally allowed to do so.

Photo by Toa Heftiba