Many people that own property rent out to tenants for extra income. We hope that tenants pay rent on time and don’t cause any other issues. But from time to time you are going to have bad tenants and may be forced to evict. I do evictions every day, and here are 10 tips that to help landlords with the eviction process.
1. Send a notice.
You must serve the tenant with a notice to pay rent or move out. You cannot just show up to the courthouse and file an eviction lawsuit unless you’ve already given the tenant a chance to pay whatever rent is owed or fix whatever problem he is causing.
2. You cannot remove the tenant without a court order.
Even if you are in the right, even if the tenant has never paid you a dime, you still must get a court order through the eviction process to remove the tenant. Calling the police will not work. In fact, even if the people on your property are not renters, but squatters, you must still get a court order before getting them out of the property. Trying to change the locks on your tenants could be a crime and you could be liable to your tenant for damages. Don’t do it.
3. Try to negotiate.
If your tenant is willing to pay some amount of rent or willing to agree to move out by a certain time, try to settle the issue without a lawyer. Going through the eviction process can costs several hundred dollars, and it may be cheaper to make a deal with the tenant first.
4. Draft the notice correctly.
A lot of landlords like to post their own 3-day notice. If you do, make sure it’s done correctly. There are a lot of little rules regarding timing, and messing these up could cause the eviction case to be dismissed by the judge. A good lawyer should include a 3-day notice as part of their eviction services without charge. It’s worth asking for it.
5. Keep proof of service.
Even if you draft your 3-day notice correctly, you’ll have to prove to the judge that you actually properly served the notice to the tenant. For a 3-day notice, that means posting it on the tenant’s door in an easily seen spot, personally giving it to the tenant, or mailing it to him. Make sure you sign a statement that states how you posted your 3-day notice and when.
6. Take advantage of summary procedure.
For most lawsuits in Florida, a defendant has 20 days to respond to a complaint filed against him. Not so for evictions. Under Florida law, landlords are entitled to something called “summary procedure,” which means that the tenant only has 5 business days to respond to the eviction complaint. Make sure your lawyer is taking advantage of summary procedure available to evictions when he files your case.
7. Don’t use summary procedure for anything but the actual eviction.
You may have a damages claim against your tenant or former tenant. Maybe he owes you back rent or has caused damage to your property. You cannot use summary procedure for these kind of claims. You can only use them for obtaining possession–the eviction process itself..
8. Avoid evictions for bad behavior.
Unless the behavior is very serious and easily documented, these evictions are generally not worth it. The tenant will likely defend, turning the case into a prolonged legal battle that could cost you a lot of money. Try to evict them on clear legal grounds.
9. Cross the t’s and dot the i’s.
Eviction is a serious matter. You are asking a court to throw someone out from where they live. Because of that, the judge is going to make sure you have followed all of the correct procedures to the letter. What you might think is a little mistake in procedure can still derail the entire eviction process and make you start from scratch. Eviction law, compared to something like intellectual property law, isn’t complicated. But there are a lot of little rules that must be followed.
10. Don’t wait.
If the tenant isn’t paying rent, don’t delay getting the eviction. The longer you wait, the more potential rent you are losing. I see a lot of landlords make the mistake to continuously give their tenants extensions or waivers of certain months. Most likely these will only add on to your own costs, and you’ll still have to evict down the road. Waiting means you paying for the tenant to live in your property.