Evicting your tenant may seem like the easiest and fastest option, but let’s be honest: no one wants to be that landlord! Also, sending a “cure or quit” notice can cost a small fortune. And there is no guarantee that you will fill the vacancy soon.
Before going down the eviction road, it’s a good idea to consider the costs you may incur. Court fees are usually the least of your worries. You still have a mortgage to pay, past due rent, property flipping costs and potential damages. The locksmith alone can cost you $150. In total, one eviction can cost you about $3,500 to complete in three to four weeks.
How long does an eviction usually last? The eviction process can take between five weeks and three months, as long as there are no delays. Any setbacks in the process could delay the eviction for up to 12 months. The challenges don’t stop there. After the notice to quit, the tenant usually has one to four weeks by law to vacate. Even then, you may have to pay a sheriff to forcibly remove them.
Let’s take a closer look at evicting a tenant to appreciate why it’s not always the best and most cost-effective option.
Phases of the summary process (eviction)
The legal process varies from state to state. But the general process involves sending a “pay or quit” notice or a notice to quit and then filing an eviction. Eviction occurs after the judge has made a decision.
The first phase of eviction proceedings usually takes place when a tenant has failed to make a monthly rent payment or there is evidence of a breach of the lease. Send a notice to pay the rent due or leave the rental unit. This is a firm reminder of the outstanding debt or lease violation. By law, give tenants time to resolve or to cure the question.
You can file a formal eviction lawsuit in local court if the issue remains unresolved. But remember, it’s illegal to do a self-help eviction with an official eviction order from a judge.
Once the correct eviction paperwork has been filed, you and the tenant will have to face a judge and present your case. If the judge rules in your favor, you can take legal action to remove the tenant from your rental unit.
Remember, the eviction moratorium prevented landlords from evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the ban on evictions did not relieve tenants of their responsibility to pay rent. They are still responsible for their overdue rent.
Still, between the costs and emotional stress of evicting a tenant, a fair and even good landlord will do everything in their power to help settle the matter out of court.
6 Strategies for Landlords to Help Tenants Avoid Eviction
1. Set clear rules in the lease
Overdue rent is the main reason for serving an eviction notice, but not the only reason. Property damage, annoying or even dangerous pets, and noise complaints are some of the biggest issues landlords have with tenants.
You should always be upfront about the general tenancy rules for your property. Include these rules in the lease and review them with tenants when they sign the rental agreement. Also, specify what constitutes property damage and whether they are responsible for repairs or the costs of repairs.
2. Encourage communication about financial problems
Landlords are more willing to work with a tenant to overcome financial problems when they are honest about their difficulties paying rent. Although this is the tenant’s responsibility, you should promote good and open communication so that the tenant feels free to approach you.
Of course, you don’t want to look like a landlord who accepts late payments. And you must deal with all tenants consistently. However, you can encourage tenants to let you know as soon as they start having problems with their finances.
For example, encourage them to let you know if their employment situation changes. This should help them feel comfortable talking to you about a problem that can be embarrassing.
3. Negotiate before an overdue rent notice
There are different ways to negotiate, and it will depend on what the ideal outcome is for you. Some tenants experience temporary financial difficulties. Therefore, there may be ways to resolve the issue without the threat of eviction. If the tenant has a proven track record, it may be worth giving up some income to keep a good tenant.
With the question “how long does an eviction take” playing on your mind, you’re probably doing the mental math of the summary process. If the risk is thousands, wouldn’t it be better to negotiate a repayment plan, especially if the tenant has been through a difficult time and is now recovering? Think about how this would boost your reputation as a stellar owner. Other options include forgiving some or all of the debt if the tenant agrees to leave immediately.
4. Offer incentives before a quit notice
One of the most popular alternatives to evictions is “cash for keys.” Yes, paying a delinquent tenant who doesn’t pay to get the keys back is ironic. However, getting them out quickly can be cheaper and faster than a costly eviction action.
Generally, the amount you pay for your keys (and an early check-out) is half or a full month’s rent plus your security deposit. This is often even less than the eviction process. Another simple solution is to offer them help with the move. Moving costs can often run into the hundreds or more. It still costs you time, but it’s usually less painful than handing over cash.
5. Connect tenants with social support services
Government agencies can be a minefield to navigate. While help is available, renters may not have the knowledge to access financial support. Helping to make these connections is the ultimate act of kindness from a landlord.
Most states have various tenant assistance or rental assistance programs. Connecting eligible renters to services like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau allows renters to determine if they qualify for that help and local programs that offer support.
6. Inform tenants that you will report them to the credit bureaus
When you’ve exhausted all options, there’s still one solution: report the tenant to the credit bureaus. You usually have to wait 30 days after a late payment. But the idea that their credit score took a hit could help them find the rent money faster.
Checking a potential tenant’s rental history and good credit is part of the screening process. So a tenant realizes that a low score could affect their future chances of renting a place, applying for credit or getting a mortgage. Reporting a tenant for unpaid rent will lower your credit score. Knowing this, the threat of reporting a tenant might be enough to motivate them to accept one of your sweeter offers.
With these six strategies, you should be able to reduce the number and costs of your evictions. While not all situations can be resolved using the above methods, they are certainly better than going through the grueling process of an eviction.
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Note from BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.