The loud parties. The late payments. No matter how well you conducted your background checks and due diligence, sometimes, as a landlord, you reach the point where you want that problem tenant to be someone else's problem. But laws are laws, and as much as you'd like to knock on the door and scream, "Get out," you need to follow the procedures for proper notice for tenant eviction.
Here's how to evict a tenant with the law on your side.
Know your local laws
The most important thing to remember is that the details vary by state, and not knowing the rules is never a viable excuse.
"The laws are slanted toward tenants, so you have to do it right or do it over," cautions Ed Laine, partner/broker of Miller Laine Properties in the Seattle area. The Landlord Protection Agency lists landlord/tenant laws by state.
Once you know what's within the bounds of the law to do, it's time to move onto what type of eviction we're talking about. Here is some background on the two types of evictions and how to handle them.
Eviction type No. 1: Termination for cause
There are three main reasons that you might need to evict tenants for cause:
- They haven't paid their rent. After making realistic efforts to contact your tenants, you'll want to send them a "Pay or Quit Notice." This typically will prompt them to contact you to arrange payment but if not, it will start the paper trail you need. In Washington, for example, renters have three days to pay; then if they fail to do so, they can be evicted within 20 days. But, again, the timing can differ by state.
- They have violated a term of their lease. Are your tenants lighting up in a smoke-free house or have they brought their pit bull Bowzer into your no-pets property? If tenants have violated a clear term of the lease, you need to send them a "Cure or Quit Notice," which gives them the opportunity to right the wrong within a specified period of time. If they don't, you can begin legal proceedings.
- They've done something so bad, they just need to go. The final type of notice is an "Unconditional Quit Notice." This doesn't offer them the chance to remedy the issue, and in certain states can be used only for certain reasons. Circumstances where this is appropriate could be ongoing failure to pay rent or illegal activity such as drug- or gang-related offenses.
Eviction type No. 2: Termination without cause
Sometimes, even though your tenants haven't done anything wrong, you have to evict them. Perhaps you've decided to sell the house or you have a long-term renter coming on board. Whatever the reason, you have to offer a "30-Day Notice of Eviction" to give them ample time to find new housing.
Above all, follow the rules
If you are intending to evict a tenant, you must obtain a court order after you have issued the appropriate notice as described above. As much as a frustrated landlord may be tempted to change the locks or throw their tenant's belongings on the front porch, make sure you follow the process in your community to make the eviction go as smoothly as possible.