If you own or manage rental properties, you have likely had your share of disputes with tenants. Perhaps someone has reported too much noise from one unit, someone does not clean up after a pet or a renter does not dispose of trash properly. However, if you are dealing with a tenant who is damaging your property, not paying rent or creating a nuisance for the rest of your renters, you may want to tell that person to get out now.
Unfortunately, there are certain rules to follow when evicting a tenant, and the law does not allow a landlord to kick out a renter without adhering to the process. In California and many other states, the law favors the tenant, and making a mistake can result in legal and financial trouble for you.
When an eviction does not evict
Attempting to evict a tenant without following the legal process will certainly backfire, perhaps leaving you with fines or other compensatory fees and possibly a court order allowing the troublesome tenant to live in your unit rent free. Ways some landlords have attempted self-help evictions include:
- Having utilities for the unit cut off
- Clearing the tenant's property from the unit
- Changing the locks on the unit
- Making threats against the tenant
In such cases, your tenant may not only decide to pursue civil damages for the illegal eviction but may also be able to successfully file criminal charges against you, such as assault or criminal trespass. Although it takes longer and may be more complicated, following the steps for legal eviction will help you avoid these risks. Legal eviction includes the following:
- Notifying the renter of your intent to terminate tenancy
- Allowing the tenant time to rectify the cause of termination, either paying back rent or correcting other lease violations
- Filing a complaint justifying eviction with the court
- Waiting for the tenant's response or, if the tenant does not respond, for the court's favorable judgment
Once you have received favorable judgment for evicting a tenant, you may legally remove the renter from your property. However, the law says you must take this final step with the assistance of law enforcement. Officers will notify the renter to vacate the property within a certain time, after which officers will assist you in physically removing the tenant.
Landlord and tenant issues are delicate and complex, and mistakes can be costly. Because unscrupulous landlords of the past have taken advantage of tenants, laws in many cases heavily favor renters over landlords, so it is essential that a landlord pursue eviction using only legal resources.
Having an attorney at your side means you will have someone to answer your questions and carefully walk you through the steps of eviction, protecting your interests and investments. Your attorney will review your rental agreement documents and proceed with proper methods of eviction with the goal of returning your rental to your possession. If successful, you will be able to begin the search for a quality tenant.