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money down the drainTime is money when it comes to evictions, and mistakes made along the way can cost a landlord both.

Are you sabotaging your own eviction cases?

What you do in the days and weeks leading up to an eviction can make or break the case when it goes to court.  Here are 5 common pre-eviction mistakes that you can avoid:

1. Thinking You Have the Upper Hand

Believing that your rights as a property owners will somehow trump the rights of the tenant is a costly mistake, especially if you develop a false sense of confidence when dealing with tenant problems.

Once the tenant is in the property, you are going to need very specific legal grounds to kick them out– like unpaid rent, a serious breach of the lease, an obvious nuisance or certain types of illegal behavior, or termination of a lease with proper notice.

Research the rules or seek legal advice to determine if you can rightfully bring an eviction in your situation, and find out how long your eviction might take–contested cases can take months. That may cause you to re-think your strategy with tenants.

2. Believing the Eviction Will Be a Slam-Dunk It’s the landlord who has to justify the case to the court. Unfortunately, not all eviction laws–and not all judges, are landlord-friendly.

Your case will only be as good as your lease, and the supporting documentation that you collected during the lease term. If you are not in the habit of keeping meticulous records, now is a good time to start.

Many evictions are contested. That means the condition of the property or a claim of uninhabitability may be fair game to fight the order for possession, or to reduce damages owed by the tenant. Has the unit been treated for bedbugs? Did the air go out over the summer? Did you charge one tenant late fees but not another? All will be revealed when the case goes to court.

3. My Lease Will Save the Day! True–if it’s a good lease. Often leases fall short by not providing clear language regarding key elements. Examples may include having no provision defining when your tenant is in default in rent payments, late rent based on rolling late fees that can be construed as illegal, or not restricting the behavior you are trying to evict over.

Some provisions that are standard in packaged leases may be illegal in your situation. Have an experienced attorney in your area review your lease agreements.

4. Little Mistakes Won’t Matter

The entire eviction case hinges on proper notice to the tenants. All tenants must be notified in whatever fashion the local laws require.

The notice must be flawless–no misspelled names, timelines must be exact.

Trying to draft and serve eviction notices yourself if you are not familiar with the law can set the stage for failure–get ready to have the case dismissed, and start the whole process over again.

If you don’t know how to complete the notice forms and have them served, get help before you waste time and money.

5. Id Never Pay a Tenant to Move Out ˜Cash for keys settlements–paying the bad tenants to leave, arent palatable to some landlords on principle. But considering the time span of the ˜average eviction along with the additional costs of a sheriffs officer, a moving company, storage or possible sale of tenants property, cleaning, and repairing any ˜hard-feelings damage to the unit, it may make sense from a financial prospective.

If you can compromise with your nightmare tenant for a quicker move-out time, without leaving their mark on your unit, it could save you hardship down the road.

With AAOA, landlords have resources at their fingertips. Check out our Landlord Forms page.

American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services for landlords related to your rental housing investment, including rental forms, tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing. Find out more at www.joinaaoa.org.

  • Bill

    Problems with an eviction BEGIN with the day you sign the lease with the tenant. If the tenant and you have a clear understanding of both of your responsibliities, an eviction will be much less likely, and it will be easier to get the tenant to move out without problems. On the other hand, if you and your lease process are vague, confusing, and seen by the tenant as trying to trick or deceive them, then you will never have an easy process. From the very first contact with your tenant, you need to convince them that you are fair, honorable, and that their failure to perform their obligations will result in a swift and painful eviction process for the tenant–whether or not this is a true reflection of the realities of law and local process.

  • Ron in Colorado

    I love the part of this article about having a ‘good lease’.

    Malarkey!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    My leases say the tenant will have the rent paid by the 5th of the month or late fees apply. I took a tenant to court and asked for my late fees and the judge said (get this) I didn’t prove the tenant placed me in a financial hardship by paying the rent late.’

    So you could pay a a lawyer a ton on money to write your leases, but when you take that lease into a courtroom, it’s got the same net worth of used toilet paper.

  • Scott

    I took a bad tenant to court after months of excuses for not paying rent then finally not paying the last two months. When I called the court and told them she paid only 100 dollars for the month. The person I talked with said that is find as long as you did not accept money AFTER I filed for eviction. ALSO, I talked with my lawyer who corroborated and said that I should be fine as long as I did not accept money AFTER I gave notice of eviction. But to my surprise, the judge sided with the tenants lawyer that I accepted 100 dollars and with that I could not evict. Then the tenant didn’t even move when we agreed in writing after court.

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