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A judge in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania reported to local news that evictions there are on the rise.

Last year he issued 24 eviction orders, while this year he’s seen 36 cases–and last Friday he had 12 hearings scheduled in one day.

Most of the cases involved tenants who were not paying rent. The judge expressed sympathy for some of the tenants’ circumstances, and opined that it is difficult for many tenants to make ends meet even though they are working due to low wages.

While he has the option of scheduling hearings as early as 7 days from the landlord’s filing, he told reporters he purposely scheduled the hearings so they would not fall on the day before Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately for the landlords, that means they may have to wait a few more days in order to cut their losses and recover their properties.

If the tenants don’t find a new place to live, the landlords are faced with coaxing the sheriff into serving eviction papers over the Christmas holiday.

Landlords in Lock Haven report that they can find renters who have adequate income to pay market rent. But first, they must evict the ones who cannot.

Some of the tenants suffering hardship in Lock Haven are receiving money from faith-based organizations, while others look to government subsidies. But one housing advocate told reporters that money d0es not always fix the problem.

He finds that while many evictions are caused by low wages or unemployment, others are caused by poor budgeting or mismanagement of finances. His organization is taking steps to educate tenants on how to better live within their means, especially when those means are changing, according to the report.

One reason that cash-strapped tenants default on rent is that other creditors–the ones who are getting paid, are more aggressive. Tenants know, for example, that the cellphone company will cut them off in an instant, or their car will be repossessed without prior notice.

Landlords, on the other hand, must wait until the 5th of the month or so before they realize the rent check isn’t coming.  By then, the money may be gone.  They spend the next couple of days making phone calls, and then threaten to tack on late fees. Once they serve the tenant with an eviction notice, the tenant can set the case for a hearing, and then come to court and tell a sympathetic judge their hard-luck story.

Some landlords opt to buy out leases when the tenant circumstances spiral out of control. By agreeing to pay back the deposit in exchange for a clean, empty unit, a landlord may save time and money in the long run. For instance, another Pennsylvania landlord who evicted his tenant just discovered the man had stolen five radiators and sold them for scrap. The former tenant was charged with misdemeanor theft, while the landlord was left to pay replacement cost in order to re-rent the property.

Another way to hedge your bets of getting paid is to invoice your tenants. Receiving an official billing statement a few days before rent is due can increase the frequency of on-time payments, and give the rent payment greater weight compared to other obligations.

Alternatively, consider electronic payment vehicles like automatic withdrawals or credit card payments. It may not solve the problem, but it could move you up the list of creditors who are getting paid.

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.

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