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by Jim Watkins, DFW Mentor

A No-Win Situation

TightropeGetting a tenant to move peacefully and without causing physical damage is hard to do.

Tenants being evicted tend to feel victimized and when they get upset they are a risk to do physical damage to the house and leave behind mountains of trash.

Eviction laws differ from state to state, but they all take time and cost money. In Texas, for example, it will take a minimum of three weeks to legally evict a tenant and can cost in excess of $500.

Owners tend to reason that they will keep the security deposit to offset losses but a tenant can cause thousands of dollars in damage in minutes.

The Cash for Keys Program

Here is a plan that has yet to fail:

Let the tenant know that you have filed to evict them and give them a copy of the eviction papers. (Make sure to follow the court’s procedures.)

Tell the tenant you will only talk to them 30-minutes before the court hearing and there will be no contact until then. When they laugh at you, tell them you will refund their full security deposit, in cash, the date they move out.

(30 minutes before the hearing) Offer to issue their FULL deposit back to them the day they move out as long as all belongings and trash are removed.

Set a date for them to be out (date needs to be before a date the court will set), add the requirement that they agree to leave the property completely free of belongings and trash which includes small things such as a candy wrapper.

Have them sign your prepared agreement and proceed to your court hearing.

Tell the judge that you have reached an agreement and you would like him/her to endorse it (This is the only time I remember telling the Judge how I want them to rule and they agree).

The judge should (and has) accept the agreement and inform the tenant that if they break this agreement, he/she will authorize an immediate eviction.

Finally, once the tenant is officially out, then withdraw the eviction.
It is hard to justify giving the tenant cash to leave after losing money with them already. I can only point out that in a situation such as eviction, there is NO winning! There are only degrees of LOSING!

Evicting a problem tenant only to face a damaged property is bad enough. Give the tenant the one thing that is of use to them…. cash. And offer it when it will be needed…. upon move out!

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  • Carol Schwerdtfeger

    It was helpful. I appreciate getting your e-mail.

  • I have filed eviction on over 70 + people in last 5 years and have never had anyone be angry or cause damages out of spite. In fact, many times tenants have thanked me at eviction court for trying to work with them. It all boils down to having a clear policy and sticking with it. I always tell people that it is nothing personal, I just have to follow our guidelines. If rent is not received by X date, you get an eviction notice. If rent is still not received by X date, an eviction is filed. I typically follow up with my own papers indicating what we need in order to cancel the eviction – either payment in full or keys. Over half of those we have filed eviction on have come up with the money in full (including fees) before the court date (or shortly thereafter) and we have cancelled everything. There is no yelling or angry words – just a clear, easy to understand policy.

  • I think you need to urge people to check with local authorities before proceeding. Laws vary from state to state as do the procedures for evictions and even the people capable to lawfully do the eviction.
    Landlording is a business. You have a right to make a profit. Do not let bad tennants run (or ruin) your building!

  • Bad idea in Virginia, unless the “agreement” takes the form of an order that includes a provision for immediate possession or judgment for possession on a given date. The “agreement” then becomes unenforceable and if the tenants won’t leave, generally because they have nowhere to go, you have to wait until you can get another court date or file a new cause of action.

    I rent low income property; we have a 114% annual turnover rate; we place about 10% of our units into eviction every month. We keep costs down like this:

    1) We take half a month’s rent deposit up front and make it refundable, and if the person cannot afford to pay the rest, we take that as a non-refundable deposit with the next month’s rent.

    2) We standardize our units on cheap and easily replaceable stuff — the hardwood floors are all painted with the same brown paint; the carpets are all the same pattern from stock items at Lowes; kitchen and bathroom floors are tile at 36 cents a square foot; the toilets cost $38; the lavatory sinks cost about the same; the light fixtures are $6 each in contractor packs; doors are $28 – $34 standard six panel blanks; etc. It is very hard for a tenant to break something that costs more than a few bucks to replace — the most expensive items are typically the front door, certain odd shaped windows, and the appliances.

    None of this stuff looks bad, and the fact we can maintain it without much cost means the apartments stay looking between tolerable and nice and we are known for renting better apartments than the average slumlords.

    As to evictions, we file against anyone who hasn’t paid on the 11th and have judgment, generally, by the 29th through 31st of the month, and have them out between the 10th and 20th of the next month, at the latest. If they won’t go, we get a writ and drag them out; if they leave stuff behind, we sell it in the front yard and try to recoup some losses that way.

  • Don

    I think this is much better advice than the article.

    States have different eviction procedures and the article assumes that all states are the same.

  • Don

    I agree Mark, check with local legal procedures.
    I don’t this would work in most states.

  • telephonebooth

    Where I live there is many renters who trash the place upon eviction. Many times when you read their Facebook page they invite their friends to their eviction party.

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