Landlords sometimes are taken by surprise the first time they go to eviction court and discover that it’s not always enough to simply tell the judge their side of the story.
The judge wants proof of the tenant’s bad behavior.
The way to win an eviction is to anticipate that it can (and will) happen at some point, so you are not left unprepared — and burdened with a bad tenant.
From day one, create a paper trail in case you ever need to show that to a judge. Set up a tenant file — either hard copy or digital — with all the leasing documents signed by the tenant. The file should include a copy of the house rules given to the tenant.
Add an entry for every tenant communication, including rent receipts, repair requests and complaints — both from the tenant and about the tenant. That way, you are better able to defend against any bogus claims that a tenant raises during the eviction.
While some evictions are sparked by a one-time event — like failing to pay rent or criminal activity — more often, the tenant’s bad behavior begins with a minor infraction and then gets progressively worse. It’s important to track all those offenses to show the pattern — or you may come up short when seeking your eviction order.
Even if you are evicting for one major offense, typically you will want to include all of the reasons in your eviction paperwork. And be prepared to prove each of them. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and this evidence will help the judge understand the tenant’s true nature.
For evictions involving complaints from other tenants, plan to have those tenants come to court as witnesses. At least have them sign a document that you can show the judge.
If you conduct your own investigation, be careful it doesn’t appear like an inquisition. You don’t want it to look as though you were targeting this tenant for eviction.
Also, be prepared to show that you tried to work with the tenant to resolve issues before you filed for eviction.
Understand that all of your leasing policies come under scrutiny during an eviction. Treat every tenant the same. For example, if one tenant got a warning while this tenant immediately got hit with an eviction notice, the judge may side with the tenant.
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