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Evictions can be a slow and painful process with legal procedures that can end up in a court battle. For landlords, evictions can lead to anything from squatters to serial evictees who routinely leave belongings behind – and leave the property in a mess.

Jesse Holland, the president of Sunrise Management & Consulting in Albany, N.Y., has experienced his share of problems. Once, Holland says he had a tenant who left a bottle of gasoline filled with batteries inside a unit. He had to call the police who brought in a bomb squad to remove the device. “You never know what somebody is going to leave behind for you,” Holland says.

More regularly, Holland and his team are stuck with the task of packing, cleaning and donating various items. Some tenants have left behind their family pets. To help avoid such situations on your properties, consider these tips avoid evictions.

Pre-Screen Tenants

Before the lease is signed, Holland suggests performing a background check and running a credit report. “Screenings are the fastest way to avoid an eviction problem,” Holland says. Depending on the property, Holland says a good credit score should be anywhere between 500 and 700, but it’s important to be consistent with your requirements across each property so you are not discriminating against potential tenants. You can charge a fee on the rental application to cover the cost of pre-screening potential tenants, he says.

Ensure Good Communication from the Start

If a tenant communicates well with you during the initial stages of the lease, and pays what he or she owes for the first month’s rent and the security deposit, Holland says that is a good sign that the remainder of the contract will run without a hitch.

It’s also important to be an attentive landlord. “It’s all about creating a relationship with the resident,” Holland says, who tries to do this by knowing the names of a tenant’s children, spouses, etc. “Too often the relationship drops off after the lease is signed,” Holland says. A lack of communication sets a property manager up for something to go wrong, he says.

Depending on the setting, Holland recommends staying in touch by dropping by the property to re-connect with tenants in a friendly manner. Holland also asks his staff to help maintain those relationships by following up on work orders to make sure things are done properly.

When to Compromise

There are plenty of extenuating circumstances that can affect a tenant’s ability to pay rent. It’s one thing to chase a tenant for cash, but if someone loses their job or becomes terminally ill, consider meeting the tenant halfway. And it is best to work toward an agreement before a legal issue comes into play, says Ted Spaulding, business attorney, Boling Rice LLC in Cumming, Ga.

“We will treat people in different ways, based on how they have treated us,” Holland says. “If we have somebody who is having a problem, we would rather meet with them and figure out a way to break the lease and make it work for everyone.”


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