To Evict or Not to Evict: Exploring Your Options

by REI Liaison

Sometimes even the most rigorous screening process of checking credit and background reports, along with references, fail to catch a nuisance tenant.

Odds are at some point in a landlord’s career there will be a few less than desirable tenants.

Landlords will be forced to answer the question: evict or not?

First things first, landlords need to know their local laws on eviction. Most state housing statues place tenant interests above the landlords. Before going in and throwing the tenants belongings out and changing the locks, the landlord must give the tenants notice. Most states require that a tenant is given the Notice to Pay Rent or Vacate. This gives the tenant a predetermined time to pay up on their balance or vacate the property. If they do not pay, the landlord may file an Unlawful Detainer. The tenant can choose to fight this or not. If the tenant does not appear in court a default judgement will be given to the landlord. This judgement does not mean the tenant will leave. In most cases a sheriff will issue a writ of restitution, giving the tenant 3 days to vacate. If they do not vacate, the landlord will have the sheriff remove them and their belongings from the property.Then comes the time to collect on the judgement, most landlords choose to have a collection agency or wage garnishment collect the debt.

There are a few alternatives to eviction, that may be less of a headache and less costly.

First, landlords need to remind tenants of their obligations under the lease. A simple letter from an attorney stating the issues and remedy of legal action, usually lights a fire under the tenant to cooperate.

Another alternative is “cash for keys” this is basically paying the tenant to leave by covering the cost of moving expenses or giving one month free rent. Landlords usually ask the tenant to leave the property in a clean and rent ready condition. Having this in writing and conducting a walk through before cash is exchanged is best for this type of agreement.

Lastly, try to work with the tenant to reach a solution. If a tenant has lost a job or has been cut back on hours, then suggest moving them to another unit that has a lower rent. Most tenants would be relieved and landlords would reduce missed rent payments.

As frustrating as having a nuisance, non paying tenant can be, landlords may not threaten tenants, change locks, or remove the tenant’s belongings from the property. The most important thing to remember when dealing with tenants is to keep calm and act in accordance with the law.

REI Liaison is a full service residential Property Management and Leasing company in St. Louis, Missouri.

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