The eviction process is designed to protect landlords by getting non-paying tenants out quickly.
In a perfect world it works fairly well, as a last resort.
But with foreclosures and unemployment at all time highs, the eviction process has fallen victim to unprecedented backlogs.
Property management blogs are abuzz with eviction war stories, each worse than the next. Florida and Georgia report a 30-35% increase in filings. In Atlanta, expect up to six week delays at the sheriff’s office. If all goes well, you are still looking at 35-40 days to get a tenant evicted in California so your property may sit vacant a little longer. Don’t be surprised in Chicago or Detroit if your move-out date gets postponed by the sheriff in bad weather.
If the tenant contests the eviction, you could be looking at a much longer delay. A landlord in NYC reports being in an eviction proceeding for a jaw-dropping twelve months.
Counties hard hit with an avalanche of filings find they don’t have the manpower and resources needed to avoid delays, and it’s no surprise that landlords feel like they’re in a bureaucratic black hole.
A sheriff in Atlanta feels that part of the delay in his department is due to the emotions sparked in these difficult financial times. After his officers were forced to evict a tenant at gunpoint, he had to revise his policy by sending more officers to each eviction. That slows down the schedule dramatically. Another reason for a January glut is that many property management companies delayed evicting families over the Holidays. Others felt compelled to file anyway, and still suffer an emotional tug.
Fortunately, there is some consensus on steps that might help you if you are facing evicting a tenant:
Beware the “Catch-Up Tenant
Sometimes a bad tenant doesn’t just happen, they are made. By allowing a little leeway here and there with payments, you can actually train a tenant to be delinquent or even eventually blow you off altogether. One manager thought he was doing the right thing by helping an elderly woman through a tough time last fall. But now she’s late again, and won’t answer the door or return his phone calls. The lesson learned: DON’T DELAY FILING YOUR EVICTION.
The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Property Back
Sheriffs departments are the source of much of the eviction backlog, and this is a legitimate problem for departments that are under-staffed. But many openly admit that evictions are not their favorite job duty. Cook County’s Sheriff complained last fall that turning people out on the streets lowers morale in his department. Others give priority to their ‘real’ work. But you shouldn’t have to succumb to the “I’ll get to it when I can” attitude when you are losing money each day. Managers agree: If it’s been more than seven days – it’s time to get vocal.
But what if you don’t have time to camp out at the sheriff’s office? One manager reports using a different strategy: paying off the tenant in exchange for their moving out without damaging the property. You can read his story, How To Evict Tenants Without Property Damage, and decide the $500-$5,000 question. Is an eviction worth it?
Fire All Your Guns at Once
AAOA’s debt collection experts have an additional suggestion: the self-help debt collection letter.
Rent Recovery Service offers an automated self-help system that allows you to send a legitimate collection letter from a licensed collection agency directly to your delinquent tenant. Some tenants will pay as soon as they see they’ve been ‘turned over for collection’ especially if they are trying to protect their credit or find another apartment.
With this self-help service, you will not have to pay out a percentage of what you collect.
It’s easy to do: Just go to http://www.rentrecoveryservice.com/ and Click on Flat Fee Based Collections”. Registration is free. You can send one collection letter for $16.95 or three for $26.95. If the debtor does not pay, they will be automatically reported to the three major credit bureaus as part of the service 31 after the first letter.
Debt collection starts when your tenant first applies. See our Vital Tips to Help Increase Your Tenant Debt Collection.
American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services related to your rental investment including REAL ESTATE FORMS, tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing. Find out more at www.joinaaoa.org.
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