Is it Time to Evict?

Eviction is one of the most dreaded parts of property management. These legal proceedings are contentious, time-intensive, and costly, and are best avoided if there is any reasonable alternative. However, at the same time, landlords are businesspeople, first and foremost. If a tenant has dishonored their lease agreement, it’s important to take any means necessary to protect your investment.

Still, the situations and circumstances that can merit eviction are not always cut-and-dried. It can often be difficult to determine whether it’s the right time to begin eviction proceedings. Use this checklist to help you make the best decision.

• Does the situation merit eviction based on the policies set forth in the lease? Check and double-check the language in your lease agreement to make sure an eviction would be in compliance with the policies you and the tenant have agreed upon. If there is a discrepancy, an eviction is very likely to be challenged in court. If you are unsure, it may be best to consult with an attorney.

• Does the situation merit eviction based on local, state, and federal laws? In many jurisdictions, there are very specific guidelines detailing why, when, and how a tenant can be evicted. In order to limit your liability and protect your investment, it is imperative that you ensure you are in compliance with all of these statutes before proceeding with the eviction process. If you have any doubt about this, be sure to double-check with an attorney who specializes in eviction cases in your area.

• Is the tenant far behind on rent? Guidelines vary from city to city and state to state, but surveys have shown that most successful eviction proceedings occur when the tenant is two or more months behind in rent payments and has made no viable attempt to get caught up. If you can prove that the tenant has been chronically late with rent payments, your chance of a successful eviction claim will be increased significantly.

• Has the tenant violated another term of the lease agreement? Examples of lease breaches that are commonly cited in eviction cases include: keeping an unauthorized pet on the premises, subletting the property or allowing another tenant to move in without prior approval, submitting false information on the rental application or lease agreement, grossly deficient housekeeping, inflicting negligent damage on the property, participating in unsafe or illegal activities on the premises, or committing frequent nuisance violations.

• Is it unlikely that the tenant will change her behavior? If you have a paper trail of documents demonstrating that the tenant has been warned about the behavior in question multiple times and has still not altered her behavior, eviction proceedings are probably merited.

• Does the tenant pose an imminent and continuing danger to the property, the neighborhood, or the community? If the situation is on the verge of veering out of control, initiating an eviction may be your best bet.

Choosing to proceed with an eviction is never an easy decision to make. While it’s important to be flexible if the tenant has made a good-faith effort to work with you to resolve the problem, just remember that your property is a business investment, and you can’t afford to commit indefinitely to a money-losing proposition. If your tenant has consistently refused to honor the commitment he agreed to when signing the lease, an eviction proceeding is probably the best way to bring closure to an unfortunate situation. Cut your losses, chalk it up as a learning experience, and move on.