The Eviction Process Basics

The Eviction Process Basics

If you work regularly with landlords and property managers, you know that dealing with evictions come with the territory. It may help your clients — many of whom may be buying investment properties or simply renting apartments — to know that you’re familiar with the basics of eviction.

The bottom line: follow the rules, which vary from state to state, and sometimes even from city to city. They’re put in place so that evictions cannot happen on a whim. In just about every eviction case, a court order must be obtained, after the appropriate notice (or notices) have been issued. In other words, an eviction can only happen for very specific reasons and within a specific amount of time.

The main reasons to start the eviction process:

No payment of rent
This seems to be the most obvious and common reason, but there is still a dance that needs to be performed before eviction can happen. A Pay or Quit Notice must be sent to the tenant, which starts your paper process. The amount of time it takes to evict from that first notice depends on the state. Check your local laws.

Violation of lease terms
Perhaps the tenants are using the property as an unauthorized Airbnb location, or dealing drugs, or keeping pets when the lease specifies otherwise. A Cure or Quit Notice must be sent to them, specifying that they are in clear violation of the lease, and must stop within a certain period of time. If they don’t, the eviction proceedings can begin, according to the laws of your state.

An Unconditional Quit Notice differs from a Cure or Quit Notice in that it does not give the tenant a chance to correct their actions or remedy the issue. This notice means: get out now. It could be issued if the tenant’s behavior could be in violation of the law or the source of immediate danger to other tenants Examples include drug or gang-related activity.

The tenant may not go quietly. He or she may decide to defend themselves in court, which could add a great deal of time to the process. This is why the property owner’s paperwork and paper trail must be detailed, organized, specific and correct. The tenant may claim that mistakes were made, or that the landlord had failed to deliver on certain promises specified in the lease. Advise your client to have all their ducks in a row when it comes to keeping records and covering their tracks.

If the suit is won by the landlord, a judgment for possession of the property and/or unpaid rent will be issued. Remember that this does not mean that the tenant and his possessions can be dumped on the sidewalk. Locking out or freezing out a tenant is illegal. In most states, there are removal and storage procedures to obey. In many cases, a local law enforcement officer (usually a sheriff or marshall) handles the physical aspects of the removal, at a cost to the landlord. Check your local laws.

You may want to remind your clients that real estate agents can help minimize the risk of tenant eviction by finding higher-quality tenants. Here’s how:

  • Real estate agents can cover the entire rental process, from showings to screenings and from negotiations to lease signings. This amounts to less hassle and distraction for the landlord.
  • Agents have access to the MLS system, and can share the listing with other agents.
  • Agents can prevent the terms and conditions of the lease from being unnecessarily modified.
  • Agents are familiar with the market and the most competitive leasing rates.
  • Agents can market the property at no initial cost to the landlord.


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