If you own a rental house, you'll likely be faced at some point with the issue of when and whether to evict a nonpaying tenant. Depending upon your state's laws, you may be faced with a lengthy legal process or a fairly short one -- but all states have specific notice and deadline requirements when it comes to being able to regain physical control of your rental home. When can you perform an eviction yourself, and when should you get some professional help? Read on to learn more about tackling an eviction.
What does the eviction process entail?
Each state has its own timelines with regard to providing notice to a tenant that you're beginning the eviction process. In some states, this process can begin as soon as a day after their missed rent payment -- other states allow the tenant a few weeks' "grace period" to make up the late payment before you're able to take action. Once you've provided the tenant with notice that the eviction process is beginning, you'll need to file a complaint with your local civil or small claims court. This complaint will set forth the information that makes up your claim, including the dates of the missed payments, any efforts you made to secure payment, and your provision of the pre-eviction notice to the tenants.
The court will then set a hearing date, and will call both you and the tenant to appear in court to present your cases. Depending upon the strength of your evidence, the judge will decide in your favor and grant your eviction, allow the tenant some additional time to catch up on payments, or deny the eviction and dismiss the case. In some situations, the tenant may fail to appear at this hearing -- if so, and your evidence is strong, you'll likely receive a default judgment allowing you to reclaim your property after the tenant has been provided a certain number of days to move out. If your tenant fails to move out by the deadline, he or she may be assessed additional costs and penalties. However, recovering these costs can be another process in itself.
When should you hire legal assistance in evicting a tenant?
Many states have put the paperwork needed to file an eviction online -- if your case is a fairly routine one, you'll usually be able to handle the process yourself by reviewing the applicable laws and filling out the forms. However, there are a number of factors that can make a case more complicated, and trying to tackle them yourself could delay your eviction, cost you money, or result in damage to your rental property. If you suspect that your tenant has violated laws (like using or selling drugs from the property), has purposely defaced the property, or has allowed it to fall into disrepair, you may want to sue for additional monetary damages to help compensate you for your time, trouble, and property damage. For this, you'll usually need the assistance of an attorney.
What other eviction assistance is available?
Once you've received a judgment of eviction, you may still have some difficulty when it comes to actually physically getting your tenant (and his or her belongings) out of your rental home. You may want to contact an eviction services company to help firmly but civilly enforce your legal judgment, as well as help coordinate cleanup and repair services if needed. If damages are due to your tenant's own negligence, recklessness, or purposeful bad act, you may be able to seek an additional or amended judgment to help cover these costs.