Anatomy of a Landlord Tenant Eviction Process

Dec 11 2012

Hopefully everyone has had a chance to read my series, "Anatomy of a Landlord Lawsuit."  It was a good set of lessons learned for me and I am happy to present it to everyone else.  

Now I'm in a good position to do a "prequel" to a lawsuit and that is evicting tenants from a property.  I'm at this point right now with tenants and am reasonably certain I will have to give them the boot and will chronicle my efforts as I move this along.

Background of this tenant landlord dispute:  I put the current tenants, let's call them JH and CB around August as an unmarried couple of five years with two children between them.  Their status as a couple did send up a little red flag with me but otherwise everything on their application looked "okay" to me.

The rent for this couple was due on the 7th of December.  On the 6th, a message was left with them detailing expectations of when it would be picked up.  No response was given.  On the 8th, I traveled to the property and no one was home though the property looked to still be lived in.  I left a note on the premises demanding someone contact me immediately. On the 9th, I decided this rental was going pear-shaped really fast.

Here is a list of things to do when the rent stops coming and eviction is looming.  All steps should comply with your local laws about eviction.

1)  Don't panic!  

Time is of the essence in situations like these but hasty decisions can only make matters worse.  Don't go beating on the door or calling, leaving angry and hateful messages.  Be professional, calm and cool.

2)  Remove the emotion.  

Though it's difficult to do, every decision you make now needs to be executed in the context of a business decision.  Sure you're angry the rent stopped coming and the communication too but you're about to embark on a roller coaster of emotions and leading from anger (or empathy) is not good business sense.  As I like to say is "The business of business is business and business has not place for sentimentality or emotions" 

For me, it's exactly two weeks from Christmas as I write this.  The male tenant does make decent money.  The woman doesn't work.  It's possible he has lost his job.  Their children are young.  

However, none of this makes a difference to me, is all irrelevant, and as Tommy Lee Jones' character said in the movie "The fugitive" when the hero told him at gunpoint that he didn't kill his wife, "I don't care."

What is relevant is the tenants are breaking the lease and on the verge of being expunged from the property.

3)  Determine their location.  

You want to know, most of all, is if the tenants are still in the property.  If they aren't then you really have no leverage with which to get your rent.  It does make eviction simpler and turn-around time on getting the unit ready for re-rent.  If they are still there, you have more work to do.  Use your neighborhood resources to see what the neighbors know.

I am reasonably certain the tenants are still in my unit.  The property was not a mess, it was locked up, and toys and what-not were still on the lawn.  The trash was recently taken to the curb as well.

4)  Determine why the rent stopped.  

Though it simply doesn't matter why the rent stopped, you want to know why it stopped.  Knowing how and why can be tools you use in your eviction process.  I will also be an indicator of how fierce the tenant is to battle your eviction.  If their job is gone, be prepared to put up a good fight to get the tenants removed from the property.

A quick look-see at our local 911 calls database (free) revealed on the 6th of this month, the police was at the residence due to "disturbance", "assault/trauma", and "transportation."  Translation:  Someone got beat on and someone else was arrested.  Querying the state and local incarceration database (also free), I determined neither of the tenants are in jail.  Using a local service, I was able to get a police report for the incident that revealed the female beat on the male and the police when they showed up.  She was arrested.  This doesn't bode well considering everything happened during the morning when he should have been at work.

5)  Contact the job!  

If the tenant is still working, call them at their job.  If asked who you are by someone on the other line, use the name of a relative or contact from your rental application.  When the tenant picks up the phone, you have them!  They may avoid taking your calls but it's hard to avoid this.  Be polite and concise.  I like to ask the question "What are your intents for the property" and go from there.

I have phoned his job to verify employment and for the time being that is good enough.

6)  Stick to your protocols and send the "quit" letter.

 Many municipalities have eviction notice laws and require a "pay rent or quit" letter be sent prior to starting eviction.  Familiarize yourself with your laws about eviction!

This letter pretty much says to pay the rent or get out of the property.  It isn't an eviction notice but many tenants react to them as if they are.  At the least it can stir some action.  Mine is going on tonight.  

As this draws out, I will update the site with new information but this is the beginning of drawing rent from the tenant or having them expunged from the property.

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Admin  Update: The week of December 9th, 2012, the tenant made contact with me on early Thursday. I didn't take the call but a voicemail was left. Later in the evening he called again to let me know his phone was broken (it's always a broken phone) and he has had the rent for awhile. I immediately left the 30 minute drive to get the rent and upon arrival, was handed money orders dated 12/13. I will be sending the tenants a letter detailing how a late fee is required for this. No mention was made of the disturbance, violence, and arrests. I did decline the woman's offer to come in out of the cold and chat awhile. lol
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