What to Expect from a Landlord’s First Eviction

Eventually, it happens. Landlords often come across their first troublesome tenant, resulting in an eviction. Unfortunately, this occurrence tends to be more common in the early years of their landlord journey. It is precisely at a time when they have limited extra cash flow and hold the greatest faith in humanity.

It is not to say that it happens to every landlord, nor does it imply that all hope for humanity is lost. However, the moment they encounter a tenant who demonstrates no qualms about neglecting payment, leaving a chaotic mess, and simply moving on with their life, doubts start creeping in regarding their choice to engage in this business.

Fortunately, there are some helpful tips available to assist landlords in either avoiding the initial disappointment, minimizing the associated drama, and saving themselves from unnecessary headaches. Would you like to discover these tips?

Don’t be lenient

A breach of the lease is a matter of grave concern. Whether it involves non-payment, property damage, or even more serious offenses, the severity demands immediate action. It is crucial to ensure that a) the tenants understand that such behavior is unacceptable, and b) the landlord initiates the necessary steps for eviction.

One common issue observed among novice landlords is their tendency to exhibit excessive compassion. Unfortunately, this leniency often leads to one month’s outstanding rent snowballing into two or three months, with an additional one to three months required to remove the tenants. Consequently, what could have been a $1,000 decision escalates into a $6,000 ordeal, with little hope of recovering the losses.

Taking a serious stance from the outset is far more prudent. Initiate the eviction process promptly and consider canceling it only if the tenants manage to settle their dues. Relying on hope that the tenants will fulfill their obligations can be detrimental. Furthermore, this approach sets a precedent.

By demonstrating to the tenants that non-payment or any other breaches will not be tolerated, the landlord establishes a business-oriented atmosphere and, hopefully, deters recurring patterns of misconduct. In my locality, regarding non-payment scenarios, I inform tenants that if they make the payment before the scheduled eviction date, the eviction process becomes null and void.

I clarify this policy to them while also emphasizing that it serves as a protective measure for my own interests. If they fulfill their obligations, no harm is done. However, if they fail to do so, I am already well underway in the eviction process.

These lessons were gleaned from my first eviction experience, exemplifying an important realization that came afterward. Initially, I held the misguided belief that others would be honest, respectful, and honor their commitments, much like myself. Unfortunately, I was proven wrong when I had to evict tenants just days before Christmas in 2004.

Consequently, my holiday break, which was intended for quality time with family, was instead spent repainting the property, repairing wall holes, addressing neglect-induced damages, and meticulously cleaning floors, counters, and bathrooms. All of this had to be redone despite having completed these tasks less than six months prior. Learn from my arduous experience and avoid the same pitfalls!

Don’t trust everything you hear

Tenants can be deceptive. However, it’s important not to generalize this behavior, as not all tenants resort to falsehoods. Yet, when faced with eviction and the prospect of homelessness, fabricating a small lie about paying the landlord may not seem like a major transgression.

As a landlord, it’s natural to want to trust your tenants. However, it’s vital to remember that you are running a business. While it’s acceptable to take their words at face value and hope they fulfill their commitments—because many do—you must also remain proactive and not hesitate to initiate eviction proceedings or take necessary actions to regain control of your property promptly if the situation worsens.

I learned this lesson firsthand when I repeatedly received promises of payment and wanted to believe them, only to be ultimately disappointed. Over the years, this lesson has been reinforced by numerous individuals I attempted to assist, only to realize that no one was looking out for my interests—they were solely focused on self-preservation.

Prioritize regaining control of your property

Regaining control of the property should take precedence. When involved in the process of evicting a tenant, it’s easy to become fixated on the outstanding money owed. This is understandable, particularly if it amounts to several months’ rent that never reached your bank account.

However, it’s important not to dwell on the money because, realistically, you may never recover it. If the tenant is in such dire financial straits that they cannot pay rent, it’s unlikely they will have the means to repay you in the future. That’s why swift action is crucial; the longer you delay, the more you stand to lose.

Instead, focus on regaining control of your property so you can restore positive cash flow. Direct your efforts towards removing the tenant as quickly as possible, adhering to the rules and regulations governing your area.

Keep in mind that the process may vary in difficulty depending on the location. Some areas may favor tenants, resulting in a lengthy, slow, and unfavorable eviction process for landlords. Nonetheless, your primary objective should be to regain possession of the property.

In my personal experience, I managed to reclaim my property just before Christmas. This provided me with the gap between Christmas and New Year’s to carry out necessary repairs, repaint the premises, and swiftly find new tenants. In fact, I successfully rented it out within the first week of January. The transition went from incurring losses every month due to non-payment to having a property once again generating positive cash flow.

It’s important to remember that once you regain control, you gain more flexibility. You can address any required renovations or repairs that were previously impractical while the troublesome tenants were still occupying the premises. Moreover, you can reevaluate whether the landlord business is suitable for you, either by seeking better, more suitable tenants for future tenancies or by preparing to sell the property.

However, many of these decisions are put on hold until you regain control of the property and remove the problematic tenants.

Make sure you understand the eviction process

Knowledge is a powerful tool. Many landlords have expressed that understanding the eviction process is not only empowering but also essential.

When faced with the need to evict a tenant for the first time, it is natural to experience fear and stress. Worries about potential property damage, the difficulties of removing the tenant, and the financial implications can weigh heavily on your mind. The uncertainty of the situation only adds to the pressure, leaving you unsure of when or how long the process may endure.

While the eviction process may be more straightforward in some areas compared to others, it is beneficial to learn about it early on rather than navigating it under the stress of a time-sensitive eviction.

So, where can you acquire this knowledge?

One starting point is local government service offices, which often have consumer landlord tenancy agencies or hotlines providing information. While these sources may present information in a bureaucratic manner, they offer a foundation to build upon.

Additionally, researching local apartment or rental associations for landlords can prove valuable, particularly for first-time landlords. These associations typically offer a wealth of information on evictions, leases, and various aspects of landlord business improvement. While complete access may require membership, they often provide ample free resources to assist you in moving forward.

Lastly, connect with other landlords in your area. Networking with fellow landlords can bring multiple advantages. Locally, it keeps you informed about changes in local laws or upcoming regulations. On a broader scale, it offers opportunities to learn from experienced landlords, making your role as a landlord easier. It may even lead to long-lasting friendships and beneficial relationships. (Feel free to share this website with your new acquaintances!)

This is how I learned to handle my first eviction. As a member of a local real estate group, I sought guidance from several members. By networking independently within the group, my wife and I established lifelong relationships with wonderful individuals who became our friends and fellow landlords.

Having knowledge of the eviction process may not be something you desire, but if the situation arises, you will be grateful to possess it.

Keep an eye on your rental property

It is crucial to maintain vigilance over your property, especially in the days leading up to the eviction date.

Depending on the nature of the eviction, some tenants may harbor vindictive feelings. They often refuse to accept responsibility for failing to honor the agreement they signed with the landlord, instead shifting the blame onto the landlord for initiating the eviction.

One way in which vindictive tenants may act out is by leaving doors and windows open when they vacate the property during the cold winter months. This is exactly what happened with my first evicted tenants. They left the patio door wide open and every light in the house on.

At that time, I was unaware of the importance of checking the property earlier, and sometimes the damage had already occurred by the time I arrived. Fortunately, the downstairs tenant arrived home and informed us about the situation. Before making the call, they took the initiative to close all the windows, turn off the lights, and secure the door(s).

Nowadays, I advise landlords to conduct a quick drive-by of the property leading up to the day the tenants are supposed to vacate. In the case of a property with multiple units, I ensure that the other tenants are kept informed so that they can act as my eyes and ears on-site.

It is also beneficial to establish good relationships with neighboring residents. By informing them about the situation, landlords can rely on their support and assistance. Some landlords may worry that neighbors will think less of them for having troublesome tenants. However, more often than not, neighbors appreciate that the landlord is taking action and keeping them informed.

Remember, your property represents a significant investment, and investing a little time in driving by, conversing with neighbors, and keeping tenants in the loop helps protect that investment.