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Columns: Real Estate Adviser
Steve McLinden   Expert: Steve McLinden
Real Estate Adviser
If you must sell your home to survive, try talking relatives into moving before throwing them out.
Real Estate Adviser

Are you prepared to evict kin?

Dear Real Estate Adviser,
In a verbal agreement seven years ago, I let my brother and his family take over payments of a house I own. He and his wife were supposed to be fixing their credit during this time, but they're worse off now. They've been late on numerous payments and missed last month's payment entirely. This has caused a rift between us, and I have reason to believe they'll miss more. I'm now unemployed, live in a rental and need to sell that house. I can't afford to evict them or reassume the payments. What can I do to get them out without an eviction?
-- Martha

Dear Martha,
There's a strong chance you can't afford not to evict them.

However, since your renters are family, first consider offering them assistance in locating another rental unit and moving them there. That might mean you'd have to "loan" them a little money if you even have any in your circumstances. And that's money you may never see again. While there's a strong cringe factor to this, it would be far less painful -- and probably less expensive -- than the eviction process. Realize that in many evictions, you will be paying court filing fees and the costs of a process server, plus attorney's fees. Those expenses will only add to the financial pain of lost rent, cleanup costs, repairs and replacement locks.

Regardless, it's important that you sit down with your brother and sister-in-law to discuss the options, if that's even possible at this point. Since you are unemployed, you can point out that your motives are strictly survival. But try to keep emotions at a low level. Be sure you have their payment records in front of you and clearly spell out the impact these continued arrears have had, or will have, on your credit rating.

Sure, they may say you're not treating them like family during these hard times. But you could gently counter that by hurting you in your financial condition, they're certainly not treating you like family. At that point, stay calm and try not to dredge up old family issues or let things degenerate into hostilities. Do stress, however, that you will need to see specific action from them to remedy the situation and set a strict timetable for it to happen.

If you do have to evict your brother and his family, be sure to check out state-by-state laws for your state's specific laws. Also do an Internet search for "eviction" followed by your state's name for additional information. Typically, a 30-day notice is required for nonpaying renters, but many cities and states have stronger renter protections or are adding some in the face of the declining housing market.

Online services such as and do sell low-cost, downloadable eviction forms and package advice. But do-it-yourself forms or kits can be trouble if you use the wrong forms or miss any required steps in the eviction process. Some states provide their own eviction-form packets for landlords in straightforward cases of rent nonpayment for as little as $30.

As for our other readers: Please do not rent to relatives unless it is an absolute last resort. You can make new friends, but you can't replace blood relatives.

I wish you luck.'s corrections policy -- Posted: July 12, 2009
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