Dealing with the tenants
from hell -- Page 2
Prandi says she starts with a phone call to tell a
tenant he's violating the lease. That's always followed by a letter
that recounts the phone call and includes a copy of the rental agreement
with the violation highlighted.
the problem is related to late rent or a bad check and a phone call hasn't worked,
Prandi starts the eviction process. Every state has a specific form that has to
be delivered to the tenant, giving them a certain number of days to pay up or
get out. For instance, in California, it's a three-day notice to "pay rent
or quit." Other states give tenants up to 15 days.
is where it's important to know the law in your state and municipality. Some states
require that the letter be delivered by a disinterested third party, usually a
process server or a sheriff's deputy, or demand proof that the tenant received
the notice. You need to know if the tenant has three business days or three calendar
days to respond.
One tip: Make sure you have signed leases for every
adult in the house, and send separate notices to each of them. This
avoids situations in which one spouse or housemate gets the notice
and the other says he didn't know anything about it -- or filing
to evict a tenant and discovering there's someone else living there
with whom you have no lease.
Cure or quit
the offense is behavior-related, the tenant needs to be sent a "cure or quit"
notice. In layman's terms, he has a certain amount of time to fix the problem
or face termination of the lease. If he shapes up, great. If not, then he'll face
eviction. The exceptions to this rule include criminal behavior, Prandi says.
If someone is selling drugs out of your unit or is violent against other tenants,
for example, you can skip the notice and go straight to eviction.
you're lucky, the offending tenants are nearing the end of the lease period and
you can simply notify them that you're not renewing their lease. (Check the law
in your state to find out how much notice you need to provide.) If lease-end is
still months away, you can try to avoid the expense and time of an eviction by
buying out the lease, which is essentially paying them to leave. To reduce the
risk of property damage, make the payment contingent on the unit being in good
"It may be less-expensive than going through
the eviction process, especially if you're worried about property
damage," Landon says. "That can be a lot more expensive
than an eviction."
"I've seen people tear money in half and say,
'When you're out all the way, I'll give you the other half,'" she says. "It
worked. Money talks, as they say."
If the tenant flatly
refuses to leave, it's time to file for eviction. The process is labor-intensive
and time-consuming, but you want it to stand up legally, so you need to follow
state and local law precisely. For instance, accepting rent from a tenant after
you've filed for eviction can be construed as re-instating the tenancy, Brooks
says. There are ways to accept money after you've filed, but it varies by state.
It might be worth a visit with a landlord-tenant attorney to learn the ropes.
Trashing the place
One of the touchiest situations in an eviction is keeping
tenants from trashing the place before they leave. As the landlord, you have a
right of access, Brooks notes. He's seen some landlords begin an eviction by checking
the condition of the unit. Take someone with you who is neutral, he says, and
take lots of pictures. A court order enjoining them from doing damage to the unit
"gives you the power of contempt and jail time to ensure nothing is done
to harm the property while you go through the process."
the eviction is underway, though, Prandi recommends steering clear of the property
and the tenant.
"Make sure you're not provoking
anyone to get mad," she says. "Let the law handle things. If you're
in the middle of an eviction, stay off the property and just expect that the place
will need work."