Landlord Do’s and Don’ts: The Eviction Process
Although the eviction process is rather straightforward in most areas, you still want to ensure you, as the landlord, don’t do anything to jeopardize the proceedings. There is no guarantee that the process will run smoothly, but if you keep the following in mind, you can alleviate many headaches:
Do use an attorney. The filing and serving of eviction actions are governed by very precise and detailed rules. The smallest mistake can result in delays or even the loss of your case on technicalities, regardless of the fact that the resident hasn’t paid rent or has otherwise violated the rental contract.
Don’t fail to properly respond to maintenance requests. Even if you’re in the middle of an eviction process with a resident, you’re always responsible for properly maintaining the premises. If someone gets hurt because of your failure to keep the property in good condition, you can be sued. Always fix problems immediately and worry about who is responsible later.
Residents and their attorneys are very sensitive to maintenance issues. Any failure to respond to a resident’s request for maintenance can be used as a defense in the eviction action.
Don’t get too emotionally involved in an eviction process and make an irrational decision that can be construed as a self-help eviction. A self-help or constructive eviction is a situation in which the owner takes illegal actions to effectively force the resident to vacate the premises.
But in today’s reality, no states tolerate these aggressive tactics, regardless of how bad the resident behaves. In many states, even reducing or eliminating free services such as cable TV may be prohibited; the court may consider this move an illegal self-help measure, and the resident can sue for significant penalties.
To avoid ending up on the wrong side of a lawsuit, don’t pursue vigilante justice. Follow legal eviction procedures and work through the courts and local law enforcement when you need to evict residents. The wheels of justice turn slowly, but taking matters into your own hands may result in serious (expensive) consequences.