I Need to Evict a Nonpaying Tenant!
Evicting a Non-paying Tenant
Disclaimer: Author is not a lawyer and this article is meant for informational purposes only. You should discuss any action with your lawyer before moving ahead with the eviction process.
It's something you thought you would never have to do.
Months ago you signed the lease to allow a tenant to rent your property. You checked their references. You talked to them, and it all felt right. Now, all of a sudden you find that the tenant won't take your calls, refuses to answer the door and is a month behind on the rent.
You realize you will have to evict them. So what are the steps to evicting a tenant?
These steps are the average requirements for evicting a tenant in the United States. You will want to research the laws that are specific to your state because if you don't follow the steps exactly you can lose the case in court.
First, try to talk to the tenant and find out why they are not paying. In most states the tenant cannot withhold rent for repairs, or any other reason, without setting up an escrow account and having an officer of the court hold the rent. It is a legal process. So if your tenant says they aren't paying because you haven't fixed the door handle in the bathroom they probably do not have the authority to do that.
If you can't talk to the tenant you can lock them out. In order to do this you must have a key available for them within 2 hours, at any time of the day or night whether they pay or not. Locking out a tenant will not get you your money, it is to be used only to force a tenant to meet with you. Try to work the issues out in a peaceful manner. Keep notes and records of all communication, verbal or otherwise.
Grounds for Eviction
How to Write an Eviction Letter
Next, send them a certified letter, or post it on the front door, or hand it to someone over eighteen. The letter should say something like this:
Dear Mr Tenant,
As of March 15, 2---, your rent was unpaid. You have three (3) days from the date of this letter to either pay the rent in full, including late charges, in the amount of $2,059.50 or vacate the premises. The payment, or the keys, should be brought to 1111 Smith Street, Brokelandlord, N.J. 00000
If you do not comply the eviction process will be initiated. All fees and court costs involved in this process will be charged to you, and you will have an eviction on your rental, as well as your credit, records.
Serving the Eviction Notice
If they do not vacate in the time you have specified (check with your state laws as far as how long you must give them, but it is usually 3-5 days) then you take the copy of your letter to the local court and have an eviction notice served on the tenant. The cost will vary, but expect to pay around $100.00.
You will be given a court date, when you and the tenant will be asked to appear before the judge.
Going to Court
Hopefully, the tenant will move out. If not, on your court date take all of your payment receipts, the lease, the letter requesting payment in full, and any other letters, paperwork, or pertinent information to court.
Always allow the judge to ask questions and never interrupt anyone...even if the tenant is lying right and left. Stay calm. Losing your temper will hurt you in the long run.
Once you have stated your case, and the tenant has stated theirs, the judge will render a decision. More than likely it will be in your favor, depending on the circumstance.
The judge will tell the tenant that they have five days to appeal or vacate. If they do not do either you will need to come back into court to get a court order to move the tenant out with the help of the sheriff.
What If They Appeal?
If they appeal, then you will be back in court again while the tenant tries to prove why they should not have to pay rent. Now, in order to do this, they must put the rent in an escrow to be held at the court, at least in many states,so most tenants will not appeal. The tenant has to prove that they can pay the rent in the appeals process.
It takes about twenty days to evict a tenant in most states.
You may not need a lawyer for this unless it gets very complicated in appeals. Be sure and check with your own county's regulations and requirements. This is not legal advice, but merely the steps that one might expect to go through in the eviction process.