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I Need to Evict a Nonpaying Tenant!

Updated on February 1, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

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?


General Steps

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:

Today's Date

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.


Mr. Landlord

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.


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      csmart 5 years ago

      Mayer Audet, I really enjoyed your Hub. I want to own a home and I was thinking about having tenants but from what I read here it seems kind of scary. Since you lost your last home in foreclosure due to tenants being delinquent in payment, you should sue them.

    • profile image

      klucas 5 years ago

      I need help!!!! I have tenants in my home. They pay the rent, but having problem with the water bill. They moved into our home on September 1,2011. Didn't switch the water into there name until October 21, 2011. so stuck us with a bill of $119. We have given serveral attempts for this payment. When get on phone they admit to the bill and says will send money then never receive payment. Had there number changed and never received it. so when try to talk about matter couldn't get them. so got them on facebook and she said she would pay the bill with her April rent. Gave it till April 10 nothing. so i send evition notice to be out within thirty days of the letter. Can i evict them for non payment of this bill? Please help?

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      KatnGeo 5 years ago

      Our tenant was due to pay his rent on the 23rd of March, today is April 2 (even though original rent was due and started on the 6th and he has postponed one week at a time until now HIS date most convenient for him to pay is the 23rd now. He didn't show up with the rent on the 23rd and his cell phone is not receiving calls, nobody is at the residence, but seems his stuff is still there, we just can't get a hold of him. We put a FOR RENT sign in the front yard thinking he will contact us, but seems he is just "gone". What can we do, since we can't give him any notice in person or by phone, what next?

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      Mimi Carden 5 years ago

      I have been stuck in limbo for 10 months now, my husband died 17 months ago, and the tenant decided he did not want to pay me anymore! His wife and kid left last year and he stayed and wrecked my house, he finally left and his wife came to my door to tell me she moved back in! I told her she cannot move in, I need to sell the house, the bank is foreclosing on the house me and my children live in, because I can't pay the mortgage without the rent. I went down last night to talk, because they will not give me a phone # it turns out her husband still lives there as does her daughter and her 4 year old! She acted like I should let them live there for free. And after all she has a 4 year old living there, I'm sorry but that is her problem, I have three children who are losing there home and I can't even move into my rental because they won't get out! I asked her how would she like if I just took her car and said see you latter! The thing is I don't have the money to get a business LICENCE to evict them, so I'm forced to let them stay I even pay for there water, because if I don't I'll be in trouble. I don't know what to do

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Great hub. I have had a good tenant until recently. I can relate to the comments on here where the landlords are "blamed" for the tenant's back luck and are in effect paying the renter's rent. I am going to bookmark this hub in case I need it. Very practical. Thanks. Voted up, useful, and interesting.

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