A harmonious landlord-tenant relationship is founded on cooperation and conformity from both the parties. Occasionally, when either the landlord or the tenant does something either unintentionally or intentionally, it may be possible to work it out between the two and resolve the issues.
If the dispute cannot be settled amicably, the relationship mostly ends with the landlord evicting the tenant from the property. Although evictions are often followed by great distress and periods of hardship for both the parties, it's a better option than having to deal with the stress every day in addition to having the property continuously damaged.
Before going the eviction route, landlords should observe certain pre-eviction requirements to prevent disputes and establish a clear position before a court. We outline best practices, procedures, and compliances to be observed by both the landlord and the tenant based on the prevalent regulations in many states. We highly recommend that you check your local and state laws on eviction.
Reasons to evict your tenant##
Non-payment of rent or violations of lease/tenancy agreement are some of the reasons for eviction. Most evictions in the US take place due to tenants' failure to pay rent, in which instance, the landlords are at complete right to evict the defaulting tenants.
Any violations of the terms of the agreement, which generally includes conduct amounting to breaking the law, or causing disturbance or nuisance to neighbors, causing property damage, selling drugs in the rental home, engaging in illegal activities, smoking within the building, sub-leasing the property, unauthorized pets, or other breaches, also enable the landlord to expel the tenants from their property. Depending on the state, the landlord is required to provide anywhere from 3 to 14-days notice to the tenant to 'pay or quit' or 'perform covenants or quit'. While some states allow immediate notice, others even take up to 30 days. Check your local laws. This notice serves as a written warning to the tenant.
Even if some of the above clauses are not in the lease agreement, they can still be used effectively to confront the tenants for eviction. That said, HomeKasa recommends you use an ironclad lease that outlines all the terms and conditions. The lease agreements in our software help you to stay current with the latest terms and conditions.
One can even demand eviction on the ground of an expired lease in some states. The landlord is under no obligation to renew any such expired leases, in the face of which the tenants can be compelled to leave the premises instantly. Unlike eviction, the non-renewal will not show up in the tenant's records. That said, HomeKasa recommends that you give sufficient written notice to the tenant that the lease won't be renewed and that you want the property vacated by a certain date. Some states require a 30-day notice, while others require a 60-day notice, depending on the lease type and duration. For tenants benefiting from the housing choice voucher program (section 8), a 90-day notice period may be required. Check your local laws.
How much grace period should you give your tenant for rent payment in your state?##
Most states don't have a statue on the grace period. However, this should be specified in your rental agreement. Here's the break down by state for the grace period required:
CT - 9 days, ME - 15 days, MA - 30 days, NC - 5 days, OR - 4 days, RI - 15 days, TX - 1 day, AR - 5 days, DE - 5 to 8 days, NJ - 5 days, OK - 10 days, TN - 5 days.
Other states do not have a statute on the grace period. That said, 5 days is usually the norm for states that don't have a statute.
How much late fees can you charge the tenant in your state?##
This should also be specified in your rental agreement. While most states don't have a statute, others allow a reasonable amount as the maximum late fee. Find out the norm for your state and use that amount in your agreement. Here's the breakdown for the maximum by state:
- FL - $20 or 20% IA - $12 to $20 per day ME - 4% of the rent MN - 8% of the rent NM, TN - 10% of the rent NC - $15 or 5% of the rent OR, DE, MD - 5% of the rent NV - must be specified in the lease
States that allow a reasonable late fees: AZ, CA, TX
States with no statute: AL, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MO, NE, NH, OH, RI, SD, VT, WA, WI, AK, AR, CO, GA, ID, IN, KS, LA, MI, MS, MT, NJ, NY, ND, OK, PA, SC, UT, VA, WV, WY
Always check your local laws and moratoriums.
How do you write a pay or quit notice to the tenant?##
- Include the property address
- Name all the tenants who live in the property
- Include the rent owed and the late fees if applicable
- Give them a due date and where the payment should be made
- List the reason to quit (late payment)
- If they are asked to leave for violation, list the violation
- Tell them what happens after the due date (file eviction proceedings)
- Sign and date the letter
How many days of notice should you give to the tenant for eviction for your state?##
As of this writing, here are the requirements by state:
- Immediate: MO, GA, NJ, WV
- 3 days: CA, CT, FL, IA, NM, OH, SD, TX, ID, MS, MT, ND, UT, WY
- 5 days: AZ, HI, IL, RI, AR, DE, LA, MD, NV, OK, SC, VA
- 6 days: OR
- 7 days: AL, KY, ME, NE, NH, AK, MI
- 10 days: NC, CO, IN, KS, PA
- 14 days: MA, MN, VT, WA, WI, NY, TN (14/30)
- 30 days: TN (14/30) - 14 days to address the situation. 30 days to vacate.
In some states, if you have accepted late payment before, then the number of days for the notice will vary. Always, check your local laws and any moratoriums.
Letter about non-renewal of the lease##
Here's an example of what to include this letter:
- Include date and property address
- Include the end date for the lease and the reason to terminate if applicable
- Schedule time for pre-move-out inspection. This is required in some states.
- Schedule time for move-out inspection. Some locations require the tenant to be present during the walk-through.
- Ask for the tenants' forwarding address
- Sign and date the letter
HomeKasa makes it easy to do move-in and move-out inspection. Use our free software to do a thorough room by room inspection.
How to evict the tenant##
A landlord can either evict their tenant through self-help or via a court, depending on the local laws. For example, California requires the landlord to go through the court system and file an unlawful detainer lawsuit. This complaint must then be served to the tenant, who gets a few days to file and serve their response. If the tenant doesn't respond, then a default judgment may be entered. If the tenant contests, a trial date will be set for the court within a month usually. Once the landlord wins, the tenant will have a few days to move out. If the landlord loses, then they may have to pay the tenant's court fees in some states and the tenant gets to stay in the house.
The landlord may decide to approach the court to obtain eviction rather than face the tenant directly. They could also be forced into litigation by the tenant on various grounds, including failure to maintain the premises' reasonable habitable conditions. The landlord can there plead upon any of the above-mentioned grounds before the court.
Several law firms focus purely on eviction. While this is expensive, HomeKasa recommends this approach for your peace of mind. The pros can take care of this effectively and can ensure that your suffering is not prolonged.
Keeping it quick and successful##
Keep in mind that a retaliatory action seeking eviction is not accepted and supported by the law. Moreover, a landlord cannot evict their tenants as revenge for reporting the landlord's housing code violations or discriminatory practices. Evictions fueled with such motives cannot be expected to stand strong in trials and can be penalized with fines.
The point is to keep evictions quick, less stressful, and achieve the desired results. The more it drags, the more you lose money or have to deal with unpleasant situations. To ensure this, landlords must exercise due diligence and comply with specific bare-minimum stipulations. You have to keep clear records and act in good faith so that any accusations of wrongdoing by the tenant won't hold water in the court. Such conduct may also tend to make the eviction process easier, again depicting ethical behavior on the landlord's part.
Keep records of your communications with the tenant where you offer them to 'pay or quit' or 'perform covenants or quit'. This shows that you gave the opportunity to the tenant on what they should do to avoid eviction. The notice must be sent through the proper mode of delivery, and in accordance with ample timeframe, as prescribed by the relevant state and local laws. We also recommend that even provide, and highlight in the notice, sufficient grace period for the tenant to arrange for another accommodation as a goodwill gesture.
Court proceedings are often burdensome to undertake and accompany various drawbacks about money and time constraints. However, landlords may be forced to incur expenses to hire attorneys, and even risk rental income from tenants until the court hearing. By following the steps outlined above, landlords can reduce the time delay and stress caused by the eviction process.
HomeKasa allows you to keep record of all your communications with your tenant. You can send reminders to pay rent, check applicants' background, and more with our free software. Get started now.