If you are in the unfortunate position of having to evict a resident, there are ways to avoid making an already difficult process even more difficult. Some eviction mistakes are common across jurisdictions, no matter your experience as a landlord, but all may be avoidable, given a bit of forethought and preparation:

(1) Not keeping detailed records

Avoid this eviction mistake:

No matter your jurisdiction, the judge who presides over your eviction case will expect you to bring detailed records to back up the claims you make. Arriving without paperwork, photos, bank statements, and documentation to show the steps you have taken to resolve the matter with your renter will result in - at best - a delay in your case - or, at worst - a judgment against you. 

What to do for a smoother eviction:

Document everything clearly.

If your resident has missed rent payments, you will need bank statements or reports from your property management software that clearly show when the missed payments started and exactly how much rent is owed. If your resident has violated their lease agreement, you will need clear proof: written complaints from neighbors, photographic evidence (remember you must not enter your client’s unit illegally, or without proper notice), etc. You will also need proof that you have taken the proper legal steps to notify your resident of the issues and given them the appropriate legal timeframe to correct the violations - keep copies of all notices and proof (like a date-stamped photo or a receipt from certified mail) of the dates they were delivered. 

Keep in mind that staying organized and maintaining detailed records can keep the eviction process from becoming overwhelming, and help you avoid the next most common eviction mistake:

(2) Skipping steps (or, not following the eviction process for your state)

Avoid this eviction mistake:

Managing any number of rental properties requires a high attention to detail. If you don’t already have a process set up for evictions - or if you’re busy with your regular management tasks - it’s easy to miss a required notice date, a crucial line item in your paperwork, or a piece of documentation you needed. Making even a small misstep in the eviction process can set you back weeks or even months, and make your court date a waste of time, because you will be forced to go back and start the steps over again.

What to do for a faster eviction:

Take the time to plan ahead.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day demands of managing your units, but taking the time to keep yourself organized is always worth it. Put aside everything for an hour or two and plan out each eviction step ahead of time:

1. Carefully document each lease violation (with photos, text messages, written evidence, etc.) and missed rent date (print out bank statements to back up your claims).

2. Print out at least two copies of all required notices, including the eviction notice (typically, notices of lease violation must be sent before you proceed with eviction notices). Determine how and when each notice needs to be delivered (by certified mail, by a courier, attached to the resident’s door, etc.). Mark the dates on your calendar and make sure each notice goes out on time - and that you document proof of delivery.

3. Print out all necessary eviction paperwork to file for eviction in your state. Fill out the paperwork carefully and mark the date on your calendar when it needs to be submitted. If your resident fails to correct their lease violations before that date, you’ll have the paperwork already prepared to submit.

4. Store your copies of each required notice, proof of notice delivery (with dates), your eviction filing paperwork, and documentation of every lease violation in one folder. 

5. If you go forward with filing for eviction, set aside one more hour of time. Use that hour to submit your eviction paperwork, and make sure the eviction notices you printed are delivered on time. Keep a copy of your eviction filing paperwork, proof of eviction notice delivery, and proof of your filing date in your folder.

6. When you receive your court date, add it to your calendar. As the court date approaches, continue to document missed rent payments, lease violations, and any communication from your resident, and add it to your folder.

7. The day before your court date, set aside 30-60 minutes to review and organize the paperwork in your folder, make any notes on how you plan to present your evidence, learn where the courthouse is located and how long it will take you to park/walk, and decide what you will wear to court.

Preparing well ahead of time will lower your stress level throughout the eviction process, which will help you avoid the next common eviction mistake:

(3) Keep communication professional

What to do for a less stressful eviction:

Remember that none of this is personal. The landlord-tenant relationship is a business relationship, governed by a “contract” (your lease agreement), just like any other business relationship. When the business relationship you established with your resident is no longer operating under the terms you defined in your lease, it is time to part ways. Stay as professional as possible in all communications - and, if you can’t do that, hire a property manager as a neutral third party to handle those communications for you. Keep all of your correspondence polite - remember; you aren’t evicting your resident because you don’t like them or because you’re angry with them - you’re evicting them because either 1.) they have broken one or more terms of their lease agreement (including nonpayment of rent) or 2.) you have made a business decision to sell/remodel/repurpose the property (check your state’s laws for which of these constitute legal reasons to evict). Do not argue with your resident, either in person or over text/email/phone. Arguments waste time, contribute to an unpleasant atmosphere for other residents, and distract from the main point - the business agreement has been broken, the timelines to repair it have not been met, and the eviction is now moving forward. The time to discuss options, unfortunately, ends when the eviction notice has been given.

Speaking of options, the next common eviction mistake is an easy one to make if you don’t understand how it can hurt your eviction case:

(4) Accepting partial rent payments or accepting rent after filing for eviction

Avoid this eviction mistake:

In most states, once you have filed for eviction, you must stop accepting rent. This is one area in which it is absolutely vital to check the laws in your specific state. Some states allow you to accept rent that was owed up to the date of the most recent “Pay or Quit” notice you sent, while in other states, accepting any rent will restart the entire eviction process from the beginning. Be very careful here - accepting a partial or a full payment of rent after the time to pay the initial notice has expired will almost always send you back to step one (sending a new “Pay or Quit” notice). 

What to do for an orderly eviction:

Politely decline all rent payments after the “Pay or Quit” date.

Once you have started the eviction process, and the initial timeline to “Pay or Quit” has expired, do not accept any payments from the renter you are evicting if you intend to continue with the eviction. If you are using an automated or online payment service like Zelle, make sure to block payments from the resident you are evicting starting on the day after their “Pay or Quit” notice expires. If your resident asks why their payment was not accepted, simply say, “We’re very sorry, but payments are not accepted after the deadline listed on your Pay or Quit notice.” If you are working with a company that offers rent and deposit insurance coverage, you will likely be able to recover your lost rental income (if you aren’t working with one, we highly recommend it  - more on how to avoid or minimize the financial effects of evictions at the end of this article). Either way, do not accept any new payments from your resident unless you are willing to go back to the beginning of the eviction process and spend the time and money to start over again.

Evictions can be costly to your time, finances, and emotional state, which brings us, finally, to the most common eviction mistake:

(5) Avoiding the problem (after it happens)

Avoid this eviction mistake:

No one wants to have to evict a resident. The process is time-consuming, emotionally difficult, and expensive for everyone involved. Some landlords will - consciously or unconsciously - try to avoid dealing with renters who are late on rent, or in violation of their lease agreement. Unfortunately, avoiding a necessary conversation or a late payment reminder typically only results in the issue continuing, or getting worse. 

What to do for an easier eviction:

Avoid the problem (before it happens)

Proactively manage your properties, and your renters. Stay on top of lease paperwork and maintenance issues or use an app to help you keep track. When you, or your property manager, are connected to your properties and your renters, you will build better resident relationships and identify potential issues before they become larger problems. Additionally, consider adding the safety net of rent and deposit coverage like that offered by TheGuarantors to help you qualify new renters and keep them on track with payments. TheGuarantors’ customer service team will actually reach out to residents who are late on their rent personally to help get them back on track, which often helps avoid evictions before they become necessary.

Every landlord hopes to never have to walk through an eviction. Clear documentation, planning ahead, staying professional, and taking smart steps like acquiring rent and deposit coverage to protect your rental income will all serve you well - whether you ever have to proceed with an eviction or not.

*All information and content is for general informational purposes only. The information provided here is not legal advice. Readers should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No reader, user, or browser of this site should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on this site without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.