How to Evict a Tenant

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Take pains to remove a renter from your property legally, or you could find yourself on the wrong side of the law.

Step 1: Check your local laws
Contact your county clerk’s office to check the laws governing eviction proceedings in your jurisdiction.

If you are managing government-subsidized housing, follow the eviction rules established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Step 2: Know your rights
Know the valid reasons for evicting a tenant, which include nonpayment of rent, a violation of their lease, and creating a health or safety problem. Landlords do not need a reason to evict month-to-month tenants, and they can choose not to renew a tenant’s lease without giving a reason.

Step 3: Don’t evict on your own
Don’t attempt to evict your tenant by force, or try to get them to leave by cutting off their heat or water, changing their locks, or tossing their possessions. These methods are all illegal.

Step 4: Have a paper trail
Have your documentation in order, including a copy of the lease, written notices you have sent to the tenant concerning any problems, and any other proof of your claim, like bounced rent checks or photos of property damage.

Step 5: Give them fair notice
Let the tenant know in writing that you are planning to evict them if they don’t pay their rent or correct a violation by a certain date. How much time you must give them varies from state to state.

If you are evicting a month-to-month tenant without cause, make sure you are giving the advance notice required by your state, which can be anywhere from 20 to 90 days.

Step 6: Go to court
If the tenant hasn’t addressed the problem within the time frame cited, file an eviction notice with the local court. If the tenant doesn’t respond within the time defined by the court, you win by default. If the tenant challenges the eviction, the case may go to a hearing.

Step 7: Post a notice
If you win the case, a representative of the court – like a sheriff, marshal, or constable – will post a notice on the tenant’s door giving them a move-out date, at which time the tenant and their possessions will be forcibly removed from the premises by the court representative if they haven’t vacated on their own.

Step 8: Cover their cost
If the tenant wins, you will have to let them stay and pay their costs of fighting the eviction, in most cases. So be sure to follow the letter of the law before starting proceedings!

Did You Know?
The number of cases landlords filed in New York City for back rent rose 19 percent in the first two months of 2009.

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