It’s a fact of life in the rental property business that sometimes, despite a landlord’s best efforts, a tenant will need to be evicted. In the current pandemic times, evictions are banned until at least spring 2021, resulting in significant back rent and non-payments for mom-and-pop landlords. In NYC alone, reports are that there is $1 billion in outstanding rent as of early 2021.
The struggle is real, and landlords are faced with difficult decisions about their tenants, an economic and employment downturn, and their hard-earned assets that could be underwater.
At the very least real estate investors need to be aware of their options, and have a template for what to do when the time comes to make that difficult decision. Every state has different eviction laws and landlords must always be certain they have a legal reason to evict a tenant.
In this article we’ll cover the general rules and timelines for evicting a tenant, review an eviction notice template, and list some of the best online state government resources for evictions.
What is an eviction notice?
An eviction notice is a written letter that begins the eviction process. Normally the eviction notice is delivered in person and by certified mail, although the exact procedures vary from state to state.
There are three general parts to an eviction notice template:
- Description of the problem the tenant must cure or fix (such as unpaid rent or nuisance behavior)
- Date tenant must move out or vacate the premises if the problem is not fixed
- Further notice that the landlord and tenant may go to court to continue the eviction process
If you’re looking for a starter template for an eviction notice, download one here.
Common reasons for sending an eviction notice
The perfect tenant always pays the rent on time, never complains, and takes care of the property as if it were their own.
Landlords who screen their prospective tenants carefully can normally avoid problem tenants. However, every now and then, things don’t always work out as expected.
Here are some of the common reasons for sending an eviction notice:
- Failure to pay the rent on time and in full
- Habitually paying the rent late
- Violating one or more terms and conditions of the lease
- Damage to the property (excluding normal wear and tear)
- Disrupting other tenants or neighbors
- Using the property for illegal purposes, running a business, or breaking zoning laws
- Holdover tenant who refuses to leave once the lease has expired
Understanding the eviction process
It helps to think of the eviction process as a decision tree. Depending on what the tenant does or doesn’t do at each branch determines the next step a landlord must take.
There are 10 general steps to the eviction process, from the time the lease is signed to when the tenant or landlord wins in court:
- Written lease agreement is signed
- Problem arises that can lead to an eviction
- Landlord and tenant try to amicably solve the problem
- Eviction notice is sent (if problem can’t be solved)
- Complaint is filed in court and a court date is set
- Oftentimes the tenant will fail to appear, leading to a default judgment in favor of the landlord
- Both parties to go court to explain their side of the story to the judge
- Judge reviews written documents and testimony and rules on the case
- Tenant wins and stays, and the landlord may need to pay all court costs and legal fees
- Landlord wins and tenant leaves, with the judge issuing a court order for a Warrant of Eviction or a Writ of Restitution
State government resources for evictions
Landlords are responsible for understanding both federal and state law, including tenant’s rights, when operating rental property.
Even in landlord-friendly states such as Louisiana and West Virginia, rental property investors need to know about everything from leasing and addendums, rent increases and renewals, and eviction notices.
Here’s a list of some of the best online resources for landlord-tenant law and state government resources for evictions.
American Apartments Owners Association (AAOA)
Before beginning the eviction process it’s critical that landlords understand what they can and can’t do. Making one small mistake, depending on the state, could result in double or triple damages. The AAOA publishes an interactive map and list of landlord-tenant laws and the eviction process for all 50 states.
Published by Thomson Reuters, FindLaw.com provides links to the landlord-tenant statutes for all 50 states and Washington D.C. along with dozens of articles on evictions, landlord-tenant law, and much more.
Fit Small Business
This comprehensive online resource provides an interactive map to search for landlord-tenant law by state, explains how states set their landlord-tenant laws, describes general landlord and tenant responsibilities, and includes a state list for specific landlord-tenant laws and a link to each state’s page.
Nolo began publishing do-it-yourself legal guides back in 1971 and over the past 50 years has evolved into one of the leading legal websites on the internet. The company provides information on how to evict a tenant, eviction notice templates and form, and everything else a real estate might require for landlord/tenant needs.
Policy Surveillance Program
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
HUD provides an up-to-date list of tenant’s rights, laws and protections with links for all 50 states and Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands. From here, you can access state-specific websites for state landlord/tenant law, attorney general office, plus Federal Fair Housing laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Each state has its own set of rules that govern landlord-tenant laws and the tenant eviction process. Most states base their statues on the URLTA (Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act) that govern things such as the amount of a security deposit and how it is handled, fees for late payment of rent, and the steps to follow when conducting an eviction.
Landlords should remember that the eviction process depends on the state where the property is located, not where the owner lives.
- Common reasons for evicting a tenant include non-payment of rent or illegal use of property
- Evicting a tenant is a 10-step process that begins when the lease is signed and ends when the tenant leaves the property
- Main parts of an eviction notice include description of the problem, time to cure or solve the problem, and notice of legal action of the problem is not cured
- Online resources for evicting a tenant and an eviction notice template include the American Apartments Owners Association and HUD