A Rental Property Owner's Guide to
You might hope that you never see the day when you have to evict a tenant, but it's a part of being a property owner that happens sooner or later. Even with excellent tenants most of the time, landlords must eventually deal with a bad resident that simply won't comply with the rules or pay the rent—no matter how hard you try to get them to correct a violation.
However, before you make a mistake in how you terminate a lease or remove a tenant, ready this guide! Our Boston property management experts have put together some critical insights into the eviction process, from how to deliver legal notices to what owners need to know about the costs and timeline associated with a legal eviction.
Removing a tenant the wrong way can lead to costly legal problems for you! While we want to highlight that this guide isn't a substitute for sound legal advice from an eviction attorney, keep reading to learn more about the proper process for tenant evictions.
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What Is the Eviction Process?
Evicting a tenant involves ending a lease early and removing them from the property. However, it's a much more involved process than simply telling someone to go, putting their stuff out on the porch, and changing the locks.
Property owners must follow a process that complies with local, state, and federal law—and as you're probably aware, these laws can change. Before pursuing the formal eviction process, consult an attorney, check the lease, and work with a property manager to handle every step.
Deliver the Proper Notice First
In most cases, removing a tenant starts by delivering the proper notice according to Massachusetts law. Your lawyer can help you review the lease and document the issues worthy of removing the renter, then walk you through the correct written notice to alert your residents that eviction proceedings have begun.
These notices can include:
- Pay Rent or Quit. Use this notice when a tenant fails to pay the rent.
- Cure or Quit. This notice applies to lease violations.
- Unconditional Quit. This letter informs a tenant that they must move out without the opportunity to resolve the issue.
Be careful with unconditional quit notices. This type of notification should only be used for tenants with repeated lease violations, multiple instances of rent nonpayment, significant property damage, or instances of illegal activity in your property. For many situations, a Notice to Quit with time for the renter to respond is more appropriate. These letters give renters the opportunity to catch up on past-due rent or fix a lease violation within a specific time period to avoid eviction. A 30-day notice is often an ample amount of time for a resident to fix a problem and continue their lease term.
When Can a Property Owner Evict?
What qualifies as a legal reason to evict? As much as you might want a frustrating tenant to leave, you need a valid reason to terminate a lease and remove them.
When filing an eviction with the court, they will require a valid reason to begin the process. Work with a property management company in Boston and your attorney to review the lease and documentation about the tenant's behavior, property damage, or unpaid rent to confirm that you have a good reason to move forward.
In most cases, landlords end a lease and remove a tenant due to nonpayment of rent. However, illegal activities in your property, having an unauthorized pet, repeated noise complaints, tenant-caused property damage, and clear rule violations can support an eviction.
How Long Does it Take to Evict a Tenant?
With 30-day notices, courts, and lawyers involved, evictions rarely go quickly. It's important for real estate investors to be patient and let the system work, rather than taking matters into their own hands. Doing anything that could be considered as harassment or forcing a tenant out of the property before the completed court process rules in your favor can lease to legal problems for you.
However, the timeline for an eviction depends on a number of factors, including:
- Current local, state, and federal laws
- The reason for the eviction
- If there is a countersuit from the tenant
- The type of rental property
In general, it can take anywhere from two weeks to several months for the court to process an eviction and determine that the tenant must move out. Then, it takes time for law enforcement to arrive at the property and oversee the move-out.
What Does It Cost to Evict a Tenant?
While removing a tenant puts an end to ongoing issues and more potential property damage and rental income loss, it's not a low-cost process. One reason the best property management companies in Boston recommend avoiding evictions is because it can put a significant dent in your bottom line.
So, what does it cost to evict a tenant? Much like the timeline, cost depends on several factors, including:
- Attorney fees
- Court costs
- Filing fees
- The amount of lost rent you incur, starting from when your tenant stops paying through when you're able to replace that tenant with a new resident
- Make-ready costs to repair damage and get the home ready for your next resident
When you add it all up, an eviction can cost thousands of dollars in lost revenue. If it's necessary to remove a tenant, sometimes there's no way around it—and our property management experts never recommend allowing a bad tenant to stay if they've stopped paying rent or they break the rules. However, avoiding evictions is much better for your bottom line!
How Can Rental Property Owners Avoid Eviction?
What can property owners do to avoid evictions? It starts by placing better quality renters in your rental unit! Then, being an excellent landlord helps keep tenants happy, avoid problems, and improve your returns.
Keep Tenants Happy
Happy residents pay the rent on time, follow the rules, and take good care of your properties! When owners build positive relationships with renters and serve them well, tenants have fewer reasons to withhold the rent or intentionally cause damage as retaliation.
To be an excellent landlord and enjoy happier tenants:
- Be professional and friendly
- Set clear expectations for what renters can expert from you (and what you expect from them)
- Communicate well
- Maintain the property with excellence
- Avoid significant rate increases
Good renters want to find a home where they feel safe and happy. Deliver quality rentals and manage residents well to reduce the potential for evictions!
Screen Every Applicant Thoroughly
Before you can build good relationships with tenants, you need to place good ones in your property. Avoiding evictions is easier with a thorough tenant screening process that helps owners identify quality residents (and avoid prospective tenants that show signs of trouble.
Be Flexible (Within Reason)
Sometimes tenants want to pay the rent but financial challenges prevent them from getting their payment in on time. When tenants can't pay the rent, property owners shouldn't rush to evict without taking a few steps to handle the situation with compassion and other resources. Sometimes a payment plan or other arrangements can help a renter get through a tough time without moving forward with an eviction.
However, if nonpayment continues, consult the lease or rental agreement and talk with your lawyer about the next steps. Saving a good tenant relationship can be worth it, and a little compassion and flexibility can go a long way toward reducing income loss—even a renter needs a month or two to get caught up.
Hire a Property Manager and An Eviction Attorney
Your best resources for dealing with bad tenants and eviction are an expert property manager and an eviction attorney. With these professionals there to guide you through the process, legalities, and navigating the district court, you don't have to worry about the potential of a countersuit or violating the law.
An eviction attorney can also save you money by:
- Getting the process started early (to avoid lengthier delays to getting your property back and making it available for a new resident)
- Fighting for any late rent to be paid in full by the outgoing tenant
- Negotiating for the tenant to pay any additional fees, like late fees and housing court fees
- Avoiding costly filing mistakes
- Ultimately winning the case!
While the cost of a lawyer and a property manager might seem like two more expenses you don't want to add to the cost of an eviction, these professionals can save you quite a bit of money in the long run. The right property management team can deal with your difficult tenant, deliver notices, and become a buffer for you throughout the process to minimize stress. A property manager also has the experience and resources to help you avoid bad tenants and evictions in the future!
Apply These Property Management Insights When Dealing With Evictions
We hope you never need to use these insights to remove a tenant from your property! However, if there is no other option left but to start the eviction process, we hope these professional property management tips are helpful.
For additional help when dealing with evictions, download our free resource, the "Rental Property Owner's Tenant Eviction Checklist." It's a free resource that we put together specifically to help property owners navigate evictions with fewer mistakes and better resolutions.