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From our e-Series Guide "Winning at Eviction"

(Legally reviewed & revised for 2011)  © 2014

Eviction is the strongest weapon in the landlord’s arsenal of enforcement weapons, providing ultimate leverage to ensure compliance with the rental agreement.  When an eviction is started it can leave a nasty mess that needs to be cleaned up.  Not only is this as costly to the landlord as it is to the tenant, even when it is successful, it leaves an aftermath that must be dealt with. 

This article deals with the minimization of problems and helpful tips for cleanup.  We are not dealing with issues like minimizing rent losses.  For this see our report titled “Minimizing Rent Losses in Evictions.”  Nor will we deal with obtaining a judgment for rent and other monetary losses your tenant owes you over and above what you were awarded in the eviction proceeding.  Here we discuss the period of time between the end game of the eviction proceeding and the successful reletting of the unit, and how to use the time optimally.  The key to a successful transition from eviction to new cash flow is to move as quickly, efficiently, and smoothly as possible, while being aware of what you can and cannot do. 

For the purpose of discussion we will divide the time framed by the end of the eviction proceeding to the rerenting of the rental unit into three segments.  The first is the period spanning the first indication that permits you to predict with some certainty, within a week or so, the date on which the physical dispossession of the tenant will take place.  This is usually marked by the entry of the tenant’s default in court, if he has failed to lodge a response to your petition or complaint, or the setting of a trial or hearing date, if he has filed such a response.  The second is the date on which a peace officer, in enforcement of the judgment, has cleared the premises of all occupants and given you possession of the unit, and a day or two after that.  The third is the period running from that point to the point at which you move a new tenant in. 

Preparing for the Eviction 

The first segment is used to prepare for the eviction.  A competent legal practitioner can estimate, at the point at which the tenant’s default is entered or the trial date for a contesting defendant is set, when his evection will take place, within a week.  If you are handling the eviction yourself you can do the same.  This time frame is determined by the procedures of your local jurisdiction.  You will need to know how long it typically takes to get an eviction judgment, have it entered in the court’s records, get the needed paperwork to the peace officer who will enforce the judgment, how long it takes the officer to act on the papers you deliver to him, whether he must give notice of the impending dispossession and how long that notice must be, and any special considerations that might be unique to your case or the peace officer’s policies or availability.  For example, in many jurisdictions, dispossessions are only done on certain days of the week.  If your jurisdiction does physical evictions only on Tuesdays and the officer must give three days notice of the eviction, then the day you can get the papers to the officer can have a profound effect on how long you will have to wait.  If you obtain your judgment on a Thursday and get the necessary paperwork issued that day and delivered to the peace officer on the next, a Friday, he will probably serve it on Monday, which means, allowing for the three days notice he must give, he cannot evict on Tuesday.  He must wait for the Tuesday following to evict.  We go into this to illustrate that sitting down with a calendar and actually mapping out the time line is critical to determining how much time will elapse before you can get your property back and how it may be easily affected by factors you cannot control. 

This is not the time to enter into any firm commitments, especially about rerenting your anticipated vacancy.  There is a great temptation, especially if the housing market is slow, to get a tenant lined up to move in on a date you think the property will be in your hands, or to set up contractors and other workmen to go to work to prepare the unit on that date.  This is a very risky business because your tenant, even if he is in default, is not a statue.  There are many things he can do before he is dispossessed to stop or delay things, and some he can do even afterward.  A prospective tenant who has given notice at his present residence or a contractor who has foregone other work in anticipation of your job can become both angry with you and expensive to you.  Moreover, at this stage, you will be unable to show the premises to best advantage, which means you will not get optimum rent, even if you can gain entry to show the place without a breach of the peace.

While we counsel against trying to rerent the property before you have possession of it, good management practice dictates contacting persons on your waiting list or apartment listing services and alerting them that there is a vacancy coming up.  The prospects on your waiting list will have already seen your building and so will be pre-sold, and can let you know whether they are still interested.  Just be careful not to get tied down to an early fixed date for possession and never sign a lease or rental agreement that binds you to a specific move-in date. 

Making contact with the Tenant who is “under eviction” 

Some landlords attempt to enter the premises at this point to get an idea of what kind of work needs to be done to get the premises ready for the next tenant during this first time segment.  In our experience this is not a very good idea.  Even if you can gain entry, you risk that the over imaginative tenant will invest any conversation he has had with you with meanings you did not intend, providing him with talking points if he is going to court, or grist for an eviction defense mill if he is in default.  If you are represented by a lawyer and feel the need to enter for this purpose, be sure to discuss it with your attorney first.  In any event, be sure that you follow your state’s rules for entry of the premises to the letter.  See our legal guide “Landlord Right of Entry by State”  If you are unsure of the rules, forget about it and think about doing some of the following things...

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This articles continues with coverage on the things that every landlord must know Just Before & After The Eviction:

  • Making contact with the Tenant who is “under eviction” 

  • Arranging vendors for cleanup and refurbishment

  • Don’t forget the utilities

  • Keep good records

  • Receiving the premises from the Sheriff

  • The eviction appointment and the importance of bringing a camera 

  • Perfecting possession 

  • Handling the former tenant’s personal property 

  • Schedule workmen, or start the work yourself

  • Your NEW tenant moves in 

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