Sometimes it can seem like the easy solution to a troublesome tenant is eviction, but the process of evicting a tenant is more expensive than most landlords realize.
Just How Expensive Is It to Forcibly Remove a Tenant?
It depends on the method used. There are two methods commonly used for evicting a tenant. While one of those methods is legal, the other method is not.
The Formal Eviction Process
The formal eviction process is legal, but does vary from one locality to another. First, the landlord must provide written notice to the tenant, giving him or her the opportunity to resolve the situation, such as paying the overdue rent, or vacating the property. If the tenant fails to take action, the landlord then terminates the lease and files an unlawful detainer action through the local court system.
Next, the landlord serves a summons to appear in court to the tenant. Depending on local regulations, the court system may handle this. After attending the hearing, the landlord then hopefully wins an eviction judgment and possibly a financial judgment. A writ of possession is granted by the court, which allows the landlord to hire the local sheriff, who will remove the tenant from the property by force. This does not usually occur immediately, as the landlord will generally need to wait for the sheriff to find time to handle this. Even once the sheriff removes the tenant, landlords are typically left dealing with the tenant’s belongings and the responsibility of changing the locks to prevent the tenant from coming back.
In total, the formal eviction process can cost in the neighborhood of $5,000, counting lost rent, attorney fees, court costs, hiring the sheriff, paying a locksmith, and paying for repairs and cleaning fees.
Yet another option is to attempt to handle the eviction on your own. It should be noted that this is prohibited in most states. While it can be tempting to simply change the locks when a tenant fails to pay the rent or breaks the lease in some other regard, this is actually illegal is practically every state. Plus, even if you try to handle it on your own, you will still face massive expenses, including hiring a locksmith and paying for any damage to the property caused by the tenant. Furthermore, you may also face attorney fees and court costs of your own because you tried to handle the eviction personally and broke laws in the process. All in all, a self-help eviction could actually end up costing you more than a formal eviction.
In the end, the best course of action is to simply try and avoid eviction altogether whenever possible. Screening prospective tenants before renting a property to them can help to reduce the chances that you will get stuck with a deadbeat. While you very well could win a financial judgment against a tenant who won’t pay, collecting on that judgment could prove to be more difficult than you might think.
Doing a thorough job of screening applicants up front can actually help to prevent evictions before they ever take place. Ideally, it’s best to run a background check and credit report on all applicants. The cost for doing so is only a fraction of what you stand to pay if the tenant fails to pay the rent and you need to evict him or her. VerticalRent offers comprehensive background and credit reports, making it easy and efficient for landlords to obtain the information they need to make an informed decision prior to renting to a tenant.