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5 Things Landlords Are Not Supposed To Do During An Eviction

Landlords who do not study state and federal laws concerning the proper eviction process may find legal battles fall on their lap.

As eviction is a legal process, there are certain rules to follow and entails money, time, and professionalism when dealing with an unruly tenant.

Evictions are stressful and can bring out fault on the landlord’s part. Your tenant’s lawyer can quickly turn the case to their advantage if you’re not careful.

When can you evict a tenant?

  • Failure to pay the rent.
  • Habitual late payments.
  • Damage to the property beyond normal wear and tear.
  • Lease violation
  • Threat to other tenants’ safety

When not to evict a tenant?

Landlords cannot evict a tenant they find annoying or disagreeable. It is the landlord who has to prove in court that there is a reasonable need to evict a tenant, in accordance with the law.

How not to evict a tenant?

1. Lock the tenant out

Landlords cannot regain possession of their property by locking a tenant out without warning.

You also should not enter the rental and remove the tenant’s possessions, leaving them out of the property or throwing them in the garbage... yikes!

You can be charged with trespassing or burglary (even when their stuff does not get stolen while outside). Your tenant can also sue you for retaliatory eviction.

Only once you legally regain possession of your property will the court allow you to change the locks. Still, the tenant will be given ample time to vacate the rental.

2. Constructive Eviction

If a tenant fails to pay the rent and utilities, shouldn’t the landlord deny the tenant access to hot water, gas, electricity, and proceed with the eviction?

Not so fast.

Constructive eviction or the act of turning off the utilities to make the tenant leave is considered illegal in all states. This is especially true in areas prone to extreme cold or heat. Such act, then, can be viewed as an intention to put the tenant in danger.

3. Improper Notice to Terminate

Landlords may avoid eviction by acting quickly once the tenant violates the lease.

A 3-day notice is a legal step that may suffice to deal with lease violations in a professional and agreeable way.

If the landlord cannot get the tenant to cooperate, most state laws require landlords to give tenants 30 to 60 days notice to quit.

A 30-day notice to quit is for tenants on month-to-month leases while a 60-day notice to quit is for tenants who have been in possession of the property for over a year.

4. Improper entry by landlord

Even the police and your attorney will tell landlords not to enter the rental property unless there is an emergency. You also can’t make up an emergency as this can still be seen as a forced entry.

As discussed earlier, your tenant can charge you with trespassing or even harassment. Even if you suspect abandonment, it is safer to bring a police officer along.

Read more: 8 Legal Reasons a Landlord Can Enter an Apartment

5. Refusing to return the security deposit

The security deposit is legally classified to be used for damages only. It cannot be used as payment for rent, utilities, or damage when evicting a tenant. Again, this can be taken into context as harassment. The landlord can make legitimate deductions after the tenant vacates the rental.

Wrap Up

The eviction process has an unknown timeline from the date of filing to when a court order will be executed to make a tenant vacate the rental.

Add to that the cost of a sheriff and damages for failing to refund the security deposit, cutting off utilities, and other desperate and unprofessional moves to get tenants to leave the rental. The best move would be to settle things with the tenant before it gets to court. 

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