Your Landlording skills are Jedi and your screening process is the bomb, but you may not be immune to signing a bad Tenant… which is not unusual. Even in good Tenant relationships, sometimes they just won’t be able to pay, but they simply cannot stay for free. Sometimes they just won’t leave and the process of eviction can take 30 to 45 days to fully execute.
As harsh as eviction is, it’s a fundamental part of the leasing process and it’s important to understand some basics. Remember dispossessory requirements differ from one county government to the next. Be sure to check with your local government for their exact process. These basics are intended to get you acquainted with the process wherever your Tenant resides, but never intended to replace your county’s process.
It’s A Situation
As such, be mindful of the implications to the non paying Tenant. The stress involved is at a peak and one is reminded of the basic human needs: food, shelter, safety. Thinking of this, it’s easy to see where one, if not two of the Tenant’s human needs are being taken away, by you. Therefore, when deciding to start an eviction use caution. Humans in despite situations do despite things. Be careful.
The Tenant must be notified they are in default of the lease by not paying rent. A letter, “Pay Rent or Quit”, must be sent to the Tenant outlining specifically what is owed, when it is owned, and where to tender this balance. The letter should state the complete property address and the Tenant’s name accompanied by the phrase “all others”. Sending certified, first class mail is advised and if your lease contains a ‘notification by email clause’, be sure to include it.
If the Tenant does not respond to the “Pay Rent or Quit” notification by the date stated in the letter, you may begin eviction proceedings by filing a dispossessory either online, or in person at your county magistrate court. I have found most courts are extremely helpful as long as you follow the rules. Even small communities see ample filings of dispossessory, so you are not requesting something foreign. When filing, you will need a detailed breakout of the amount of rent, late fees, overdraft fees, etc.. There is a processing fee required which should be added to the Tenant’s account (at last check our county fee was $85). Do not accept partial rent from the Tenant and be sure turn off any online payment system or you may have to start the process all over again.
Once the dispossessory is processed/delivered by the Sheriff, the Tenant will have around seven days to respond. If the Tenant does not respond, a judgment is awarded to the Landlord or their Agent. If the Tenant responds, which some will just to gain extra time, the court will schedule a date via summons to appear in before the Judge. You may still work out payment with Tenant and forego the process, but be sure it’s an agreement in writing. Most Counties have an online system where you can track the dispossessory process.
Here Comes The Judge
On the day of court, be on time. Courts are not funny and do not play around. The Clerks typically sign everyone in and look for matches, Landlord and Tenant attendance. If the Tenant does not arrive, the court will typically favor the Landlord in the Judgment and vice versa if the Tenant shows and the Landlord does not. If the Clerk has a match you will most likely be offered mediation from an onsite attorney. Mediation essentially is where you try to work payment out one more time. If you come to an agreement, then the agreement is signed by both parties and recorded. If the Tenant does not honor the agreement, then the Landlord is automatically entitled to a dispossessory with no chance of appeal by the Tenant. If you cannot come to an agreement, you will go before the Judge. Again, be sure you have all applicable documents and ledgers with you and in an organized fashion.
If you ninja’d your Landlording, the Judge will award the Landlord a dispossessory which entitles you to a “Writ of Possession”, where all rights are returned to the Landlord. Usually you will need to come back to the courthouse for the “Writ” and there will be another fee.
There’s A New Sheriff In Town
Once you have the “Writ of Possession”, the Tenant is yet allowed a few days to vacate. Verify with your court on the exact amount of days. If Tenant is still not out by that time, notify the court and the Sheriff will be engaged. The Sheriff will contact you with a date to remove the Tenant’s belongings from the property. Be sure to arrive with able bodied adults to help remove the Tenant’s personal items from the house. In most cases, two adults per bedroom will be required. The Sheriff will not execute the removal if you are not properly staffed.
Move It Out
Once the Sheriff gives you the go ahead:
- Place items in driveway or front yard, but not at street as you must allow a reasonable amount of time for the Tenant to claim their personal belongings.
- Large contractor garbage bags will come in handy
- BE SURE TO CHANGE LOCKS
- If the Tenant does not get their belongings by the time given, you must organize having the possessions moved to the street curb or to the dump.
If your property is located in the great state of Georgia, be sure to refer to the Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook when you have any questions as they pertain to Georgia law with regard to Tenant and Landlord rights.
Be courteous, be thoughtful, be human and be careful.
– Jim Cameron, President Origins Real Estate