What Landlords and Tenants Should Know Before the Eviction Notice
Nothing causes stress, worry, and panic like the thought of a pending eviction process. Not only do tenants suffer from these negative emotions, but landlords also hope to avoid any type of conflict that would lead to a removal of renters.
Eviction is one of the most common issues landlords face. Whether done incorrectly or correctly, the eviction process is fraught with loss of money and time as well as emotional damage.
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My parents endured this hardship while dealing with their renters in Georgia. The tenants did not adhere to contractual obligations and stopped paying rent. After several months of failed personal negotiations with the renters, my parents ultimately consulted a lawyer.
The eviction process lasted three months and racked up more than $5,000 in legal fees. In this particular county, the legal procedures included a sheriff’s presence for the move out, which was humiliating for all involved. This all occurred after more than six months of renters living in the property for free.
State Laws Dictate Eviction Procedures
Landlord/Tenant laws vary from state to state, thus making any type of legal activity challenging to navigate alone. It's highly recommended by professionals representing both tenants and landlords that landlords seek legal advice before pursuing any eviction procedure. Luckily, military affiliated homeowners and renters have access to Judge Advocate General Services across the country.
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For landlords and tenants, it's imperative to know your state’s laws (and potentially city or county laws) governing the eviction process. The eviction laws vary widely across the country. Some lean toward homeowners, others to renters.
The best way to try to avoid any potential eviction issues as either a renter or landlord is to know basic (if not detailed) laws for the property’s location and what lawful reasoning is necessary for removal.
Evictions During COVID-19
Various versions of eviction bans and moratoriums have been created by federal, state, and city governments to help renters stay in their homes, but their implementation is spotty for both landlords and tenants.
The best source of current eviction information is to read your local court’s website for guidance. And regardless if you’re the tenant or landlord, there is help available through Sources of Coronavirus Assistance for Landlords and Tenants.
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What Landlords Need to Know About the Eviction Process
Typically, landlords seek relief from evictions for three major reasons:
- Non-payment or regular late payment of rent. Eviction for this reason is straightforward, but in some circumstances (like the pandemic), tenants have protection. Before their removal, tenants must be served with Pay Rent or Quit notices to start the eviction process.
- Violated lease agreements. Major infractions include running a business from the property, whether legal or not, and owning a pet without approval. Landlords must serve tenants with Cure or Quit notices before eviction. Cure notices give the renter the chance to change their behavior and fix the problem. If the tenants don't attempt to correct the situation, the landlord can serve an Unconditional Quit notice for repeated non-payments or significant lease breaches, serious damage, and illegal activity.
- Expiration of lease. After the term of the lease, landlords may not want to renew the terms for the tenants. If the renters remain, the eviction process can start.
Landlords many not legally:
- Perform deeds out of retaliation, such as attempted tenant removal because they reported housing code violations or retribution for a tenant’s lawsuit against them for discrimination.
- Evict before a Notice to Quit has been issued. Again, each state’s guidance varies, but remember, there is a process for a legal eviction. Lead time for the paperwork may be days, weeks, or months. Landlords cannot simply demand that tenants vacate at a moment’s notice.
- Proceed with any type of Self Help Eviction, which includes changing locks while renters are away, removing their possessions, and turning off utilities.
Need help finding the perfect renters? Read Tenant Screening Tips for Landlords.
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What Tenants Need to Know About the Eviction Process
On the other hand, tenants need to know their rights and responsibilities for a safe, healthy, and reliable home. Tenants should understand that eviction is a process that the landlord must follow step by step. If they do not, tenants have legal recourse. One example would be if there are mistakes in the eviction notices or if they are not served correctly. Before renters’ removal, the proper steps must be taken and, sometimes, repeated.
If the landlord and tenant go to court, the judge looks at the entirety of the situation, including whether or not the property owner kept the property in safe and working condition and responded to communication from the tenants about unlivable issues.
In addition to paying rent on time, renters can avoid eviction scenarios by:
- Carefully read the “damage to the property” language laid out in the lease. More than average wear and tear is grounds for eviction.
- Respect your neighbors’ rights to a quiet, clean, and safe living arrangement, unhampered by your lifestyle.
Tenants and Military Service
If landlords have military tenants, they should note that federal laws protect their renter status and allow early lease terminations.
In most cases, servicemembers have three legal ways to break a lease:
To remain fully covered by SCRA laws, tenants must provide timely and clear lease termination dates due to a military transfer through written notice. They must also deliver the landlord a copy of official military orders and pay rent payments for both the month notice is given and for the following month.
A military clause is different from the SCRA and spells out any terms that the tenant and landlord agree upon. A military clause is often used to terminate a lease because the servicemember’s job requires on base housing or they want to terminate the lease for military orders moving the military member to a new duty station that doesn’t fit the PCS standards, such as a 20-mile move.
Going back to my parents' eviction experience... of course, there was a back story for the renters, including job loss and injury, which my parents attempted to handle with compassion and understanding before legal actions began. In the end, the finances for all involved began to get out of control.
So you see, the eviction process is usually not cut and dried in either party’s favor and ultimately unsettles everyone in a multitude of ways. Preparation and knowledge will save much heartache and uneasiness for both parties involved.
For more information, continue to consult MilitaryByOwner for guidance concerning landlord and tenant issues. Download our free landlord ebook, and click below for more tenant screening solutions!