If you’re thinking about evicting a tenant, you’re not alone. However, eviction takes a toll on both sides—and it's always intended as a last resort for your investment properties when other methods like "cash for keys" have failed.
- There are certain things you can do during the process to make it easier on you as the landlord—and there are a few steps that can help protect you from lawsuits as well.
- You can also help avoid eviction through careful planning.
Either way, in order to safeguard your Richmond property investment portfolio, you will likely have to evict a tenant at some point. We are going to discuss some ways to help make sure it is as pain-free as possible.
Please note that this article is not a substitute for legal advice; it is merely for informational purposes. When in doubt, partner up with a capable attorney or property manager in Richmond with eviction experience.
You Need an Experienced Advisor
Hiring an experienced attorney is your best bet whenever you have to make an eviction. In some cases, the eviction is going to be simple, and the tenant both understands why they are being evicted and expect it.
In other situations, however, the tenant may choose to fight the eviction—sometimes viciously. In Richmond and the rest of the country, tenants have rights that landlords have to respect.
Even if a tenant is doing—or not doing—something that legitimately threatens the value of your real estate portfolio, you may not have the right to evict them. Consulting a lawyer or expert property manager familiar with the rental laws in Richmond is your best bet.
When meeting with your advisor, be sure to do the following:
- Be open and honest about the situation
- Present a thorough account of what led up to the eviction
- Provide photographs and videos whenever possible
- Present any documentation you have, including receipts, notes, and letters.
Most importantly, you will want to meet with your attorney early—perhaps even before you’re sure an eviction is inevitable. This way, you can get advice as to how to best initiate the eviction process—in a way that protects you from liability.
Put Everything in Writing
Even if you have a frank, straightforward conversation with the tenant related to the eviction, you should still put any statements or requests made in writing.
If it’s early in the process and eviction is not yet imminent, you can politely explain that you're documenting everything in order to protect both your real estate investment portfolio and then tenant themselves. Here are some things you should put in writing:
- Communications with the tenant regarding missed payments
- Letters about damage done to the property
- Notices regarding the violation of noise pollution statues or noise curfews
- Incidents that required significant repairs such as fires or broken furniture and appliances
- Anything that may end up being a cause for eviction down the road.
When it doubt, write it out.
Avoid Eviction Through Better Tenant Screening
The best way to prevent eviction is by adequately screening your tenants. Most tenant behavior is a byproduct of longstanding habits. Often, the tenant has either done the same thing before or has done something similar but to a lesser degree.
It’s important to contact previous landlords whenever possible. You may want to make that a personal prerequisite to signing on any tenant. You have the right to reject a tenant due to insufficient background information—and if you’re unsure, it would be best to back out. Some things you could ask the previous landlord include:
- How often was the tenant late with payments? If you merely ask, “Was the tenant regular with payments?” you may not get a detailed enough answer.
- If payment was late, was the tenant communicative, or did they quietly hope the landlord didn’t notice?
- How much damage did the tenant do to the property, either inadvertently or because of gross negligence?
- How often did the tenant have issues with the neighbors?
- Did the tenant show respect for both the inside and outside of the property?
- When problems arose, was the tenant quick to take responsibility, or did they try to pass the blame?
By the end of the conversation, you should have a clear picture of the tenant’s renting habits.
If there are any answers that make you a little nervous, ask some follow-up questions. The info you get from previous landlords may be more helpful than what pops up on a credit report or background check. Remember, if a tenant doesn't seem like the right fit, it's okay to keep looking.
Get Advice and Guidance from a Property Management Company
A property management company has been through the eviction process more than once on behalf of their clients. They know the best way to get it done without exposing the landlord to unnecessary litigation and problems.
An eviction is a delicate process, and it should always be your last resort. However, the more experience you have on your side, the better! Whether you have one property or ten, Mission Realty Property Management is here for you. If you're currently struggling with a tenant in one of your investment properties, download our FREE Tenant Eviction Checklist. While worst may not come to worst, preparing in advance protects you and your investments.