Don’t be fooled. Going to court to boot a bad tenant is by no means a sure bet. It is actually possible to lose.
There are two key ingredients for a successful eviction. Unfortunately, these are not always easy to produce, and must be a acquired in the early stages of the tenancy — long before they are needed:
The Landlord Must Have Good Evidence
A successful eviction rests on one word: credibility.
It may seem like a no-brainer. The tenant didn’t pay rent. End of discussion.
But when the tenant and the landlord both are in front of a judge, they are on equal footing. And their testimony likely is contradictory. The judge must decide who is more believable. That’s where credibility comes into play.
Landlords build credibility by:
Staying professional, and not reacting with anger or animosity towards the tenant. Emotion has no place in the courtroom, and when it does crop up, it only gives more credence to the tenant’s argument that the landlord is being unfair.
Displaying a clear understanding of the responsibilities owed to the tenant. Property management policies should be in place, and the landlord should be able to speak to specific issues regarding the eviction. Lack of knowledge of the law saps the landlord’s credibility.
Providing adequate documentation. Contemporaneous records are required to win an eviction case. If the tenant didn’t pay the rent, share the bookkeeping. It is surprising how often landlords fail to prove that tenants were late or didn’t pay rent because there simply are no records of rent payments. Documentation should include a summary of phone conversations, observations made during a dispute, emails, and receipts. These records should be easy to read. Where possible, use video or photos so that facts are more difficult to contest.
Keeping records on any attempts made to resolve disputes with the tenant.
When creating documentation, be cognizant that these records may end up in a court file. Avoid harsh or unprofessional comments, and don’t amass a dossier on a specific tenant — that looks like harassment. If a tenant is that bad, the eviction should have been filed earlier.
Landlords Must Know the Procedural Rules
While it may seem unfair, it is a reality that landlords are held to a strict standard when filing for eviction. Tenants, not so much. There is no escaping the fact that landlords must follow the eviction procedures to the letter of the law. Any deviations, no matter how minor, may be met with dismissal of the case.
Judges have no choice but to apply the law this way. Most evictions statutes are designed to protect tenants from losing their homes, so judges also are held to a very strict standard.
It doesn’t help that tenants can receive free legal assistance and may enjoy more leniency.
When it comes to evictions, it doesn’t pay to learn by doing. Landlords have to be up to speed before any papers are served. In fact, a defect in the eviction notice is a common reason for dismissing the case. Hire a lawyer, or read the statutes and speak with the court clerks before moving forward. Those are cheaper options than losing an eviction.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.