What to Expect After You File for Eviction

by | Jun 28, 2010 | Eviction Strategies, Rental Property Management Tips

If you’ve ever wondered why landlords and property managers hate the word “eviction”, it’s because the process can be arduous.  If there is a way to avoid an eviction, it may be worth considering.
In those cases where an eviction is warranted, it is helpful to know your eviction strategies for the fight that you have ahead.
Although every state and province throughout the U.S. and Canada have slightly different rules, and each judge or arbiter has control over the hearing process, there are some significant similarities:
Proper Notice
Landlords are required to serve notice to the tenant prior to filing the eviction proceeding.  Often referred to a “three-day” notice, or “10-day” notice, statutes require that the tenant be informed that the landlord plans to file for eviction, and be given the chance to cure the default.
Texas eviction attorney Darrell Cook advises landlords to follow those notice procedures to the letter of the law. “A judge is going to be very particular about those notice requirements because that is one of the elements you must prove to win your eviction. Be prepared to prove that you did it right,” he advises. 
Hurry Up and Wait!
The first thing you may notice about your eviction case is the wait.  This is a result of statutes requiring notice periods for the tenant, and also of court backlogs you may experience in your area.  Canadian evictions routinely take 45 days to three months.  U.S. evictions may be slightly quicker, depending on the court.
Once you decide to evict, serve the notice quickly, otherwise you will delay the process, which in turn delays getting a new tenant into the rental property.
The duration of the process depends largely on whether the tenant is contesting the eviction. 
Throughout the eviction process, you will be subject to a number of additional waiting periods.  In Dallas, Texas, for example, the court will serve the tenant with notice once the Forcible Entry and Detainer action is filed.  It will take a week or so before a hearing is scheduled, according to Cook.
At that point, the landlord will appear in a courtroom packed with about 45 fellow landlords and property managers and wait for the judge to call each of the cases.  “Often, a judge will ask if there are any landlords present who do not have a tenant present as well.  Those cases will then be called first, and the judge will award a default judgment,” Cook explains.
For those landlords who are facing a contested hearing, one where the tenant will testify, it is up to the individual judge to decide what the tenant can talk about during the hearing. “Sometimes the judges let the tenants ramble a bit,” Cook explains. “But most of the time they are kept on track and the case proceeds fairly quickly at that point.”
Once the hearing is over, the victorious landlord will have the opportunity to apply for a Writ of Possession, the order that allows them to boot the tenant from the rental property.  In Dallas, there is another five day waiting period before the Writ can be issued, allowing the tenant time to appeal.  If an appeal is filed, the case will be further delayed.  Appeals are rare, however.  “This area is landlord friendly,” Cook advises.  “You can usually get the case through and get the tenant out within a month’s time.”
Many jurisdictions have rules that allow a landlord or property manager to pursue an eviction without an attorney.  That may save money, but also creates the burden of making sure you know what you are doing:
  • The judge or arbiter will want your documentation.  You should be prepared to show anything in the file, including rental forms, tenant screening reports, repair requests, maintenance reports, and notes regarding complaints.  You will have the burden of proving your reasons for eviction.  If the tenant is contesting, they may jump around in their testimony, from repair problems to they way they were treated — having all of your documentation with you saves you being blindsided.
  • Be clear in your communications, and stay unemotional throughout the proceeding.
Disposing of Tenant’s Property
Most jurisdictions provide law enforcement assistance to landlords when tenants refuse to move.  You must serve the law enforcement official with the Writ, and schedule a time for a move out. That could take some time, unless you are in Texas.  “The Constable here is great about putting these on the top of the list,” Cook says. 
Law enforcement will only keep the peace; you must remove the tenant’s property on your own or with the help of a moving company.
Once the tenant is out, you must follow any rules in your jurisdiction regarding their abandoned property. Only a few jurisdictions allow you to leave the tenant’s possessions on the street. “In Dallas, you are allowed to put the tenant’s property on the curb,” Cook says. “You also have the right to sell the property to satisfy any debt owed, but that’s not really practical unless the property is really worth something.  You would probably only want to do that if you are evicting a commercial tenant.”
You also may be required to send notice concerning the disposition of any remaining security deposit.
Darrell W. Cook is an attorney with Darrell W. Cook & Associates in Dallas, Texas, specializing in landlord-tenant law.
This post is provided by Tenant Verification Services, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only). 

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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.

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