These days, evicting problem tenants can be a bit of a chore.
Over the past several years, a number of towns and cities across the country have placed the burden on landlords to police disruptive tenants. For instance South Orange, New Jersey, passed an ordinance requiring a landlord to evict a tenant whose behavior is “tumultuous”– or face a $500 fine. Newport Beach might assess fines as high as $3,000 and post a flag at a house where a “gathering” occurred. San Joaquin considered a fine against landlords if marijuana is grown at the property.
Many times, fines are assessed daily until the tenant is evicted.
Unfortunately, a landlord’s lease or policies may not be clear on prohibited conduct, or cover the specific criminal activity for which a landlord is required to evict the tenant. If the tenant is taken by surprise, they are more likely to fight the eviction case.
And because the eviction may need to be filed before the tenant is convicted of a crime, a landlord may have to find another way to prove the event occurred in order to obtain an eviction order.
As a result, landlords have to adapt their lease agreements and property management policies to allow themselves an out when their tenants put them at risk — because those who don’t adapt to this changing climate may soon find themselves between a rock and a hard place, and losing money fast.
Do you have what you need to evict a problem tenant before you get stuck paying for their crimes?
The first step is to make sure your lease says what it needs to say about crime. Not all leases allow a landlord to evict once a person is charged with a crime, and your local laws may not make it clear. Have your lease reviewed by an attorney in your area who can show you how to get tough on problem tenants as quickly as possible.
Consider participating in a Crime Free Multi-Housing Program in your area. Developed in conjunction with local police, the programs typically offer a sample Crime Free Lease Addendum to include in your leasing documentation, help in identifying criminal behavior, and other support from your local rental association.
Run criminal background checks on your rental applicants before you allow them to move in. Obtain an eviction report to ensure that you are not inheriting someone else’s problem tenant. Speak with the previous landlords to confirm the applicant has a solid rental history. A credit report not only shows the person’s level of financial responsibility, but it can be useful in verifying the applicant’s identity, previous addresses, and possible problems with their rental history.
Conduct routine property inspections. Let the tenants know that you will be around every few weeks to check the property out. Even though your lease may contain a schedule for these inspections, you will still want to give the tenant proper notice — typically 24 hours, and conduct the inspections at a time of day that is reasonable for the tenant.
Communicate regularly with your tenants. Start by letting each tenant know that crime is not tolerated, and explain your eviction policy for criminal behavior. This goes a long way towards discouraging raucous parties or drug dealing because the tenant knows they are being watched. Be willing to listen to other tenants who share your concerns about having a criminal in the building.
Have an eviction plan in place in case the situation arises–know how to file an eviction, or build a relationship with the attorney or eviction service you will use to pursue the eviction. If the time comes, you will want to act as quickly as possible. You also need to be fair and enforce the rules against everyone who violates them, without playing favorites.
If you have reservations about evicting a tenant, or questions about your rights, it is wise to spend a few minutes talking it over with your attorney first before you act.
This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, 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.