Over the past few years, Phoenix has placed second only to Memphis when it comes to eviction rates. Some believe it’s the aftershock of the real estate crash while others think it’s because of the unique landlord and tenant laws we have in Arizona. Either way, it was estimated that almost 6% of Phoenix Metro occupants have recently been evicted from their property. Either there are a lot of bad tenants out there or property owners simply aren’t attempting to find a resolution on their own. If a tenant is creating constant headaches or you’re starting to get a bad feeling about the rental, evicting them might seem like the right thing to do. At the same time, finding out what to do before evicting a tenant can work in your favor.
Getting to the Point of Eviction.
Before getting into our pre-eviction checklist, let’s discuss some of possible events leading up to this point. It’s important we understand why so many Phoenix homeowners and property management companies are actively participating in the eviction process. For starters, rental contract requirements are supposed to prevent these types of situations from occuring. It can be extremely frustrating to face this reality because of the immense amount of time spent on processing background checks, credit reports and income requirements. With a handful of risk or loss prevention systems in place, it would be an understatement to say property owners are disappointed in the outcome. At the same time, it’s important that you realize something like this is difficult to anticipate. There’s no need to beat yourself, or anyone else, up about it.
Common Events That Lead to an Eviction
Although some renter behaviors or disputes might cause you to simply look forward to move out day, certain events normally trigger the thought of evicting a tenant. The most common occurrence tends to involve late payments or unpaid fees. Past due payments are obviously a contract violation, but other disputes that the tenant doesn’t agree with can lead to additional problems as well. This is why contract language needs to be properly communicated during the move-in process. It would be a shame to see a minor disagreement turn into a refusal to pay simply because the tenant feels like the victim. Additional contract disputes might have to do with animals in the home or criminal behavior. For whatever reason, some tenants believe they have certain rights even when they’re in direct violation of their agreement.
Another obvious contract violation is improper upkeep or damage to the property. When the tenant is actually diminishing value, then action is needed. It can be difficult to think about what’s being done inside the property during a dispute. In other words, it’s important to be professional and not make matters worse. In all of these scenarios, concern normally sets in when communication ceases to exist. We’ve been hired to clean a number of rental properties post eviction and some have been pretty disturbing. If the property isn’t being maintained or properly cleaned, you can always ask them to uphold their end of the bargain or you’ll hire a cleaning crew and charge them for the service.
The Reality of Evicting a Tenant
If you’ve gotten to this point, then it might be a good time to start reviewing your rights and getting to know the process. Most property owners dread looking into evictions because they assume it’s going to be a lengthy legal process. In reality, when you move forward with an eviction, you’re basically filing a summary court procedure. This means the court will swiftly move forward with this type of case and the tenant won’t have a lot of time to respond. Instead of waiting months for a judge to hear the case while the tenant occupies the premises, you can actually appear before the local court within a few days of filing the complaint.
What to Do Before Evicting a Tenant
As simple as it may sound, you’ll want to try to exhaust all options before proceeding. It’s always best that you do everything in your power to resolve the dispute with the renter. At the end of the day, an eviction notice isn’t necessary if the landlord and the tenant are able to resolve the issue themselves. For the most part, evicting the tenant isn’t really ideal for either party. It’ll save everyone a good amount of time, money and energy to have a little humility and figure something out.
Don’t Act on Emotion and Identify the Facts
If the tenant is late paying their rent or is responsible for a large amount of damage, you might want to give them a chance to right their wrong before penalizing them with an eviction on their record. In these situations, where a large investment is on the line, our emotions may get the best of us. The thought of losing money can easily cause us to jump to conclusions, assume the worst or even become irrational – Especially when you’re trusting someone else to maintain your investment. But, before you make the final decision to go through with an eviction, here are a few things you might want to inquire about before jumping the gun.
- Did the tenant have a death in the family?
- Are they unexpectedly disabled or unable to work?
- Have they lost their job or company gone bankrupt?
- Are they in the middle of a divorce or custody battle?
- Has a major expense (car repair, court ruling, etc..) limited them?
If your tenant is dealing with bigger issues, there is a chance they might be afraid to come forward and tell you. When it comes to residential properties, most tenants are families. Facing the reality of losing their “shelter” naturally causes them to become protective and irrational. As easy as it is for you to get upset, it’s just as likely that they respond by getting defensive. Giving them a chance to tell their side of the story might encourage them to take responsibility and make necessary adjustments so everyone can win. At the same time, you have to be firm with the agreements in place. Follow up with their claims and make sure they’re actually accurate and they’re not leading you on. If the renter isn’t cooperating or you feel like they’re being dishonest about the situation, then go ahead with your gut on this one. Being considerate is one thing, giving away free housing because you’ve been manipulated is another.
Determine if a Second Chance Makes Sense
Although most evictions unfortunately involve poor tenants, there is always a chance they’re willing and able to make things right. Many Americans live paycheck to paycheck and it might be hard for them to make large payments when unexpected costs arise. If you find out this is the case, it might be a good idea to structure a payment plan. Ask yourself what you’d be willing to take as a minimum payment for them to be able to stay in the property. If you decide to go through with something like this, set the precedent on the front end so you can remain in control of the situation. Add an Addendum to the rental contract and make sure everyone is clear that action will be taken if the terms aren’t met.
If you genuinely want to avoid evicting them, then you have to help them come to a realization that this is your property, not theirs. Being patient and understanding might be a tough pill to swallow, but if it helps you restore order, it’s worth considering. Having to deal with collections or repairs might be less ideal for you. Even when things don’t work out in your favor, exhausting all options and executing a pre-eviction checklist will give you a peace of mind in the long run. There’s no need to feel bad about putting someone out on the street when you’ve gone out of your way to help them. Now that you know what to do before evicting a tenant, let’s take a look at the eviction process.