As a landlord there are times when you are faced with a non-compliant tenant who needs to be evicted. The reasons could be many ranging from non-payment of rent, failure to maintain or maybe a bad tenant who simply escaped the screening process. Before getting into expensive litigation, it is important for you to try friendly negotiation before taking things to the next level.
If you are thinking of evicting a tenant for non-payment of rent, you must understand, as a rule, tenants withhold rent for a variety of reasons that range from temporary unemployment or cash shortage, to simply because the landlord has not carried out necessary repairs or is irresponsible about maintenance tasks. Communication is the key to this common problem, and it is important for all landlords to understand a tenant’s problems, so they can negotiate with him.
If it is a case of the tenant being temporarily unemployed or facing cash problems, the most effective rent collection method is offering a structured payment option. Accept partial payments to help a good tenant out, till he is in a position to pay in full. Or else, suggest moving the tenant to a smaller, low cost unit or ask him / her to get a roommate to split the rental cost with. However, if negotiations fail, the landlord should try and convince the tenant to leave voluntarily, by explaining the negative long-term impact eviction will have on their rental history. You will find this strategy will work as eviction on their record may make it difficult for them to find a place to rent.
If uncertain about the grounds a landlord is entitled to ask a tenant to evict, they are as follows:
- Failing to maintain his / her rental unit in compliance with the maintenance standards listed under Tenant Responsibilities detailed under Section 24 of the FCRA. If a tenant does not take corrective action for health or safety issues that arise as a result of his / her negligence, the landlord can send him / her a written statement, asking for repairs, replacement or cleaning to be done immediately in case of an emergency or within 20-days. If the tenant does not comply, the landlord has the legal right to enter the rental unit and conduct the necessary repairs, charging the tenant for it.
- A landlord has the right to evict a tenant for failure to pay rent within 15-days of its due date, (or as specified in your jurisdiction) by sending a written notice (similar to Section 56-a of FCRA) requesting the amount overdue to be paid within 5-days of receiving the notice, failure to do so will result in the termination of the rental agreement, with the landlord having no option but to go to court to evict the tenant.
- In case a landlord does not receive the overdue rent within the specified timeframe, he is entitled to file Complaint for Eviction for Non-payment of Rent (Section 56-d) form in the local district court.
- After the case has been registered, the court clerk will give copies of the eviction complaint, an R.I.G.L. 34-18 Section 56-g court summons and Section 56-j tenant answer form to the landlord that must be sent by first-class mail to the tenant. As well, copies will be served to the tenant by the court sheriff.
- In case, the tenant feels he is being wrongfully evicted, he has the right to fill the answer form and send copies to the landlord / lawyer and the court before the hearing date. If the tenant is contesting his eviction, it is important for the tenant to attend the hearing and provide his or her defence as stated in the answer form.
- The tenant can also overturn the eviction by paying back rent, up to or at the hearing. But, tenants must bear in mind the option to pay after a court eviction action has been started is not allowed to those, who received other five-day late notices within the prior six months.
- And, what landlords must remember is, courts will not allow an eviction for non-payment, in case there is evidence the tenant attempted to make full legal payment that was refused by the landlord. Therefore, tenants should remember to keep records of returned cheques, cash, etc., as proof they did make an attempt to pay their rent, if in fact, this is true.
For protection from costly legal fees, landlords must ensure rental agreements contain property rules and regulations, while tenants should read carefully and understand what they sign. This way you can ensure a congenial landlord / tenant relationship that doesn’t have to end in acrimonious dispute!