Self Help Eviction By Landlord or Property Abandonment By Tenant

By E-Renter Tenant Screening
Posted on June 22, 2006 under Tenant Screening & Background Checks | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

Legally, self help evictions are prohibited in all states. The locking out of a tenant and / or disposing off his / her property by a landlord, without going through the statutory eviction process is known as self-help eviction. If a landlord wishes to get rid of unwanted tenants using the self-eviction process, not only will he be held liable for actual damages i.e. value of lost items, but also for legal costs.

Then too, the landlord can also be slapped with common law claims for relief in conversion, trespassing and trespassing to chattels. All intentional torts, these according to common law are the basis for a court awarding actual and punitive damages, as well as, legal costs. Courts award punitive damage monetary amounts to impress upon and dissuade landlords from going in for self evictions in the future. Often, if the landlord owns a considerable amount of real estate, the punitive damage amount awarded by the court can be large enough to hurt, so as to ensure he / she does not use the same process again to get rid of tenants.

Thus, it should be clear that self help evictions can prove terribly expensive for the landlord. As for the tenants, they may find all their rent payment receipts and other important rental documents destroyed, but landlords should bear in mind, courts are sympathetic to proof related problems of tenants, as it was misconduct on the part of the landlord that caused the problem.

Even when a tenant cannot prove his / her damages, a court may award nominal damages to the tenant. And, nominal damages play an important role in the award of punitive damages and legal costs. In case, the landlord wins the case in court, the victory comes at the considerable expenditure of time and money i.e. legal costs.

In the case of abandonment, it is unwise for a landlord to rely on a lease clause that says rental premises will be considered abandoned, if a tenant has not been seen for a couple of weeks. As long as the tenant has paid rent to date, if he / she has personal items still at the rented premises, if items of sentiment or of value remain behind, it is strong evidence that the tenant is simply away and intends to return.

In such a situation where a landlord does not know whether his property has been abandoned or not, the correct legal procedure is to file an eviction in court and get a writ of restitution. Staying within the law, a landlord will not have to face any liabilities if he / she is sued after a properly filed eviction. And, bear in mind, costs of filing an eviction are far less than defending oneself in court if by the tenant for self-eviction. Even if the evidence is that the tenant abandoned your property, it is always a good idea to video tape the premises, so as to be able to prove in court, the condition of your property led you to believe it was abandoned.

It is a wise move on the part of all landlords to make tenants sign a document that verifies the date they left the property and did so voluntarily, and any items remaining behind are not theirs or have been abandoned. As well, preserve all letter / e-mail communications from the tenant stating he / she is leaving and not coming back, including making an inventory of items left behind and storing the valuable ones in a safe place. This should help limit damage charges a tenant asserts against you.

As long as a landlord plays by the rules, he will be charge and it will be difficult to have him sued or taken to court unnecessarily.

Add A Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.