Everyone has feelings, and most of us want to be the “good guy” in most situations, but when it comes to owning and operating rental property, occasionally the time comes where you must do a hard thing, and that doesn’t always feel good. There is plenty of information on the internet about evictions, do’s and don’ts, pros and cons, but not much talk about how it feels. In this article, I’ll try to share some of my insight and experience into evictions, how it feels, and why it’s important to be able to do the hard thing when the time comes.
An eviction is a legal court process. They’re most commonly initiated when a tenant fails to pay rent, but they could also be done for a variety of other reasons. Irregardless of the reason, evictions are never fun. Evictions involve attorneys and judges, and often, at least one appearance in court. Yes, real court. For most people, just the thought of going to court is scary, even if you know you’re in the right. I’ve been in eviction court probably more than a hundred times, but even still, I get nervous every single time. And while my confidence of success may have grown throughout the years, I have yet to figure out how “not worry about it”. It’s something I just can’t shake. After all, surprises do happen. Some judges are more lenient and sympathetic than others. Landlords may make mistakes that jeopardize their case. The tenant may pull a surprise move that throws everything into disarray. A good defense attorney can be troublesome. Being prepared for an eviction is more than having all your paperwork in order; being prepared for an eviction requires a certain amount of emotional fortitude that can’t be avoided.
So how does it feel? Well, let’s think about this for a second. First, you have to be right… totally right. Any minor error can get your case delayed or thrown out completely. When you have a non-paying tenant, delays cost money. Time is money. Each day a non-paying tenant is living in your rental home is a day you’re losing money… and probably sleep. It’s likely your tenant has given you every excuse in the book as to why they can’t pay or why they need “just a few more days”, draining your emotions as you try to be a sympathetic “good landlord”. But each day they’re not paying is a day you’re losing, a day you’re being drained, a day you’re most likely worried. Worried about your side of it, and also worrying about the tenant side of it. After all, they’re people too… and who wants to drag good people to court and be the cause of a family being put out on the street? It’s not easy to come to terms with. And it only gets harder if the tenant is fighting you.
When you evict someone, it marks their credit report for 7 years. Any future landlord who looks at the tenant’s credit will see it. An eviction on a prospective renter’s record is a serious red flag. Many landlords flat-out refuse to rent to anyone with an eviction – I know I do. So, what if that person has a family? What if they have children? For that renter, obtaining housing will become a serious uphill struggle for however long the eviction stays on their record. You, as the evicting landlord, must understand that before you choose to evict. The tenant should truly be deserving of the repercussions you’re about to dole out on them, and for many landlords, this alone can be the cause of more than one sleepless night. And what if the tenant is laying a guilt trip on you? It’s really no fun to go through the hardship when your tenant is blaming you for it. For this reason, it’s simple to understand how easy it can be to give the tenant more time and delay the eviction filing. Thoughts like “what if they can catch up?”, and “should I give them another (day, week, month)?”. It’s hard to know what’s right, and this can give plenty of good-hearted landlords an abundance of emotional turmoil. Not only are you going to kick someone out of “their” house, you’re going to mark them for 7 years. You’re also likely to get a judgment against them for lost rent, attorney fees, court costs, etc. Judgments can stay on one’s record indefinitely, but in many states, 10 years at a minimum. To put it one way, you’re really going to “let ‘em have it.” You have to be ok with that.
So how do you get “ok” with that? Well, first remember, being a landlord isn’t about losing money. It’s a business based on an investment in rental property and the trust you give to another human being to pay the rent on time and take care of that investment. It helps me is to remind myself of the business aspect of being a landlord. It’s not about being nice, it’s not about being a pushover, it’s about money. It’s about business. It’s about setting aside all the emotions and basing your decisions on the business aspects of being a landlord. Is it still hard? Yes. Is it still an emotional roller-coaster? Yes. Can a non-paying tenant still make your life a living hell? Yes. But don’t play the game if you can’t deal with the consequences. I tell my clients, “don’t go to Vegas if you’re afraid to lose”. And don’t let a non-paying tenant be the cause of your emotional and financial undoing. Investing in, and owning rental properties is a great wealth-building tool, but it comes with inherent risks. A good property manager can help minimize and mitigate your risks, but no one can eliminate them completely.
If you have a non or slow-paying tenant, first recommendation would be to talk to an experienced property manager. In some, but not all, cases, it may be possible for a property manager to step in and get the tenant back on track. But property managers aren’t miracle workers and sometimes the tenant situation doesn’t change. Additionally, an experienced property manager can look at your lease, assess the situation, and make a judgment call as to whether an eviction is right or not. If it is, he or she is likely to have connections to a good eviction attorney and be versed in, and prepared for, the various scenarios that could play out. The internet is chock full of information for tenants to find ways to screw over their landlord, so having an experienced manager in your corner can help prevent things from going bad to worse.
For more information about evictions, or to discuss your situation, please contact Christian Amacker at Management 1 Tri-Cities Realty & Property Management. We would be glad to speak with you, at no charge, and see if there is anything we can do to help. In the meanwhile, if you’re dealing with an eviction, take my advice: stand tall, stand firm, and don’t let the tenant dictate the terms. They’ll burn you every time.