A Landlord's Eviction Checklist
A successful eviction case, like other types of litigation, involves (a) organization and (b) preparation. Unless you are prepared and organized, you run the risk of having your case dismissed for lack of proper documentation. Unfortunately, a large number of landlords discover too late that their court forms were not prepared with the proper attention to the legal requirements or factual detail, or that they did not have basic documents required to prove their case at a hearing. Before commencing your case, study the local law, gather your documents, and make sure that you have the materials and information needed to win your case. The following checklist is intended to provide you with some basic guidelines so that your case involves the minimum amount of stress:
- Make sure that you have all the required documents, before you begin your case. Before evicting a tenant, you must have a paper trail substantiating the reason the eviction is taking place. This will be particularly important in the event that the tenant opposes your petition or (even worse) files a counterclaim against you. Frequently, tenants seek to gain strategic or monetary advantage by alleging that the premises were not properly maintained by the landlord and/or filing claims for retaliatory eviction, discrimination, etc. To protect your interests, you should have the tenant's initial rental application, their signed rental agreement, and a record of the incidents that led to your decision to evict the tenant. For example, if the tenant has repeatedly violated the rules of the building or the lease, you should have proof of each violation. If your tenant has not paid rent on time or has stopped paying the rent, document this also. You should retain originals of all communications with the tenant. You should also make contemporaneous records of all incidents involving the premises.
- Have you clearly stated why the tenant was being evicted in your notice? When you serve an eviction notice, you will need to provide your tenant with written notice of why they are being evicted. Make at least two copies of this notice: one for the tenant and one for your records. Make sure that you comply with all state and local laws in preparing and serving the notice. If you have never previously prepared an eviction notice, you may wish to consult with an experienced landlord/tenant attorney.
- Have you inspected the property recently? Sometimes a tenant will damage a rental property to retaliate against a landlord. Before your tenant leaves the property, schedule and perform a walkthrough to observe the property. You will need to give your tenant at least 24 hours notice before proceeding with your walkthrough. Make careful notes of the condition of the dwelling and, if possible, take pictures of the current state of the property. This will assist you if you choose to withholding a security deposit for damages that occur when a tenant is evicted. This will also assist you in the event that the tenant interposes a defense or counterclaim alleging that there were structural defects or other problems involving the warranty of habitability.