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The Real Costs of Evicting a Tenant

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Posted by Pete Evering on January 31, 2020
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The Real Costs of Evicting a Tenant

The costs and fees associated with evicting a tenant can add up quickly, and in many cases are accompanied by the loss of rent for a tenant who has stopped paying, or who stops once the eviction process begins. If a conflict arises or a violation of lease occurs, it is generally recommended to attempt to work out the issue directly with the tenant before starting legal proceedings to evict. However, if the issue cannot be resolved amicably, or if the violation/conflict is extreme in nature, eviction may be your best solution.

Unfortunately, even when it is the best option, eviction is never the easy option, or the cheap one.

COST: Lost rent.

According to Zillow, the average California rental rate as of November 2019 is $2,800. A non-contested eviction generally takes about 45 days, while a contested one around 60-75. In a best-case scenario, that’s an average of $4,200 in rent lost over 45 days.

There are many instances that can result in the need for eviction besides failure to pay rent. Some of these include:

  • Tenant committing an illegal act on the rental property.
  • Having unapproved pets.
  • People living in the rental that are not on the lease.
  • Smoking indoors when prohibited.
  • Unauthorized third-party renting of the property.
  • Excessive noise.
  • Constant nuisance or threat to other tenants.
  • Tenant creation of a health hazard.
  • Significant damage caused to property by tenant’s direct misuse or negligence.

There are naturally also some specific reasons that are not valid to warrant an eviction. A tenant cannot be evicted as a means of discrimination or retaliation, including:

  • Their race, gender, religion, nationality, familial or marital status, disability, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or age.
  • A tenant cannot be evicted under “failure to pay rent” if that tenant is appropriately withholding rent as recourse for a landlord’s failure to maintain the property at minimum quality standards.
  • Further, a tenant cannot be evicted for reporting illegal or unsafe conditions at the property, or for forming tenant groups or unions.

– In the event an eviction goes as far as a hearing, the “burden of proof” will rest on the landlord to provide documentation and evidence supporting their claim to evict. Both sides will have the opportunity to provide their claims and evidence.

If you have decided to evict a tenant, they will need to be given proper notice. The length of notice required can range from 3 days (for tenants found to be committing illegal acts on premises), to 90 days (for those on subsidized housing), and may require a valid reason. If the tenant disputes the reason for eviction and does not move, you will then need to file a lawsuit for eviction (also known as an ‘unlawful detainer suit’) with the court in the county the property is located.

COST: Filing and Official Notice

Filing fees range from $15 to $150, and civil processing, or having a Sheriff or public officer serve an official notice of eviction to a tenant, usually costs $30-$150. The average cost of serving and filing is generally $50-$200 per tenant.

COST: Court Fees

If the delivery of an official eviction notice does not convince the tenant to vacate, the next step is taking the issue to court. Court fees are typically $300-$800 depending on location.

In some cases, it may be advisable to hire an attorney. Especially if handling your first eviction (even if it’s just the first eviction with rent control laws), if your tenant has retained an attorney, or if bankruptcy is involved; hiring an attorney may be the best way to protect yourself. Our thorough screening process for rental applicants has consistently kept our eviction rate very low. Utopia® also provides our owners with the optional “Utopia® Eviction Protection Program” for further piece of mind. Your property management company can help guide you and Utopia Management‘s clients have the advantage of our low eviction rate, our professionals are still well-versed in filing and managing any evictions necessary.

COST: Attorney fees.

Some attorneys offer assistance in the preparation of paperwork in the range of $200-$500; however, if the tenant contests the eviction and it is taken to a full hearing, there is next to no limit to the amount you can spend in attorney fees.

If the eviction is won by the tenant, their legal fees could end up the responsibility of the landlord, and the same in reverse if won by the landlord, though this will be at the decision of the court.

With a successful eviction ruling, there could still be additional costs incurred after the hearing.

COST: Enforcement

You may need to pay the local Sheriff’s office to enforce the eviction if the tenant does not leave. This can cost from $50-$400.

Unfortunately, an evicted tenant can turn into a careless tenant at best, and vindictive at worst. When evicting, you can almost guarantee that the unit will not be thoroughly cleaned before vacated, and with any luck that will be the extent of your worries once the rental is vacant. If your previous tenant was careless during moving furniture on their exit, you may find dents or scuff marks on walls or spots left on carpets, meaning there will be additional expense to return the unit to rent-ready status. Hopefully, you are not left with a situation where you return to your property to find appliances missing, broken windows, holes in walls, and unreported damage that has escalated (such as a leaking roof being left to cave in in areas), if not all of that and worse in a single unit – which many landlords, even well-experienced owners, have seen at some point in the past.

If the damages you’re left with after your tenant is gone are well outside the range of what can be considered “normal wear and tear,” you may wish to consider further legal action, though this will depend on your resources and the likeliness of a positive outcome that will actually be paid if won.

Between filing notices, staying on top of the most current forms and regulations and ensuring they are completed accurately, dealing with court appearances and then the aftermath once your property is empty, all make the eviction process a hassle-filled, headache-inducing process that can cost several thousand dollars to finalize.

The ability to avoid eviction in the first place is what makes it so crucial that you select the right tenant from the beginning. Utopia Management only places the best possible tenants in your property. Our thorough screening process for rental applicants has consistently kept our eviction rate very low. Prospective tenant screening includes running industry-specific credit reports, verifying employment, income and previous rental history. We run credit reports on all applicants age 18 years or older. This report includes a search for prior evictions. We verify driver’s licenses, social security cards and pay stubs as well as contact their prior landlords for confirmation that they have been good tenants in the past. As a management company, we have many procedures to eliminate problem tenants prior to ever renting to them. Placing the right tenant is the single most important step in the process.

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