Eviction can be hard on everyone involved – tenant and landlord alike. Not only is there a lot of paperwork involved, but the process can be long and draining. To make matters worse, there are occasions when landlords or property managers are faced with a tenant who won’t leave. This can be extremely frustrating – not to mention that it can end up causing you to lose money.
While it may be tempting to become confrontational with them, it’s not the best course of action. Here are a few of the most common scenarios for why tenants refuse to leave and what to do if you’re faced with such a situation:
Common Reasons Tenants Won’t Leave After Eviction
Regardless of why you wanted to evict your tenant, chances are you’d like them to leave your property as soon as possible. Unfortunately, it can take weeks or even months to progress through the eviction process. Even after serving an eviction notice or receiving a judgment from a court hearing, there are several circumstances where the tenant isn’t required to leave after receiving notice:
- They dispute the eviction reason
- They want to take the issue to court
- They don’t care about the court’s judgement
- They have nowhere to go
- They’re angry about the situation
- They need more time to find new housing
It’s completely understandable and reasonable to have sympathy for tenants who are facing eviction, but it’s vital to remember that their refusal to move affects your business. In each of the situations above, there are several specific actions you can take to keep the eviction process moving along.
1. The Tenant Won’t Leave After Receiving Notice
Landlords are required to send an eviction notice notifying tenants that they need to move out. There are several different types of notices that are used, including:
- 3-day notice to pay or quit for nonpayment of rent
- 5-day notice to fic or quit for lease violations
- 5-day notice to quit for serious lease violations
- 5-day notice to quit for repeated nonpayment of rent
- 30-day notice for a month-to-month lease that’s ending
- 60-day notice for when a property is being sold or demolished
These are just a few types of notices, some of which can differ by state. So, what should you do if your tenant won’t leave after receiving one of these notices?
What to do:
If a tenant doesn’t respond to your notice or leave the property within the specified timeframe, you should follow these steps:
- File for eviction with your local court system
- Gather evidence that your tenant is in violation
- Attend the court hearing to state your case
- Win a writ of possession and have the sheriff’s department remove the tenant from the property
2. The Tenant Doesn’t Agree with the Eviction Notice
In some cases, the tenant may refuse to leave because they don’t agree that they violated the terms of the lease. For example, the notice may have been served to them because they’ve consistently parked in a non-designated area. The tenant could argue that they weren’t violating any terms because parking wasn’t clearly defined in the lease.
What to do:
If a tenant doesn’t agree with the notice, there are a couple of things you can do. First, you can try talking to the tenant. If you have proof that the tenant is in truly in the wrong, explain why you believe this to be the case. Many times, these situations can be worked out without the need to go to court. If you’ve talked to them and they still don’t agree, it’s best to take the issue to court. File for an eviction hearing, where both you and the tenant can present your case in front of an impartial judge.
3. The Tenant Challenges the Court Ruling
If you’ve gone to court for an eviction hearing, you may think that’s the end of it, but unfortunately, some tenants will want to challenge the decision. Most state laws state that the eviction is put on hold while the case is further reviewed, meaning the tenant won’t leave until after the hearings are complete or another judgment is made.
What to do:
You could try to make a deal with the tenant, but most likely they will be unwilling to work with you at this point in the process. Chances are you’ll have to wait for the court process, although you may be able to file for an expedited hearing citing your business as the reason for expediency. It’s recommended you work with a lawyer who specializes in property management if you haven’t been already.
While the lawyer may not be able to speed up the process, they will be able to help you sue for damages caused by the additional delay if the court rules in your favor again. Depending on which state you’re in, the damages can be significant. In Massachusetts, for example, a judge could potentially extend a stay of execution for up to 6 months, depending on the situation.
4. The Tenant Ignores the Judgment
If you win the eviction hearing, the judgment in your favor will allow you to receive a writ of possession. This is a legal document that state you’re the rightful owner of the property with the right to control what happens there. However, even with this document, tenants may still refuse to leave the property.
What to do:
If your tenant continues to live at the property, you can take the writ of possession to your local sheriff. They’ll handle the move out date and if needed, remove the tenant forcibly. They’ll also help you change out the locks so you can regain control over your property. If the tenant is particularly problematic, the sheriff’s department may also be able to help you file a “failure to vacate” judgement. This is considered a criminal judgment which could carry misdemeanor charges on the tenant’s record.
5. The Tenant Needs More Time to Move
In some cases, the court may award the tenant with a “stay,” even when you’ve won the eviction hearing. This grants the tenant more time to stay at the property. The amount of time can vary and is decided at the judge at the hearing. Stays are usually requested by elderly tenants, families who have children, or others who may have difficulty moving out quickly due to their family, physical constraints, or lifestyle.
What to do:
Since the period of time granted for the stay is decided in court, there’s not much you can do to make them leave. If you believe the stay is unfair, you can challenge the decision and request an appeal from the court.
6. The Tenant is Ignoring the End of the Lease
Finally, there are always cases where the lease ends, and the tenant simply refuses to move.
What to do:
Similar to the first case, you’ll have to file for eviction with your local court if you want the tenant to be officially and legally removed from the property. Another option is talking to the tenant and trying to find a solution that will help them move out as soon as possible. This could include monetary assistance or aiding them in finding another rental. Often times, being reasonably helpful will have the tenant vacating your property sooner and under better terms. Furthermore, this option can be quicker (and less expensive) than going to court.
In addition to knowing how to get a tenant to leave your property, it’s also essential to know what to avoid when dealing with a reluctant-to-leave tenant.
7. Don’t Remove the Tenant Yourself
No matter how frustrated you feel, you should never try to make them leave yourself. Physically removing a tenant or blackmailing them to leave is illegal. It’s always recommended you use every legal mean to remove the tenant to preserve your reputation and business.
Read Up on Local and State Laws
Housing laws can vary quite a bit from state to state, so it’s essential you know and understand the laws that apply specifically to you and your properties. It’s not uncommon for laws to change either, making it even more important to stay updated. If you don’t follow your local laws properly during the eviction process, you may have to start the entire process from the beginning – which takes more time and causes you to lose out on more money.
Ultimately, the best way to prevent the need to evict tenants is to prevent the need to do it from the beginning. Conducting a thorough screening during the application process can help you choose tenants that have excellent rental histories. While tenants can certainly surprise you at times, screening applicants can drastically reduce the chances you’ll end up with a problematic or deadbeat tenant.
Screening tenants can take up a significant amount of time, but our tenant screening services make it easy for you to make informed decisions during the application process. We offer affordable, accurate background checks, tenant screening, credit checks, criminal and eviction history, and more. Save money, time, and prevent the hassle of dealing with troublesome tenants with our 100% guaranteed accurate services.
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