When it comes to a bad tenancy, there’s one slogan we use over and over again – bad tenants are not like fine wine, they don’t get better with age. When you have a bad tenant in your property, in most cases the best thing to do is to pull the band-aid off immediately and move on. Typically, a bad tenant is not going to get better, and enabling a bad tenant is only going to make the situation worse. When you have someone who is not complying with the fundamental rules of a lease, they’re not paying rent on time or they’re doing damage to the property, you really do need to take immediate steps to reconcile the situation.
Work with an Experienced AttorneyMany homes are located in neighborhoods and residential areas. A bad tenant will cause more problems than simple property or financial damage. They can rip apart the fabric of a neighborhood, especially if violations are apparent from the outside of a building. Bad tenancy can leave a bitter pill with neighbors, Association Board members, vendors, and others when the tenancy turns south. In most cases, filing an immediate eviction after the first unsuccessful warning is the best solution. When you evict a tenant, there are a number of things have to be done, and you have to do them in the right order. The first is, if you are an independent landlord, call an attorney who is experienced in the eviction process. The key is to find one with experience and can support the eviction in the county where the property resides.
Notices and Unlawful Detainer FilingYou should first send out a notice to terminate and vacate (i.e. pay or quit), and you can follow that up with a filing from the court if they do not immediately comply. The court basically will have you fill out a form called an Unlawful Detainer. You have effectively notified the tenant of the violation, you have asked them to leave by a certain date, but they are now remaining in the property unlawfully. That’s why it’s called an Unlawful Detainer. Once you file that with the court, you have to do process service. A third party can do this, or the sheriff can deliver it the eviction court summons. Using the Sheriff might take an extra week or so as it goes out on their route schedule. With a private process server, you can sometimes get it served the same day you file it. Court dates typically factor in the minimum notification period, which is seven days in Minnesota for process service. There has to be proof of service as well, and the third party will have to fill out an Affidavit of service, and return it to the landlord (or court). Sometimes the court administrators will add a week or two when scheduling a court date, because they know the sheriff’s schedule can be backlogged. By using your own private process server, you may be able to scrape off a week or two and can ask for an accelerated court hearing date.
Court DatesOnce the notice has been provided to the tenant and the process service certification (Affidavit) form has been filled out and returned to the court, you just wait for your court date. It would be prudent as a landlord to go in and address any damages or make sure they aren’t getting out of hand. If there’s a water leak or something like that, you have the right to get inside and contain it as it is an emergency service.
When you get to your court date, if the tenant is still remaining in the property, you have to go in and tell the judge what’s going on. In many cases, you’ll need to produce a copy of the lease and any other documentation that proves the tenant has violated the lease. A material violation of the lease is usually required to evict. That’s a nonpayment or anything that is of such significance that a judge would order an eviction of the tenant for noncompliance. So, if the tenant is using drugs in the property, that’s an obvious noncompliance. It would be considered material. If the tenant is simply not mowing the lawn on a regular basis, that may not be found as a material violation of the lease. So, be careful what you’re evicting for and make sure you have proper cause.
It is also a good idea to put multiple complaints on the same eviction complaint. So if there’s a nonpayment as well as property damage, put them all on there so you can paint the clearest picture to the Judge. Some of the reasons that people evict are pretty interesting. In one property, we had a handyman working and he noticed a lot of cackling birds. There weren’t any birds outside, but there were about 37 parrots inside the property. The tenant was running an unlicensed bird shelter for wayward parrots (which live to over 100 years, and outlive their owners on a regular basis). That was a violation of the lease and it violated local ordinances as well. So both of those complaints; the lease violation and city ordinance violation, were on the eviction compliant. This made it impossible for the tenant to try and fight any lapses in the pet agreement that may have existed, because now they also were show in violation of city law. Therefore, in this case, by putting all of the complaints and violations in the eviction complaint, there is a stronger case against the tenant, and the tenant in turn has a much less defendable case in court.
Getting Possession BackOne of two things will happen – either you’ll get possession back or you won’t. It’s not about damages or judgment. You might get a judgment for lost rent if they didn’t pay, but the judge won’t award damages in housing court. So, don’t expect to provide a list of costs and expenses that you want reimbursement for. This is for possession. Once you have possession, you can aggregate the lost rent and damages and then put them in a general complaint for conciliation court.
When you do get a judgment, it will be entered into a court record. It can’t come off that individual’s record without an expungement. Landlords will often negotiate with the tenant when they want the eviction off the record. If the tenants pay their damages, the landlord will agree not to oppose the expungement.
If you have any questions about the eviction process or Minneapolis, St Paul, Twin Cities property management, please contact us at 33rd Company.