Although our eviction rate is less than half the national average, we do occasionally have to evict a tenant. When this happens, the property owner sometimes gets upset at the fact that we have to follow a legal process that can take 1-3 months, depending on which county the house is in. Sometimes those owners want us to take actions that they think seem reasonable, such as changing the locks or taking the front door off of the house. Unfortunately, these sorts of things are called “constructive eviction,” and they are prohibited by law.
The law seeks to put in place a “fair” process whereby both the tenant and the landlord are able to make their case to a court of law before a tenant is removed from the property. Of course, from the perspective of the landlord, this isn’t fair at all, since they are still having to make their mortgage payments while a deadbeat tenant is living in their house for a month or longer without paying rent while the court process is followed. It’s easy to see how a property owner could get frustrated and want to take things into their own hands, but doing so will just cause the owner more problems and get them in trouble with the law.
What sorts of things aren’t allowed? Here’s a short list of examples:
- Changing the locks (unless you give the tenant a copy of the new key)
- Removing doors or windows
- Cutting off utilities (if the landlord is responsible for them)
- Damaging or taking the tenant’s personal property
- Damaging your own rental property to make it unusable or undesirable
- Anything else that would stop the tenant from having “quiet enjoyment” of the property until the court process is completed
Doing anything on this list can you get you into some legal hot water, and will ultimately just make it take longer to get the tenant removed. Complying with the law and following the process is the quickest way to getting rid of the tenant while keeping you out of trouble.
If you have a tenant that you need to get evicted, give us a call. We’ll get that tenant evicted ASAP and get a quality tenant put into the property so that you can start making money again.