By the time you must evict your tenant, your relationship with that tenant is already at an all-time low. Remember that people in a bad situation may act irrationally, angrily, and sometimes violently. That is why it is imperative to take precautions during the eviction process to keep yourself safe from unnecessary harm and confrontation. Below are some helpful tips.
Avoid Non-essential Communication
Your tenant will frequently blame you, the landlord, for an eviction, so you want to avoid non-essential communication while the eviction is taking place.
You are not required to respond to every pointless contact from a tenant you are evicting. If they are contacting you to resolve the eviction issue, or for a real safety issue (not one they made up to mitigate the eviction), then you must respond professionally. Otherwise, do not get drawn into pointless conversations.
You also might want to tell your tenant, “From this point forward, let’s only communicate in writing.” This will slow down the pointless chatter and keep the communication to the most important topic.
Don’t Confront the Tenant In Person
Additionally, emotions run high throughout the eviction process, so avoid confronting the tenant in person once the eviction process begins. It can be very awkward and dangerous standing in front of the person you are evicting.
One time I was in a dispute over late rent with a middle-aged female tenant. She came to my office to pay the rent in person. In my office, she pulled up her shirt halfway, grabbed a big chunk of flesh on her belly, and told me she has cancer “right here.” I guess she wanted some sympathy, but it was weird and gross.
Again, the best practice is to communicate in writing. That way you document everything that is said. Communicating in writing will also force both parties to be more civil, which is very important when you may be leading up to a court case where a judge will see all your communication.
Do Not be Emotional
Also, try not to be emotional at all. An eviction is just business. Following the advice above will help you avoid emotions. But also make sure your written communication is not emotional.
I don’t do it anymore, but I remember getting into emotional shouting matches with tenants on the phone. Now I realize how pointless that was.
I called one tenant because the neighbors told me the police were at her house constantly. She began yelling at me that she had a right to call the police as much as she wanted. It didn’t occur to me that she was the one calling the police. Apparently she was calling them because she was in a physically abusive relationship. But regardless, things got heated, and I argued back that it’s my house, yada yada yada, probably creating some liability for myself, and essentially accomplishing nothing.
Speak Respectfully to your Tenant
Remember to speak to your tenants as you wish to be spoken to, with respect. Even if they are yelling and cursing, you need to be the bigger person and set the tone. Your tenants are real people with real lives and real problems, and they deserve to be treated with dignity. And treating them with dignity will reduce the chance of them acting violently.
When people are facing money problems, they will make the dumbest sounding arguments to you. You have got to resist the temptation to call them out on it. Don’t call the tenant an idiot for thinking it’s okay to work on a motorcycle in the living room. And obviously DO NOT EVER delve into racist, sexist, or bigoted remarks. It’s wrong, and you will get sued.
Just stay respectful and polite, and let the eviction notice do the talking. This will help keep you safe.
Do NOT be Present When Your Tenant Moves Out
As you may know, the last step in the eviction process is having the tenant removed from the premises (unless they leave voluntarily). A court appointed Bailiff or Sheriff will complete this step for you. A few states require you to be present, but it is best if you are not present.
Just imagine you standing there watching and commenting while the just-evicted tenants are moving all their stuff out in disgrace. You are definitely the “bad guy” in this situation, and no matter how “right” you are, you look like a jerk. A jerk who deserves to have something thrown at them. Stay safe and do not be there if at all possible.
Recap of Eviction Safety Tips:
- Avoid Non-Essential Communication
- Avoid Confronting the Tenant in Person
- Do not be Emotional
- Speak Respectfully to your Tenant
- Do not be present while the Tenant is moving out
I wish you good luck as you go through the eviction process. Make sure you stay safe, and play by the rules. That way you will be successful, while still preserving your tenant’s dignity and your own!