Evictions are a necessary evil when you’re a real estate investor or property manager.
But if you’ve ever had to manage one, you know why landlords try to avoid them as much as possible.
Evictions eat up weeks to months of your time, patience, and rental income. They also cost a grand total of $4,000-$10,000. Most small to mid-sized landlords don’t have that kind of money lying around, nor can they afford a long vacancy period after the eviction.
For these reasons, most landlords prefer to avoid evictions whenever possible. Fortunately, there are several strategies you can employ as preventative measures or negotiation tactics before resorting to eviction.
Here are four ways to prevent evictions in your rental business.
#1 Take Tenant Screening Seriously
If you find you need to evict tenants more frequently than you’d like, your first step should be to evaluate your tenant screening process.
What information do you collect and consider about a tenant before signing a lease? Do you review full credit, criminal, and eviction histories? Do you ensure your renters have a monthly income at least three times the cost of rent?
If not, and your tenants are incurring late fees and defaulting on rent, you’ve found your reason why. A thorough tenant screening is essential for choosing responsible, trustworthy tenants who will pay rent on time and never require eviction.
#2 Clearly State the Lease Terms
Many eviction scenarios can be traced back to a tenant not fully understanding the lease terms.
A simple misunderstanding can quickly escalate into a full-blown conflict in no time at all. For example, if it wasn’t clear in the lease that a certain utility bill would be the tenant’s responsibility, it might seem to them as if a fee appeared seemingly out of nowhere.
By not paying the bill, the tenant unknowingly violates the lease agreement and may even endanger the condition of the property. This would be a valid reason to evict. But it could have been entirely avoided if the lease had been clear about the fee in the first place.
Clearly stating lease terms is the first step toward building a strong landlord tenant relationship. Using clear, understandable language in your lease (also known as plain language leases) demonstrates respect for your tenants and shows you aren’t out to confuse or hide anything in the fine print.
#3 Use Cash for Keys
If you’re desperate to remove a bad tenant and still want to avoid eviction, you have other options. One option is a strategy called “cash for keys.” With this strategy, you offer a tenant cash (typically around $500-$5,000, depending on the rent rate) to leave willingly instead of undergoing the eviction process.
Given that an eviction can cost up to $10,000, cash for keys is often a better option financially. The amount of cash you offer can vary, but you’ll want to think of a number you’d be willing to offer beforehand and stick to that offer. With the threat of eviction in the air, a tenant has little reason to decline.
Whatever number you land on, don’t transfer it over until you have the keys in hand. This way, you can ensure your tenant holds up their side of the deal.
Negotiating can also be an option for removing a tenant. Negotiating with a tenant can look like a lot of different things, such as offering a tenant their full security deposit back if they agree to leave.
If the issue is nonpayment and the tenant has been reliable up until now, it may be because they’re experiencing a temporary setback like a career pivot or illness. Instead of risking losing a good tenant, you can also negotiate terms for them to remain in the unit (such as temporarily accepting partial payments until the tenant gets back on their feet).
If it’s an excellent tenant in question (and you don’t want to risk vacancy in your current market), you can even point them toward renters support and resources they might be able to use until they have a regular source of income again. Most landlords won’t bother doing so, but if an eviction is out of the question, it may be a practical step.
No landlord or tenant wants to experience an eviction, nor are they good for communities at large. By following any of these four ways to avoid an eviction, you can limit your eviction rate and focus your attention on other goals, such as growing your business.