You and your tenant signed a lease agreeing that you would provide a habitable dwelling and, in return, the tenant would pay the rent on time each month. Most renters are reliable about paying their rent as agreed, but sometimes that isn’t the case. There are tenants who, despite having a good credit and rental history and the best of intentions, fall on hard times and stop paying the rent. There are other tenants who move in and never attempt to make a payment. This is more than just an inconvenience for the landlord. Most landlords are relying on the rental income in order to make their own mortgage payment. A tenant who doesn’t pay their rent can put you, the landlord, in a really tight financial spot.

In the majority of cases, tenants are truly apologetic that they have not paid their rent for whatever reason. In the minority of cases, tenants may be defensive, aggressive, or confrontational. This bad attitude adds insult to injury for the landlord. In rare cases, the tenant may even damage the property out of anger, leaving you with the cost of repairs. It can be really frustrating to know that you have to continue to allow this person to live on your property until you have gone through the eviction process. To top it off, you have to pay the costs of filing the eviction proceedings. Some landlords are tempted to skip the court system and force the tenant to move out on their own.

Tempting as it may be, you should never force a tenant to move out or otherwise evict a tenant without a court order. This action is illegal in almost every state. The following actions constitute an illegal eviction:

Changing the locks on the property while the tenant is not at home. Even though you own the property, you cannot sneak in while the tenant is away and change the locks so that they cannot get in to their home or access their belongings.
Removing the tenant’s possessions from the unit. You cannot forcibly evict a tenant by moving their belongings out of the property, regardless of what you do with those belongings, such as putting them on the curb or in the trash.
Posting a threatening letter on the door of the unit. You cannot post an official-looking letter on the door demanding that the client move out without an actual eviction notice from the court system.
Shutting off utilities. You cannot shut off your client’s service to essential utilities such as gas, electricity, or water. The landlord has an obligation to provide a safe, habitable dwelling unless and until the court system has given you authorization to evict the tenant. Even if the utilities are in your name, you cannot shut them off to force a tenant out of the home.
Preventing access to amenities. You cannot prevent the tenant from accessing parking spaces, storage areas, bathrooms, and other amenities.
Refusing to make repairs that affect habitability of the dwelling. If there are repairs that need to be made that are making the home unsafe or inhabitable, you cannot refuse to make those repairs, even if you are not getting paid the rent. You must provide a safe shelter for the tenant.

It can be tempting to handle the eviction process on your own terms instead of expending the time and money to go through the court system. It is against the law, though, and will end up costing you more in the long run. If you own a rental property, contact McMath Realty. We provide rental property management services and will handle all of the day-to-day aspects of managing a rental property on your behalf.

Contact McMath Realty to learn more today

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