After going through a messy eviction process, you now have the arduous task of clearing up after the tenant. But there are more things to do after evicting a tenant than giving the unit a quick clean. Apart from changing the locks and making repairs, you may have to think about what led to it and how to avoid future evictions.
No landlord or tenant wants to go through an eviction process. But, like it or not, giving fair notice of eviction and filing papers with the court is part of a landlord’s job.
Studies show that the number of people renting is on the rise. The latest figures indicate that over 43 million folks in the US decide to rent rather than buy. With the number of tenants growing, so too are eviction rates. For example, one report found that 1.5 million evictions take place in the US every year. And this trend shows no sign of stopping.
This article lets you know what you must do after evicting a bad tenant from your property. You will also learn about legal steps to recover losses after an evicted renter vacates.
Reasons for Eviction
You must have a good and lawful reason before starting a full eviction process. The most common reason to evict a tenant is for non-payment of rent. However, violating the rental agreement, property damage, carrying out illegal activity, and an expired lease are all reasons to serve a termination notice.
To successfully evict someone, you, as the landlord, must take the necessary legal steps. Most states say that you have to send a written notice called a “Notice to Quit” to give tenants the chance to fix the issue—pay rent or resolve the lease term violation. In serious lease violations, such as repeated non-payment of rent, you don't have to give the renter time to fix the lease violation.
Related reading: How to successfully evict a bad tenant.
What to Do After Evicting a Tenant
If the court rules in your favor, the tenant receives a termination notice to vacate and a deadline. Depending on local laws, the range could be anywhere from 72 hours to seven days. Hopefully, the tenant abides by the eviction notice—they get their stuff together, leave the unit as they found it, and hand back the keys. You can now breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that a sorry chapter in your life as a successful landlord is closed.
However, in a worst-case scenario, your woes are about to continue. If the tenant ignores the eviction order, you need to turn up with someone from the sheriff’s department and, possibly, a removal crew. The sheriff physically escorts the tenant out and all of their belongings.
Remember, that just because you’ve successfully evicted a bad tenant doesn’t mean that you can hold on to the security deposit. You can only hold part or all of the security deposit to cover the following things:
- Unpaid utilities.
- Damage to the property that isn’t normal wear and tear.
- Non-payment of rent or not receiving the full rental amount.
- To cover costs associated with terminating the lease early.
- Abnormal cleaning costs.
For more information, please read this beginner’s guide to security deposits for landlords.
What should you do after an eviction? Let’s look at five essential things to do.
1. Change the locks after a tenant eviction
The first thing to do after you take back the rental property is to change the locks. You need to secure the rental unit to prevent anyone from accessing it in the future. After all, you don’t know how many copies of keys are out there.
However, you should never change the locks before the court has ordered an eviction. This kind of “self-help” eviction is illegal and could land you—not the tenant—in trouble with the judge.
Check out this article on legal reasons for tenant evictions to find out how landlords can avoid breaking the law.
2. Check all appliances
Usually, after an eviction, it’s not possible to inspect the property with the tenant. In an ideal scenario, you walk through the apartment to check it for significant damage and make sure that everything is working.
Eviction lawsuits inevitably end up in a soured relationship between landlords and tenants. If tenants feel they have nothing to lose, they may vent their frustrations on the rental property. After forcibly evicting someone, your hands are probably shaking and your heart is pounding, worrying about what you’re going to find.
So, check that the plumbing and electricity works, as well as all appliances.
3. Carry out repairs
Getting rid of a bad tenant usually means that there will be more damage than regular wear and tear. You will need to arrange to get all repairs done to bring the property back to a rentable standard. Maybe you can tackle some small tasks. In some cases, you may need to call in contractors if there is extensive damage.
4. Clean the property
Thorough cleaning is always necessary, even when a good tenant moves out. But after evicting a problematic tenant, scrubbing the place will be essential. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Or, at least hire a cleaning service to deep clean the place. Make sure that there is no trace of any odors, stains, or grime.
5. Do safety checks
After the eviction lawsuit has passed, and the property is back up to standard, it's crucial to check that everything is working. A well-maintained apartment will attract the best tenants who, the next time, will take better care of the rental unit.
A good thing to remember is to keep receipts of all repair work that was necessary due to the tenant’s negligence. You might be able to sue them for costs if their security deposit didn’t cover it.
What to Do With a Tenant Possessions After an Eviction?
You must find out what state regulations say if a tenant moves out—evicted or otherwise—and leaves behind belongings. In many places, you have to give tenants a reasonable time to retrieve the items. But even if your state doesn’t require it, it’s a good idea to itemize all the things and put them in storage.
Unless state laws say otherwise, hold for 14 days while you try to contact the ex-tenant.
There are some things that you can immediately trash. These are:
- Property that is clearly garbage.
- Perishable and non-perishable food items.
- Installed fixtures that violate the lease agreement.
For certain items, you have to call the appropriate services. For example, you may have to call the local animal control agency if the tenant left pets behind. If the tenant left their car on the property, call the police to report the vehicle.
After following local regulations on a tenant's abandoned property, you can dispose of them or sell them to recover losses. However, in all cases, keep records of costs incurred due to the tenant's actions.
How to Recover Unpaid Rent and Losses After an Eviction
The security deposit may cover many eviction costs. But you may have to file a claim in a small claims court to recover costs incurred by the eviction lawsuit. You can sue your former tenant for unpaid rent and interest. You can also file a claim for extraordinary costs.
In many states, the eviction order includes a money judgment for rent due plus interest. If this happens, you can use the judgment to garnish the delinquent tenant’s wages or bank account. This action also appears on their credit report.
It’s also good to remember that, sometimes, you just need to cut your losses. Taking a bad tenant to the local courts to recover eviction costs doesn’t always result in a win. Even if you win, you may never see your money if the tenant files for bankruptcy. Or, they may just refuse to pay. In the end, you'll just have to pay a ton of attorney fees. In some cases, the best thing is to cut your losses and move on.
How to Avoid Future Evictions
Screening potential tenants is usually the best way to avoid having to start a legal eviction procedure. However, building an excellent landlord-tenant relationship also helps prevent situations where full evictions are unavoidable. Eviction lawsuits are costly and stressful for landlords. Simply put, it makes for good business senses to avoid having to evict someone in the future.
It makes for good sense to adopt a proactive approach to building a good relationship with tenants. Remember, just because you own the property, you give up certain rights on the property when you sign a lease agreement. While the tenant is paying rent, they have more rights to live there than you.
The golden rule of being a successful landlord is this—spend time screening and interviewing tenants. After all, it is harder getting a tenant out of your property than letting them live there. Screening and background checks ensure that your tenants pose the lowest risk for a future eviction.
Successful landlords take into account exceptional circumstances. For example, there may be valid reasons why a tenant was late with payments. So, maybe you can find a long-term solution to a temporary problem.
Another way to avoid evictions is to be a great landlord. Maintaining a property to a high standard and offering bonuses for regular rent payments are two ways to keep tenants happy. And, a satisfied tenant is more likely to stick to all parts of the lease agreement.
After a Tenant Eviction: A Takeaway
Unfortunately, some evictions are inevitable. Landlords should always work to the letter of the law to evict a tenant successfully. After getting the tenant out, take steps to secure the property, and carry out necessary repairs. In the future, screen prospective tenants appropriately to reduce the risk of having to evict your next tenant.