No landlord wants to evict a tenant. Already in the hole from delinquent rent collections, they may face a lengthy and expensive court process, involvement of the sheriff, and a costly unit trash-out if the evicted tenant abandons property. It’s just bad news for everyone.
Still, if the rent is not collected, the property doesn’t function. Many landlords get proactive and creative to improve collections, avoid evictions, and keep happy tenants.
Here are four tips to head off costly evictions before they happen:
1. Screen for Evictions
It’s amazing how many landlords miss this basic step, but in the information age everyone’s record follows them. Evictions are court proceedings, the court documentation a matter of public record. An inexpensive background check on each prospective tenant can show you if the tenant in front of you has a history of abandoning leases with unpaid balances.
2. Maintain Relationships and Communications
Any property manager will have his/her Spidey Sense activated when a tenant goes quiet, no longer answering calls or emails, avoiding property staff in the hallways, etc. They may have lost a job, had a catastrophic accident or illness, or somehow found themselves in a circumstance where they can no longer pay their rent.
They may try to avoid service of process or do whatever they can to stay in the apartment as long as they can while they try to get it together. Tenants can string these cat-and-mouse games out for weeks or even months, sapping the property of revenue and threatening its ability to operate.
Landlords and property managers do much better when they maintain communication and preserve the relationship with a struggling tenant. You don’t have to listen to excuses or run your property like a charity, but have compassion and indicate to the tenant that you are willing to work with him or her. You don’t want to lose the tenant, and will work out a payment plan, refer him/her to rental assistance resources … whatever it takes to keep them talking and make them want to settle up with you.
If someone on your property management team has had an ugly confrontation with a delinquent tenant, sub them out for someone the tenant still trusts. Keep them talking! Open communications give tenants the opportunity to work it out with you.
3. Direct Tenants to Rental Assistance Resources
Many churches, charities, and foundations help struggling tenants make their rental obligations. Many of them will just write a check to the landlord if the tenant brings their three days’ notice of eviction to the office and applies before their funding runs out for the month.
Make it easy for your delinquent tenants to find those organizations. Put together a brochure that you can post on the tenant’s door along with the eviction warning, laying out the phone numbers and addresses of the organizations, along with any deadlines or requirements.
Everybody needs a little help sometimes. Rental assistance programs can help your tenants weather a tough period and keep your property solvent.
4. Offer to Terminate the Lease Amicably
As a last resort, offer to terminate the tenant’s lease early if they will move their property out and leave the unit broom-swept and tidy. This saves you from having to trash out abandoned belongings or incur other costly turnover expenses.
You also don’t have to suffer through weeks or months of the tenant squatting rent-free while you wait for the court date or the sheriff.
Point out to the struggling tenants that this helps them by keeping their records clean of evictions, which will make it hard for them to rent in the future.