You have tried everything, but have decided that it is time to evict your tenant for non-payment of rent. While I have written about this previously, a lot has changed in the post-COVID times. With evictions currently taking 2-4 months to get to court, here are some tips and tricks that you can use to be successful and make this go as smoothly as possible.
Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. Nothing I am writing here should be seen as legal advice. This is just my experience managing 700+ units and submitting 50+ evictions per year for the last 15 years.
Step 1-Confirm your ledgers are correct
Tenants will make periodic payments throughout the course of the month. Usually this is not a big deal. But, do you have them all? Does the tenant agree that they owe what you think they owe? Often you will get to eviction court and the tenant will be arguing that they mailed a payment that you do not have recorded. It puts doubt in the judge’s mind and makes for a very messy discussion. Try to sort this all out before court and preferably before you file for eviction.
Have you sent a copy of the ledger to the tenant recently? I find that many owners never send rent statements. The tenant is just going along their merry way thinking everything is fine, not knowing they have an unpaid balance and the landlord files an eviction for non-payment. Send the tenant a statement via email and USPS mail. Preferably do it every single month.
Are you charging the correct late fee based upon the lease? Remember, the 8% is the maximum late fee in Minnesota and can only be charged on the recurring rent that is unpaid that month. Unlike a credit card, it is not on the unpaid balance.
Step 2-Send out any required pre-eviction notices
The cities below require pre-notices to be sent prior to filing an eviction:
- Minneapolis-14 days prior, notice here
- St. Louis Park-7 days prior, notice here
- Brooklyn Center-30 days prior, notice here
Failing to send these pre-eviction notices is an easy way for legal-aid to have your case thrown out and you have to start your eviction over (and pay the filing fees again). Remember that each city has specific language that must be on the notice. These should be both mailed and emailed (courts do not recognize email as legit, but it is a good way to show a judge that you did everything you could to notify the tenant-since you can show an email was sent).
Step 3-Consider cash for keys
Pre-COVID, evictions took about 2 weeks. Now in 2022, they are taking 2-4 months. It might make sense to contact the tenant and see if you can work out a deal. We were having great success with cash for keys. We would contact the tenant, tell them that we are about to file the eviction for non-payment. If they agree to move out of the property in the next 2 weeks (or whatever period you like, but never more than end of the month), you will pay them something. I recommend at least $1000, regardless of the deposit. You might be saying: “wait, this tenant owes me $6000 and now you want me to pay them $1000? Are you nuts?”. I am not nuts, but do the math.
If you wait for the eviction, that could take 2-4 months and now you are out the $1000 eviction filing fee and several more thousand dollars for lost rent. What if you could cut to the chase and they would move out in 2-3 weeks? You can clean out there stuff, fix up the unit and get it back into rental pool before you ever would have gotten to court. Here is a copy of the form that I use (note that it says I can discard all their stuff immediately).
Step 4-Use an Attorney
In the old days, most landlords would handle the evictions themselves to save money. At least in the 7 counties in the Twin Cities, you should not handle any of this yourself. Every tenant now has free legal assistance. You do not want to be preparing the paperwork yourself and sitting across the table from a pro-bono attorney that normally charges $450/hour? Just like you probably do not replace a furnace in your rental property by yourself, do not cheap out and try to save money here. A reputable eviction attorney will know all the places you can get tripped up because they are in court week.
Step 5-Do not accept any payments after filing
Confirm this with your attorney. Most likely, you should not accept any payments after you file the eviction for non-payment unless your lease has a partial payment clause which says: “Tenant expressly agrees and acknowledge that acceptance by the Landlord of partial rental payments DOES NOT and SHALL NOT constitute acceptance of rent and shall not constitute a waiver by the Landlord to further collect the remaining amounts of the rent and late fees due.”
If you are advised to not accept payment, turn off your tenant portal for this tenant. Hold any payments that show up.
Step 6-Do not make any side deals
Once the tenant receives the eviction summons, you phone will probably be blowing up. They will want to pay some rent or make a payment arrangement. I recommend that you keep this discussion very short. I say: “If you bring all the rent to me in a bank check (so they don’t NSF some personal check) prior to the court date, I will cancel the eviction”. Nothing more. Look at step #5 above and confirm any actions with your eviction attorney.
Step 7-Payment arrangements
Very often a tenant will want to make a payment arrangement. Make sure to get a larger amount initially or within a week. Do not accept “I will have $200 in 4 weeks and then $200 every week after that”. Monitor these arrangements closely. If they miss an agreed upon date, give them another day (no hurry to rush and get the sheriff if the rent truly is in the mail and you could get another $1000).
If you must get the writ, you absolutely can not accept any money after you file for the writ, or you will cancel the entire writ (again, check with your attorney).
Possible Step 8-Hold the stuff for 28 days
This is not in every eviction case. If the tenant decides to move out, defaults on the case, or you have to get the writ because they did not follow through on the payment agreement, you can’t just throw everything left over and re-rent the unit tomorrow. As a Minnesota landlord, you must hold the tenant’s property for 28 days. I do work hard to contact the tenant (or have another person play good cop) and contact the tenant to see if we can dispose of everything immediately. Make sure to get that in writing!
Having to evict your tenant for non-payment of rent is never fun, but a necessary process that all landlords will go through sometime in their lives. Make sure you are everything as accurately and completely as possible to ensure that it will be as smooth as it can be.