Have you ever wondered about the eviction process?
The eviction process is a big source of misunderstanding for people outside of Real Estate. Movies and Television have it depicted incorrectly: the landlord twirling their handlebar mustache as the poor family gets thrown out onto the street. I am here to shed some light on the eviction process in the hopes to make evictions more real to those who may come across this in some facet of their lives.
Of course, I am speaking from the ethical side of the estate of real. There are people who do abuse this system but one thing to think about is that an eviction takes time (which means loss of rental income to a property owner) and it costs a lot of money. Most people avoid it at all costs….which, sometimes, costs more money! But, I jump ahead of myself.
Following is how the eviction process works for Property Managers in Pinellas County Florida.
And, so it begins:
As anyone should know, rent is due on a certain agreed upon date stated in the lease. In our Property Management company here in the Clearwater Florida area our leases state that rent is always due on the first of the month, considered late on the second and a standard 5 day grace period is given due to the fact that our tenants can only mail in their rent checks. When the 6th of the month arrives we serve 3 day notices to those who have not paid their rent.
3 day notices:
This has to be one of the most misunderstood notices served in the real estate world. People either don’t take it seriously enough or they take it too seriously. Boiling it down to basics, a 3 day notice is a courtesy to the tenant. It states that rent has not been paid and the tenant has two choices: 1). To pay the rent within 3 days or, 2). Move within 3 days. If neither is done the eviction process will be started. The notices our property management company serve really end up being a 10+ day notice as we have to add an extra 5 days for mailing, as well as take holidays and weekends into consideration. Most of our 3 day notices, mailed out on the 6th, don’t expire until the 18th of the month. That is a lot of time for a tenant to be able to come up with their rent.
*Note to property owners: SERVE THE 3 DAY NOTICES! Do not get lazy on this point. It is easy enough to do and so much more difficult to evict if you have not done so. Standard practices make for smooth resolutions.
Our company is very fair about our practices when it comes to the 3 day notice process. For example, If a tenant calls us in advance to work out a date that they can pay their rent, even if it is after the expiration of the 3 day notice, we will most likely say yes and not evict. We are real people and we understand that “stuff” happens. We also make calls and send e-mails the day before 3 day notices expire giving tenants a heads up that the eviction process is going to start. We work hard to NOT evict, and honestly we don’t have to do that many. If you qualify the tenant correctly (please see Blog about how to Qualify and Understand Tenants) We do not want the expense to the owners and we do not want the tenant to be effected so poorly in life (an eviction can be on someones’ record for 10 years making it hard to buy a home, qualify for a good loan rate and to be able to rent something decent down the line).
The eviction begins:
Once the three day notices expire the eviction process begins for property managers in Pinellas County. We fax a copy of the lease and 3 day notice that was served to our eviction attorney. I DO RECOMMEND USING AN ATTORNEY FOR THIS PROCESS. Once our attorneys receive the papers they enter the social security number of the tenant into the system and the tenant now has an eviction listed on their record. It is that quick. This is why I counsel and work with late rent payers to get the rent paid because once the eviction is started it is an immediate thing and their credit score is immediately effected.
The process of the attorney:
Once the lawyers have the paperwork they go through the process of contacting the tenant to let the tenant know of the eviction, to give the tenant time to respond (this is especially vital for tenants who are being abused by their landlord), and to give the tenant time to come up with the money and go into arbitration with the landlord. I have had to go to court twice for this arbitration (once when I was 6 months pregnant, which was not fun) and both times I came out the victor only because we start the eviction process when it is warranted.
The eviction itself:
Once the papers have been filed, the tenant has been contacted and given a chance for rebuttal, and the court finds for the landlord the actual eviction begins and the information is sent to the Sheriff’s office. A policeman then goes out to the property and posts a notice on the door stating the exact time and date of the eviction. The usual time frame given is 3 days. This is to allow the tenant to have time to get their items together and moved on to another place
(*NOTE TO TENANT: IN MOST CASES IT IS CHEAPER FOR YOU TO JUST STAY PUT AND PAY YOUR RENT THAN TO HAVE TO MOVE AND LOOSE YOUR DEPOSIT AND COME UP WITH A NEW DEPOSIT, FIRST AND LAST MONTHS RENT FOR YOUR NEW PLACE) The Sherriff will then contact us and we will meet them at the property at the time and date set. We meet them with our maintenance team who is ready to change the locks and we take possession of the rental unit at that time. This entire process can take 4-6 weeks. Property Managers do not just decide to evict and kick the tenant out the next day as it is sometimes depicted in the movies. Someone who is not paying their rent knows what is about to occur, is communicated with every step of the way and has plenty of time to find new lodgings and get their items moved over. This is 4-6 weeks lost income for the landlord, not to mention the rent that was previously not paid, the cost of the eviction itself and then the cost to make the unit rent ready for the next tenant. For these reasons alone we avoid evictions as much as we can.
Eviction horror stories:
I have spent a lot of time talking with the policemen who show up for the evictions we have done and I have heard some very sad and gruesome things. A lot of time an eviction is a symptom of much bigger issues going on in someone’s life and the problems go far beyond my knowledge of the tenant themselves.
In my own personal experience as a professional property manager in pinellas county, I have done 2 evictions where the gentlemen were still there, each in their own separate apartments, with all their stuff still in place when we showed up with the officer. One gentleman was actually even asleep in his bed. Each, respectively, just got on their bikes and rode away, leaving all their stuff and life behind. Once, we showed up for an eviction to find the apartment completely empty until we heard the officer, who entered the home before us (standard), shout “put your hands in the air and get down on the floor”. There was a squatter who, upon hearing us enter the apartment, decided to go hide in the closet startling the officer. This culminated in 2 arrests, many threats and a scene right out of “Cops”.
Lastly, I leave you with this story: When Tom and I first arrived on the rental scene here in Pinellas County we had taken over a larger 44 unit building with mostly lower income tenants. We were new in the field and evictions were somewhat unknown to us. There was a woman, a single mom, living in the complex who didn’t pay her September rent. She called us and worked out a payment date. The date came and went. So, we called her again and she explained to us what happened and worked out another payment date. We were naïve enough to accept. The next payment date came and went and we found ourselves into the month of October. On and on it went. We really felt for her as she had two children and was in dire straits so we worked with her until we couldn’t take her excuses any longer. We filed the eviction, after letting her know (we were now into the month of November!) and giving her several opportunities to get current on her rent.
The awful part of this story is that the eviction papers were processed, the tenant was notified, the sheriff’s office was given the ok order and the actual eviction happened on Christmas Eve. I was so heart sick and crushed over this because of the two children. Pinellas County has since changed their policy and they now have a moratorium on evictions the last 2 weeks of December, but at that time they didn’t and the timing couldn’t have been worse. When we met the Sheriff at the apartment on Christmas the tenant had moved but she left behind a note to me personally telling me what a terrible person I was to do this to her and her children on Christmas. I am not going to go into what this did to me and to my Christmas, but it is something I will never forget. Ultimately, it was her responsibility to pay her rent (she had gone three months rent free) and ultimately she did this to herself, but I still felt icky.
This one experience is why we do not waiver on the eviction process. If you have not paid your rent on the 5th you get served your 3 day notice on the 6th. If you have not paid or moved by the end of 3 day notice the eviction is started. It is not personal. Real estate agents, property managers and investment property owners are not running charities. Everyone has to pay for where they are living. Those who don’t have rent have a mortgage.
I honestly recommend that if you have invesment property you utilise a professional property manager to handle the property.
Jennifer Fehr is the co-owner of Suncoast4Rent with her husband Tom Fehr. Jennifer is a Florida State Real Estate Sales person and works through Stonebridge Real Estate Co Inc in Clearwater, Fl (Pinellas County) to bring the personal touch to all your Real Estate needs, be it professional residential property management, consultation or sales.
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