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As a Jacksonville area landlord, you are no doubt going to run into some common challenges that every landlord faces at some point in their investment careers. Maintenance problems, damage to your properties, or tenants that don’t quite get the memo are some of the more basic issues you might encounter. If you run into enough trouble with tenants, you may also have to face the unfortunate scenario of deciding to evict them from your property. Eviction can be a challenging process as both a personal conflict and a legal challenge; you’ll want to take specific steps to be sure that you handle the proceedings correctly and document everything—or the situation could get ugly.
Remember that everything covered in this post is meant to give you a broad understanding of what you need to know about the eviction process and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Consult with a lawyer or trusted property management company if you are interested in proceeding with an eviction.
Avoid Evictions with Effective Screening
Eviction can be a long and drawn out process, and it’s a smart idea to try to avoid reaching that point whenever possible. You can do this in a few different ways; if you don’t have an effective tenant screening process in place, consider implementing one. Proper tenant screening will generally allow you to get a better sense of what potential tenants will bring to the table and ensure that you can select renters who won’t lead to an eviction down the line.
You may be wondering what sort of investigation is involved in effective tenant screening. You can employ a tenant screening service or do the legwork yourself, but generally, you want to look at a range of different factors such as:
- Credit History
- Rental History
- Prior Evictions
- Criminal Records
- Employment & Income
Looking at these factors should give you an idea if a potential tenant has an established history of troubling behavior. A clean background check is a sign that a tenant might be a reliable fit for you.
If you do go with a background check service, do a little work up front and make sure that the service is compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and that they are delivering accurate and quality—as a rule, it's wise to steer clear from services that claim to be “instant."
Culture Better Problem Solving Skills
If it’s too late to rely on an effective screening process to weed out a worrisome tenant, you may be able to take some steps to mitigate any issues before things progress. If you are dealing with a problematic tenant and you think that they are moving down the wrong path with you, take a few steps to try to head things off well in advance.
Maybe the root of the issues you’re having is a simple miscommunication: If you and your renters aren’t on the same page about your expectations and goals, you may be able to fix the issues with concise wording. Make sure that you communicate “early and often” with renters, meet with them in person when possible, and follow up in writing. When you must deal with conflict, address issues as quickly and directly as you can—enforce the non-negotiable boundaries that you have set and be willing to meet your tenants with a little flexibility on other items, and you may be able to come to an understanding.
If Eviction Seems Inevitable
Despite your best efforts at screening and problem-solving, you may encounter a renter that you just can’t successfully course-correct. If you feel that eviction is inevitable, there are a few due-diligence items that you should address to make sure that you’ve covered your bases and are ready to get the process right.
First, determine if grounds for eviction genuinely exist: violations of the lease agreement or local, state, or federal laws are all solid grounds for eviction. Think items such as non-payment of rent, keeping pets despite a no-pet policy, or selling drugs on the property. If you have a solid case, take the time to make sure that you haven’t violated any terms of the lease (or housing laws) yourself! If the property is up to code and habitable, you’ve followed your end of the contract, and you’ve taken steps to try to address the problem before escalating things, you should be in the clear.
Remember that it would be a wise idea to retain the service of a lawyer (or a solid property management company) early in this process. Hiring a lawyer ensures that all of your bases are covered from square one and won’t leave you open to any allegations of wrong-doing by a tenant who fights their eviction. Be sure to get everything in writing as you go through this process and keep good records.
When you’ve made sure that you’re in the right and eviction is the next step, you’ll need to deliver proper notice to your tenant. There are a few different types of required notice in the Jacksonville area:
- 3-day notice for non-payment of rent.
- 7-day notice for evictions related to lease or law violations.
- 15-days prior notice for the termination of a month-to-month tenancy.
From there, the process gets involved with the legal system. You’ll draft an eviction complaint, file it with the county clerk’s office, deliver a summons to the tenant, and ultimately attend an eviction hearing.
Hire the Right Property Manager
Eviction can be a long and involved process—while you can certainly navigate your way through it on your own, a property manager can be a tremendous partner in handling nightmare issues like evictions. They’ll be available to you for advice and guidance, and will often be able and willing to do the legwork for you.
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