There are a few reasons a landlord may want to evict a tenant, but the primary reason is because the tenant fails to pay rent. In fact, according to TransUnion research 84%* of landlords say payment problems are their number one concern about new tenants.
To ensure that your property continues to bring in revenue, you need to have quality tenants. If a tenant is behind in their rent and losing you money, you will likely want to quickly replace them with a tenant that can pay their rent. However, legal evictions can be costly and time-consuming. While large property management companies often have the resources to absorb the cost of an eviction, this is not the case for many independent landlords.
The formal eviction process is governed by your state’s landlord-tenant laws. Often, evictions will require notice to the tenant, filing a court action against the tenant, and seeing the eviction through a lengthy eviction process that may require a hearing.
If you think it sounds like a lot of time and effort, you are correct. The eviction process is both expensive and time-consuming, especially when you consider that it could be prevented with a thorough tenant screening before they move into the property.
The Cost Break Down
Expenses extend farther than the cost of the eviction itself. They also include other related expenses that you may not have factored in. Maintenance fees, lost rent, court costs, and other legal fees are all part of an eviction.
TransUnion SmartMove data found that total eviction-related expenses for property managers averages $3,500 and can take as long as 3-4 weeks for the eviction process to run its course.**
Let’s break it down to see what these costs entail:
Legal Fees: In most cases, you will want to hire an attorney to evict your tenant, especially since the eviction process can be complicated and the paperwork needs to be one hundred percent accurate. Even a misspelled name can cause problems and delays. Attorneys typically charge hundreds of dollars an hour and those hours can add up quickly.
Court Costs: The cost to file a claim in court varies, but every state charges filing fees. Evictions are often contested by the tenant. Disputed evictions represented by council can make an otherwise simple eviction more complex. Discovery, motions, and jury trial demands can increase legal costs and drag out the process, meaning further lost rent and wasted time.
Financial Damages: Even if you do win a financial judgement against the tenant, the American Collectors Association reports only a 17% success rate on an average debt collection (2010 Benchmarking Survey). After all, if a tenant is unable to pay rent, it is not very realistic to expect that you will be able to recoup your losses from them in a timely fashion.
Property Damages: At the very least, there may be cleaning fees if you use an outside service to clean the property. A tenant that is being evicted (and therefore unable to collect their rent deposit) has little motivation to clean the property before they vacate the premises. Depending on state laws, a tenant’s personal possessions may need to be removed and/or stored. In the case of abandoned property, it may cost more to properly dispose of electronics, large items, and hazardous materials.
Lost Rent: Along with legal fees, lost rent is one of the most expensive costs of an eviction. Rent continues to accrue during the formal eviction process, and regardless of the court-ordered outcome, there may be unpaid rental debt owed to you. If there is property damage, the time spent dealing with contractors and making necessary repairs will prolong the amount of time your property is left vacant and not bring in any income. Not to mention the added costs of turning over the unit – preparing it for rent, advertising, showing the property, and so on.
There are also non-monetary costs to take into consideration, such as the strain and stress of an ongoing legal battle. Time is money, and the more time you waste on an eviction, the less time you have to spend on more lucrative endeavors.
In the end, the costs of an eviction are too high when you consider that you can take steps to help avoid them in the first place. You can decrease the likelihood of an eviction with rental policies and preventative measures. Careful tenant screening will help you reduce your risk of delinquent and destructive tenants, and a lease that specifically outlines late fees and payment policies will motivate tenants to make rent a priority.
Prevent Evictions Before They Happen
As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Thoroughly screening your tenants, and making it a consistent part of your rental process, can help you avoid having to evict a tenant later on. The $35 SmartMove screening package includes an eviction report and full credit report.
Whether you use SmartMove or another screening service, it’s important to order an eviction report as part of your tenant screening package since prior evictions are highly predictive of future evictions. TransUnion’s analysis of nearly 200 properties found that evicted residents have nearly three times as many prior eviction and rental-related collection records as non-evicted residents.
When you think of the thousands of dollars you could avoid having to spend on an eviction, a tenant screening service is a prudent investment. With SmartMove, you can even pass on the cost to the applicant to have them pay for the screening.
There may still be an occasion where even the most careful landlord has to evict a tenant. However, advanced tenant screening is your best bet against finding yourself in a complicated and costly situation.
*2014 SmartMove user survey
**Based on 2015 TransUnion data