There are various reasons why a tenant might not move out; however, in all cases, it is a problem for you. As you prepare to rent your property out, you should be prepared for all potential situations you might encounter when a tenant overstays their welcome.
4 Common Scenarios When Tenant Won’t Move Out
1. Evict Squatters
Tenants who will not move out but have stopped paying rent are commonly known as “squatters,” and are probably your worst nightmare as a landlord. Squatters are a tremendous problem, especially if you’ve already signed a new lease with a new tenant and have plans to move someone else into the residence. If you have a squatter, you only have one option to get them out; you will have to start the formal eviction process and rely on the courts to get rid of them.
Because the eviction process is almost always a lengthy one, you will likely have to let your new tenant go – it is doubtful that they will be willing to wait the months that an eviction process takes to be completed. While you’ll probably lose the original new tenant, the court process should rule in your favor as long as you have proper documentation and have followed all applicable laws. A ruling in your favor will result in a judgement that allows law enforcement to evict the squatter and an award for any money you are owed from the previous tenant. However, at the end of the process, you’ll still need to find a new tenant to replace them.
2. Offer the tenant cash for keys
Cash for keys is a way to get rid of a problem tenant that won’t move out even when their lease is up. In a cash for keys agreement, you offer to pay your tenant a certain amount of money to move out very quickly (usually around five days). Because you are paying them to get out, you can require them to move out as soon as possible. It is also a smart move if you know your tenants will not move out because of financial hardship. This type of agreement may give your tenants the monetary motivation they need to get out. For example, if your tenant refuses to move out because they cannot afford to pay first month’s rent and a security deposit on a new place, cash for keys can provide them with this money.
Almost all of the time, a cash for keys agreement will cost less than all of the costs associated with an eviction lawsuit, so it is financially beneficial for not only the tenant, but also you. It can also be used to keep both you and your tenant out of the courts because you will not have to file an eviction notice. Avoiding a formal eviction is also crucial in shortening the time of your tenant turnover, which in turn will be financially beneficial.
Should you choose to use a cash for keys agreement, ensure that you document everything in writing and that you receive the tenant’s written authorization; this will protect you legally and financially should the tenant take your money and still refuse to move out. If the tenant does this, then they will owe you the money you paid them at the end of an eviction lawsuit.
3. Extend the tenancy one extra day
You might find it beneficial and necessary to extend your renter’s tenancy slightly. This may be necessary if the tenant finds a new place to live but needs one extra day before they can move out; such is the case when your rental agreement specifies that they must be out by the last of the month, but their new lease does not permit them to move in until the first of the next month.
While this may not immediately seem like a big deal, you may run into problems if the extra day your previous tenant needs is the same day as the move in date that you give a new tenant. If you do find yourself in this situation, you should first verify that the new tenant is fine with a one-day delay before approving the extension for the previous tenant. To further motivate your new tenant to comply with the delay, you might consider offering your them an incentive, such as putting them up in a hotel each night their move in is delayed or paying for any additional move in costs the tenant incurs because of the delay.
You can and should charge your previous tenant for any additional days that your previous tenant needs beyond the end of the rental agreement. Beforehand, you should, of course, check your state laws to ensure that you are legally permitted to charge your tenants. Don’t ever try to get away with charging rent from two different households in the same month because this is almost always illegal. Charge previous tenants per day and for any additional expenses you may take on, such as paying for the new tenant to stay in a hotel for the night.
4. Offer the tenant a different property you own
There are many reasons to offer a tenant a different residence you may own. This might be a good idea if the tenant is financially struggling and you have a more cost-effective option that they may be able to afford. You might also want to offer a tenant a different property you own if they simply need a few extra days to move out. Instead of paying for a new tenant to stay the night in a hotel, simply require your previous tenants to spend any additional days they need in a separate property you own.
How to avoid tenants who won’t leave
The best way to deal with tenants who will not move out is to avoid them in the first place by screening all applicants properly.
It is of the utmost importance that you perform a credit check for all potential tenants. You should use one of the three main credit reporting agencies to pull a landlord credit check; this document will provide you with essential information about an applicant’s financial past. You should look for any instances of accounts past due, discharged or in collections, as well as any instances of bankruptcy, eviction, or foreclosure. If you do find one off these red flags in the report, you should be wary of renting to the applicant. Their past financial missteps are a good prediction of how they will behave as your tenant; for example, if they’ve been evicted before, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually have to evict them too.
You should also invest in performing a criminal background check on all applicants. To avoid a tenant that won’t move out, you should avoid applicants who have a history of intense criminal activity. If they previously disregarded the law, it is likely that they may do so again in your property and refuse to move out. Although you can always take a chance on any tenant, you risk getting burned by approving a tenant with a criminal history.
During the screening process, you should also verify all applicants’ income and employment. In general, your tenants should make at least three times the monthly rent; this is a good gauge for whether or not they will be able to afford to live on your property. A lot of the time, tenants will be difficult about moving out because of financial struggles. Making sure that they have a stable income can keep you from encountering this problem in the first place.
Do not forget to also call all applicants’ previous landlords to check if they ever refused to move out. Call at least three previous landlords so that you can get a complete picture of their past as a tenant. Ask the previous landlords detailed questions about the tenant’s payment habits and if they were ever evicted. Almost always, the landlord will speak candidly with you about the applicant’s previous behaviors.
What does the law say?
In any situation where the tenant won’t move out, you should never try to complete a self-help eviction; this is illegal in all 50 states. This means you cannot physically remove your tenant and/or their possessions yourself. Even if your tenant has not paid rent for a long time or is destroying your property, you cannot take matters into your own hands.
If you cannot get a tenant to move out, you will have to file an eviction notice and go through the official process. As long as you have followed all applicable laws and documented everything, the court will most likely rule in your favor and you will finally be able to get the tenants out. Once the court rules in your favor, law enforcement will be authorized to remove the tenant, as well as their personal property.
Although the eviction process is long and expensive, it is one you must follow in order to regain control of your property.