The most common questions we hear from self-managing rental owners are: “How do I handle a nonpaying tenant?” And “How do I perform an eviction?”

Even the most seasoned professional property manager will tell you an eviction is a lengthy, complicated and expensive procedure. To the self-managing owner I imagine the thought is terrifying.

First, you have to ensure all your ducks are in a row. Lease in place (copies in triplicate) and also correct notices posted at the property (including the exact dates specified. A detailed summary of amount owed and the specific verbiage required in the county where the property is located). You will then need to visit the county courthouse Pay the required fees to the court and then additional fees to a sheriff or process server. A minor mistake at any of these steps will result in further costs and delays.

Assuming everything goes okay, the very best result you could expect at this point is for the tenant to be served in a timely manner.  Also that they decide to leave without any fuss and leave the property in a reasonable condition. Likely time-frame for this would be two weeks from initial petition.

In terms of out of pocket expenses this ordeal will would have cost you $300 in court costs. Plus plenty more in lost rent, inconvenience and stress. Use an attorney and you can double or triple the amount.

Unfortunately, savvy tenants have learned how to ‘work the system’. They use tactics such as claiming you, as the Landlord did not adhere to requirements prescribed in the Florida Landlord Tenant Act. The now aggrieved tenant claims you ignored his requests for maintenance; that she actually did pay but you have kept the cash; reneged on verbal agreements or anything else they can think of.

If you have the correct evidence available to dismiss the claims (applications/move in inspection/phone records/bank account statements) then you will invariably win the case. Also be granted the eviction and possession a few days later. Unfortunately, this delaying tactic will have stalled the eventual eviction by 4 -6 weeks. In which the time you have been going without rent. Who knows what condition the property will be in once you are eventually allowed back inside.

If you do not win the case then the tenant will be awarded damages. You will be back to square one, except you now owe the tenant money.

At Gulf Coast we believe there is an easier way. Like many things in life, success is largely down to preparation. At Gulf Coast Property Management we prepare our tenants. From our strict selection criteria, security deposit retention, choice of lease verbiage, monthly credit reporting to Experian and documented and prompt attention to maintenance requests we ensure our owners’ rights are protected.

In the event of a tenant falling upon hard times, delaying an eviction is simply not an option for them as we have the evidence to dispel any claims they may present to a judge. Instead, we present the tenants with a fate accompli in. Which we paint a picture of how an eviction and associated costs will affect them in later life and how by simply agreeing to vacate they can save everyone a big headache.

Possessing the legal knowledge and expertise to present this to the tenant is essential and invariably it works. The tenant vacates quickly, the property is left in good condition and the property can be quickly made available for rent again.

Best of all, the property owner receives the entire security deposit without dispute and the agreement to vacate does not relieve the defaulting tenant of their obligations. An uncontested judgment can be applied for at any time within 10 years. Any damages will be remain on the tenants credit files for 25 years.

Tenants are not perfect and we have encountered many non-paying tenants over our 11 years in business. I am pleased to say that over this period we have only been required to evict 5 tenants. Most defaulting tenants have taken the easier road. Which has saved our clients thousands of dollars in lost revenues and damages.

If you would like any advice on how to handle a non-paying tenant then please do not hesitate to contact me.

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