The eviction of a friend or relative is not easy to do. It has to be one of the most difficult lawsuits, if not the most emotionally draining, of all types of evictions. You may be one of the lucky ones who can rent to a friend or relative with no side effects. Still one day, there may come a time when you have to look your friend or family member in the eyes, and ask him or her to leave your apartment.
In the eviction of a relative stranger, even a long-term tenant, the process isn’t personal, just business. The tenant can’t pay the rent, so he has to leave. It’s the end of an association with more or less minimal emotional ties between the tenant and the landlord.
Evicting a friend or relative is one in which sides may be chosen, and lines drawn in the sand. Once the eviction notice has been delivered, do not expect many friends or allies to come to your aid. Depending upon the circumstances of the eviction, you can expect to have your life made miserable by anyone impacted by your decision.
This is because the expectations of a friend or relation are much higher than that of a stranger. If there is a tenancy problem, the expectation is that you will treat the tenant more as a friend or relative than as a financial investment problem. You will be asked to accept less than you normally would for rent arrears, to wait longer for your rent, and to accept behaviors that you would not normally tolerate.
For example, let’s say you need to raise the rent. A rent increase could be perceived as a betrayal of your friendship. Your aunt could think you are taking advantage of her. It doesn’t make sense, but when money is concerned, all bets are off. As far as a friend or relative is concerned, you are in his or her pocket. A belief that you are soaking your tenant for more money that you ‘don’t really need’ could cause your family member to not pay the increase.
Be clear and resolved about why the eviction must take place. Have all of your written documentation in place. Check all of your paperwork, rent cards, letters of warning etc. before you send your notice to quit. Make sure you have a leg to stand on before starting the eviction case. Conduct a due diligence of your property and the legal case.
Hard feelings will sometimes come with the rental and eviction territory. Do not expect to be able to discuss the case calmly with the offended tenant. Do not expect a cool head to prevail over your eviction action. If you evict your nephew, expect your sister or brother to be totally ticked off at you. Your friend may think you are a jerk for evicting her because she parties loudly every weekend, disturbing your other tenants. Your aunt may not come to your aid when your niece does not pay the rent.
When blood is evicting blood, much more blood could be shed before the battle is over. Few people want to be in the middle of a turf war. You may find yourself isolated and alone during the eviction process until the dust has settled. This is the reason why most landlords refuse to rent to a friend or family member. It is preferred to have only one relationship, than to confuse the personal relationship by adding a legal one.
How can you ease the pain of evicting a friend, relative, or even the relative of a friend? It could depend on how the person was moved in. Were you doing your friend “a favor” by renting your apartment to him or her? Did your cousin have to complete a rental application like everyone else? Did you verify all references, employment information, credit check, former landlord information, etc.? Does the tenant have a lease?
Why is this important? Having everyone go through an application process regardless of their status with you establishes the ground rules from Day One. Without it, the tenant could feel that he or she was taken in as a friend, and then treated otherwise when things got tough. It helps to set up the lines of separation between the friendship and the tenancy.
So, what is the best way to evict a friend or relative? Here are some tips:
· First, do not take shortcuts during the legal process. In fact, do everything strictly by the book. A wounded friend or relative who knows your personal business becomes a worthy adversary in a legal case. He or she will use whatever information is available to fight you tooth and nail.
· The jury is still out as to whether or not you should serve the initial notice of lease termination personally, or use a constable. The friend or your sister will feel the sting of you starting legal action just as shocking no matter how the news is given.
· Exercise the same professional manner in dealing with the loved one as you would with a stranger. Try to keep your emotions out of the situation. Avoid discussing the case at length with your now adversarial tenant. The less said, the less information that can be used against you in court.
· Put any rent arrears payment plans in writing. Continue the eviction case, and present the payment plan to the judge. Have the judge enter the payment plan in the court decision. Then, if the plan is broken, it is broken with the court, not you. Your friend or cousin will be less likely to violate a court agreement.
· Some landlords hire an attorney to process their eviction cases specifically against a friend or relative. When your best friend or nephew calls you about the eviction notice, refer all comments and questions to the attorney. Resist the temptation to explain why you started the action. With an attorney, you are taken out of the middle position. Let the lawyer earn the fee by listening to the anger, frustration and feelings of betrayal by the friend or relative.
· If you need to take legal action against a friend or relative who is your tenant, do it. Do not be intimidated by their personal association with you. Your real estate is a business investment. If you remember this during the process, you will be able to separate the two relationships, that of friend or family member who is also your tenant.