Dear Dale: I recently rented a home I own to someone who I quickly learned had money problems. When he got behind in his rent, I tried to work with him because he promised to pay. Then I found out I could not evict him without filing the proper documents with the court, even though he was a few months behind in payments. Landlords are always portrayed as the bad guys, but was there something else I could have done?
ANSWER: It sounds like you got burned for trying to be a decent guy. What you experienced, though, goes with the territory of being a landlord. Sometimes tenants don’t pay their rent – or at least don’t pay it on time. Sometimes they trash the property. Sometimes they refuse to leave the property after the lease expires. These are all hassles, but you’re running a business when you’re a landlord. Every business has its downside, and chasing monthly payments is one of the negative aspects of being a landlord.
As far as what you could have done differently, perhaps you could have started the eviction process right away rather than waiting months in hopes your tenant would come up with the money.
To evict a tenant, a landlord has to give the tenant proper notice at least three days prior to filing a complaint. Under Ohio law, the landlord must notify the tenant that he is being asked to leave either by certified mail, hand delivery, or leaving the notice at the tenant’s premises. The notice must contain specific language dictated by law, the gist of which is that the tenant is being asked to leave and if he doesn’t, an eviction may be initiated.
If that notice fails to get the tenant out of the rental property, the landlord can then start eviction proceedings. The landlord files a complaint with the clerk’s office at the proper court to start the process. The length of time for an eviction varies from court to court. In Toledo Municipal Court, for example, the Housing Court’s Web site states that hearings are usually scheduled three weeks after the complaint is filed. If the court rules in favor of the landlord after the hearing, the actual eviction typically takes place within seven to 10 days, according to the Housing Court site.
So, the advantage of launching eviction proceedings promptly is that the landlord gets the ball rolling on the legal process. Though it’s not immediate, the process does eventually get the tenant out of the property. It also ensures that a tenant’s rights will be protected from landlords who try to evict without a sufficient basis.
The disadvantage is that the landlord has to pay the related filing fees to go through with an eviction and has to go through the headache of finding another tenant. My advice for a new landlord or someone who is thinking of getting into the business would be to find an attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant law. The attorney will not only be able to put you on firm footing from a legal perspective, but likely will be a great resource on a variety of subjects that would impact your business.
One other thing to consider would be developing a better screening process for prospective tenants. The Internet has numerous sites that offer services ranging from tenant background checks to credit reports. Again, an attorney experienced in this field would be able to provide guidance on a variety of issues dealing with the business aspect of being a landlord.