Being a landlord of a rental property can be a mixed blessing. The property itself is usually an appreciating asset and a predictable income stream if a proper tenant can be found. The last part is key, if a proper, responsible tenant who pays on time and in the full amount can be found. Unfortunately, good tenants are hard to come by nowadays. Landlords have to deal with non-payment issues, property damage, surprise lease breaches and moveouts, and theft. Often, in response to these issues, a landlord must resort to eviction.
Eviction is something a lot of people know about, but not many know the details. In a nut shell, eviction is a legal procedure in which a landlord petitions a local court to forcibly remove a tenant. An eviction is a lawsuit, just like any other, and must be supported by legitimate purposes and follow set rules and procedures. These rules and procedures protect tenants from landlord misconduct but also protect landlords by settling the majority of potential claims by disgruntled tenants. Evictions aren’t the quick solution to difficult tenants that most landlords want, however, an eviction set-out supported by a court order under bailiff supervision makes the whole ordeal much easier. Before undertaking any eviction proceeding, always consult a local Cleveland business attorney to make sure you have a supportable basis for eviction and make sure your position is clear from any potential landlord liability. The last thing you want is to trigger an eviction but get counter-sued for money damages.
The Eviction Process: Step-by-Step
Understanding the basic composition of how an eviction works is the first step in using to solve problems with unruly tenants or defend against landlord misconduct. The following is largely based on the practices and procedures of the Cleveland Housing Court. Other jurisdictions and municipalities have their own ways of doing evictions, but this generally approximates the standards that most courts will adhere to.
Step 1 – 30-day Notice
Usually the first step to starting an eviction is posting a 30-day notice on the tenant’s door. The “30 days” equates to the length of the tenancy term of the tenant you want to evict. Thus, if it was a weekly tenancy it would be a 7-day notice instead of a 30-day. This notice serves to inform the tenant that this is the last term of the tenancy and that you will be terminating it after this period. You can just immediately kick out a tenant that same day because the tenant has contractual rights under the terms of the tenancy contract to stay there for the term he paid for. So, if you did kick them out immediately, you would be in breach of the rental agreement and your tenant could countersue.
Step 2 – 3-day Notice
The next step is to post a 3-day notice of vacate on tenant’s door. This informs the tenant that they need to leave in three days or eviction proceedings will be utilized. The 3-day clock starts to run the day after posting the notice, weekends and holidays don’t count. This, and the 30-day notice, must be completed before an eviction complaint can be filed. These notices are standardized and are found on most, if not all, municipal and housing court websites. The point of these notices are largely to provide the tenant the opportunity to avoid going to court. Court dockets are already full with evictions and these courts want to avoid adding more if it can be helped.
Step 3 – File an Eviction Complaint
After the notices are posted, an eviction complaint, also called a Forcible Entry and Detainer Action (FED), can be filed in the appropriate municipal or housing court. A legitimate basis for any FED action must be pled in the initial complaint, usually lack of color of title or non-payment of rent. Pursuing an eviction is just like any other civil suit, except since so many occur every year, the process is standardized for the most part. A complaint is drafted by a competent Ohio business attorney, the court sets a date for hearing and sends out service of process to the tenant, then an eviction hearing is set and occurs. Usually the earliest a date for hearing can be set in Cleveland housing court is 21 days from filing, this also depends on the docket volume and preference of the court.
Now after receiving service of process, either the tenant files an answer to the complaint then attends the hearing, they file nothing and attend, or they don’t even show up. How the tenant responds critically affects how the eviction must proceed, which is why it is smart to get an experienced Cleveland business attorney to represent you.
Step 4 – Set-Out
Now after the hearing and if the landlord gets a favorable ruling, the landlord now can purchase a writ of restitution, i.e. the red tag. This denotes the landlord went through the eviction process, a judge ruled in his favor and entered judgment, and the landlord now has legal standing to physically remove the tenant from the premises. The landlord usually must pay a small court cost to get the red tag, usually around 35-50 dollars. This must be purchased within 60 days of judgment. After purchase, the move out must occur within 10 days. The red tag is put on the property, usually within 2-3 days dependent on bailiff’s schedule, and the tenant has around 5 days to get out.
Before set out occurs, most experienced Cleveland attorneys recommend the landlord inspects the property to guard against wanton property destruction, theft, or frivolous tenant claims. Also, makes sure to take pictures and post a proper 24-hour before landlord entry and inspection.
Evictions are part of the job when it comes to being a landlord. Not every tenant is honest or financially responsible, thus, rental agreements are broken and people must be removed. Personally litigating an eviction is time-consuming, stressful, and sometimes confusing. Retaining experienced Cleveland business attorneys to take care of it for you is never something landlords regret.
About the author: Mike E. Benjamin, Esq.
Mike is a contracted attorney at Baron Law LLC who specializes in civil litigation, estate planning, and probate law. He is a member of the Westshore Bar Association, the Ohio State Bar Association, the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, and the Federal Bar Association for the Northern District of Ohio. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The information contained herein is general in nature, is provided for informational and educational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. The author nor Baron Law LLC cannot and does not guarantee that such information is accurate, complete, or timely. Laws of a particular state or laws that may be applicable in a given situation may impact the applicability, accuracy, or completeness of the preceding information. Further, federal and state laws and regulations are complex and subject to change. Changes in such laws often have material impact on estate planning and tax forecasts. As such, the author and Baron Law LLC make no warranties regarding the herein information or any results arising from its use. Furthermore, the author and Baron Law LLC disclaim any liability arising out of your use of, or any financial position taken in reliance on, such information. As always consult an attorney regarding your specific legal or tax situation.