No tenant wants to undergo an eviction, but evictions are bad news for landlords, too.
An eviction can easily consume your energy, thousands of dollars, and weeks to months of your time. Plus, there’s no guarantee you can fill the resulting vacancy as quickly as is necessary to ensure bills are paid on time. There’s no argument: Evictions are bad for your business, not to mention your health and stress levels.
For these reasons, and others, avoiding evictions is a priority for many landlords. So what can you do to prevent the eviction process or bad tenants altogether?
In this article, we’ll discuss five ways to prevent evictions, from tenant screening strategies to tenant communication and even some alternatives to eviction.
Take tenant screening seriously.
Screening your tenants properly is the number one thing you can do to prevent evictions.
A comprehensive and thorough tenant screening checklist should include the following:
- A rental application
- Income verification
- Credit score and history
- Criminal background check
- Eviction history
- References from prior employers and landlords
- A questionnaire with basic information about the tenant (in your rental application), including questions about personal habits that could influence the applicant’s eligibility, like smoking or pet ownership
If you don’t take the time to screen your tenants, you never know what you’re going to get—and you shouldn’t be surprised if you end up with tenants who can’t afford the rent or break the lease agreement.
Clearly state the lease terms and property rules.
Speaking of lease agreements, the clearer you are, the better.
Many lease violations are caused by tenants simply not knowing what they’re doing isn’t allowed. While it’s always the tenant’s responsibility to read the lease agreement, you can do a lot to help them understand the rules and policies you enforce.
One way to do this is to write “plain language leases” – rental agreements that avoid verbose legal language and instead outline the key rules and policies in everyday language. Your lease will still have the same legal protections, but with the benefit that your tenants will be much more likely to read and understand it.
A renter can’t claim they “didn’t understand” the policy if it’s stated clearly and readably in the lease.
Instate a grace period.
Grace periods are a great way to prevent unnecessary misunderstandings due to late payments.
A grace period is essentially a short period of time (usually a few days) between day rent is due and the day late fees are applied. Grace periods are required in many states, but it’s a good idea to instate one regardless of whether it’s mandatory in your state.
Why? Because grace periods give renters an extra few days to pay the rent before your late rent policies kick in (late fees, warnings, eviction notices, etc.). You may think that a few days won’t make much of a difference, but for reliable tenants it does. Maybe your tenant is changing jobs or dealing with an illness and doesn’t have their paycheck in hand the day that they usually do. Having a few extra days to pay rent matters in these instances and helps you keep a connected relationship with a good tenant instead of resorting immediately to threats and fees.
Improve tenant communication.
Communication is the backbone of any strong relationship, and the landlord-tenant relationship is no different.
Initiating friendly communication and regular check-ins with your tenants will help them feel comfortable reaching out to you should a problem arise. For example, let’s say your tenant has an ill family member who has been living in their unit as a guest. As a landlord, this person may qualify as an unauthorized resident as per your overnight guest policy.
But rather than immediately sending your tenant a notice to quit explaining the lease violation, let’s say your tenant reaches out to you before getting to this point. Or, say you reach out to them. They explain the situation, and you allow them to add their family member to the lease.
Other methods of tenant communication might include communicating about possible payment issues and connecting tenants with renters support resources when necessary.
Use cash for keys.
If you really need to remove a bad tenant, and eviction isn’t an option, there are alternatives. One option is cash for keys.
With cash for keys, you offer to pay your tenant cash to move out quickly and quietly. While this method has its own problems (namely, it’s unfair to you), it’s certainly faster and cheaper than an eviction. It also tends to be highly effective, as tenants will usually jump at the chance to accept a cash other rather than risking being evicted, especially since future landlords can see prior evictions with a background check. One thing to note is that cash for keys works better when tenants know they’ve violated the lease (a tenant who believes they are in the right and hasn’t violated any terms has no reason to accept your offer. They will also likely fight the eviction).
It’s not always possible to avoid an eviction, and that’s a simple truth of being a landlord. However, the five tips provided above can help you reduce evictions and the costs they incur on your rental business.