We strive to avoid evicting tenants. However, effective apartment management requires that the apartment manager be thoroughly acquainted with the procedure and be capable of using the procedure if necessary.

Eviction is a legal, involuntary removal of a tenant from the tenant's home. Courts view this as a serious action, and they protect the rights of the tenant. Those rights are protected, in part, by required procedure. Each jurisdiction has eviction procedures that have been established by statute or case law. Because eviction procedures vary from one locality to another, the following explanation must be general in nature.

The tenant must be notified of the intent to evict. The notification must be in writing. The wording of the notification must be precisely correct. An apartment manager should rely on the company's legal counsel for guidance regarding wording of the notification and, also, for every step of the eviction procedure.

The notification should be delivered in person, if possible. All tenants or, at least, all adults who live in the apartment must be named on the eviction notice. If you fail to name all persons who are living in the apartment, even someone not named on the lease agreement, you may succeed in evicting the named persons, but will not be in possession of the apartment. It will be necessary to do another eviction procedure to evict the person or persons not named on the original notification of the intent to evict.

Sometimes the tenant cannot be served in person. In that case a procedure similar to the following may be required. A copy of the notification must be attached to the door of the apartment where the tenant lives and a copy must be mailed to the tenant. Sometimes a special means of mailing the copy must be adhered to, depending on the jurisdiction. After an appropriate lapse of time, specified by the law that applies to the local jurisdiction, the notification of intent to evict may be presented to a court. If the notice is served in person, the document may generally be presented immediately.

The intent of the strict eviction procedure is to assure the court that the tenant has been notified, has a reasonable opportunity to respond, and that the proposed eviction is justified. If you are in the apartment business for some time you will probably hear or read the phrase, "the tenant from hell." Historically, there have also been some landlords and apartment managers from the same vicinity. Because, in America, a person's home is sacrosanct, the court will require assurance that the proposed eviction is not an act of vindictiveness, discrimination, or driven by some other motivation that would make the eviction unreasonable or unlawful. Thus, the tenant is afforded sufficient time and opportunity to respond to the proposed eviction, that is, to present to the court a defense against eviction.

Eviction because of failure to pay rent is easily proved and courts readily evict for failure to pay rent. If a tenant is on a long term lease, e.g. one year, and an eviction proceeding is initiated, it will be necessary to prove that the tenant violated one or more of the provisions of the lease.

If the tenant is on a month-to-month lease agreement, no reason for the eviction need be given. No reason should be given. If a reason is given, you may have to prove the reason in a court. It takes a certain amount of discipline to avoid answering when the tenant demands, "Why am I being evicted?" But that is the best procedure. Do not give a reason for the eviction if the tenant is on a month-to-month lease agreement.

Eviction of a tenant who holds a long-term lease agreement requires proof of violation of one or more provisions of the lease agreement, and proving the violation usually requires documentation. If a tenant violates a provision of the lease agreement the apartment manager must confront the tenant, diplomatically of course, and should also write a memorandum for record (MFR) describing the facts of the incident, date, and sign the MFR, and place it in the tenant's file. Memoranda for record are especially important if the tenant has failed to observe the provisions of the lease agreement or has exhibited behavior inimical to operation of a safe and peaceful apartment community. Courts place greater reliance on memoranda written at the time of the event than they place on memory of the event. When proof, in court, of a lease violation is necessary, memoranda, photographs, physical evidence, vendor repair invoices, police reports, and other data may be useful. It is usually unwise to ask a tenant to testify against another tenant.

Actions taken by an agent of the apartment management company pursuant to the eviction notification including contact or attempted contact with the tenant should be carefully documented. The memoranda must be limited to fact. Avoid opinion.

If the court orders eviction, the tenant may leave in accordance with the court decree. If not, the court will instruct a law officer to physically eject the tenant.

It is important to understand that eviction is a legal process from beginning to end. The tenant is in legal possession of the apartment, even if the rent is unpaid, until the court decrees otherwise or the tenant voluntarily relinquishes possession. Neither a building owner nor any agent of an apartment management company has a right to enter a tenant's apartment for any reason related to potential eviction. If you were to go down the street to a free-standing house and enter without the resident's permission, you would be a burglar subjecting yourself to both arrest and possible physical harm. Apartment dwellers have the same legal protection as do those who dwell in a house.

No matter how aggravating a tenant may be or how far in arrears the rent may be, you must not change the door lock thus locking the tenant out of the tenant's apartment nor turn off the utilities thus depriving the tenant of those utilities.

An apartment manager must generally operate an apartment community without authority except the capability to pursue eviction or decline to renew a lease. About the worst thing you can do is attempt eviction and fail. That sends a message--the wrong message--to any tenant inclined to ignore lease provisions and the well being of fellow tenants. A successful eviction track record will engender respect. If the tenants understand that you will use eviction only if necessary but that you will almost certainly be successful if you do, it will often be unnecessary to go to court. Present a notification of intent to evict, and usually, the tenant will wisely depart. Tenants will generally approve your eviction actions when those actions remove a disruptive tenant from the apartment community.

Your legal staff will probably ask the court for a judgment to recover rent, or damages or legal costs, as appropriate. If the court grants a judgment for the apartment management company, there remains the problem of actually recovering the money.

The best way to avoid problems is to screen prospective tenants before you rent to them. Experienced managers often complain that when there is an economic recession or when competition is especially severe and vacancy rates increase, investors or apartment management company officers demand that the apartments be rented. It is, of course, their prerogative to do so. But distress rentals usually produce a cycle of instability in the apartment complex. The lower standards may admit tenants who have difficulty paying the rent and who cause problems. "Good tenants" leave to avoid the problems. The reputation of the apartment complex changes, unfavorably. It takes a long time to recover. All jobs have their "downside" and this downside is one that apartment managers must sometimes endure.