What should you do if your tenant doesn't pay rent?
Most evictions are a result of a tenant not paying rent or a tenant late with rent. An Eviction is a legal procedure which has multiple steps. Tenants can also be Evicted for “Tenant Holding Over,” or “Breach of Lease.” An eviction has “Court Procedures,” and “Non-Court Procedures.” Both must be followed in accordance with the law in order to have a successful eviction (take back possession of your property).
- Step 1: File the FAILURE TO PAY RENT LANDLORD’S COMPLAINT FOR REPOSSESSION OF RENTED PROPERTY REAL PROPERTY §8-401
The form is a 6 carbon form (DC-CV-082). The form has to be completed, signed, and delivered to the court (for Prince Georges County, the File & ServeXpress system is used). The court issues a date for the hearing. The Sheriff mails a copy and in most instances personally serves the yellow copy to the tenant. Depending on the jurisdiction and time of year, the court date is often 2-4 weeks from the filing date. If you are filing through Rent Court Manager, we will update the system so you are notified via email of the court date. A “Judgement Landlord” at the Rent Court hearing means the Tenant has four days to move out. This typically doesn’t happen, so you need to proceed to the next step below.
- Step 2. File the PETITION – FOR WARRANT OF RESTITUTION
The second step in the process is to file the Petition for Warrant of Restitution (DC-CV-081). This is also a multiple carbon form and is based on the previous filing of your FTPR. This is filed five days after the judgement of the FTPR through Rent Court Manager. We can deliver to the court on the seventh day. After the judge has signed the document, the Warrant of Restitution (WOR or Writ) will be delivered to the Sheriff by the court. The landlord is not responsible for notifying the tenant of the eviction1, except in Baltimore City (see *Step I.V below).
- STEP 1: Schedule the Eviction
Assuming the WOR above is signed and delivered to the Sheriff by the court, you will need to call the Sheriff’s office to schedule the eviction. Depending on the jurisdiction, they may not get the paperwork on record until the 10th day, plus or minus a day or two. The eviction is usually scheduled a few weeks out from the day of your call. *STEP I.V: Landlord Must Notify Tenant of Date of Scheduled Eviction (Baltimore City Only) See our blog post about Notification requirements for Baltimore City Evictions.
- STEP 2: (Depends on Tenant Actions before Eviction)
The tenant will either pay to redeem (pay and stay) if they still have “Right of Redemption” (Check out our Glossary of Eviction Terms). They can pay the amount in the Writ (Warrant of Restitution) at the time of eviction. You must accept the payment, which cancels the eviction. (Keep in mind, they likely have not paid rent for successive months since the original FTPR case that this Writ is written for, so make sure filing takes place for all unpaid months with the aim of obtaining a money judgement.) Alternatively, the tenant may move out before or at the eviction. If they have not surrendered the keys, you must still follow through with the eviction. YOU MUST GET THE KEYS FROM THE TENANTS. IT IS BEST TO HAVE THE TENANTS SIGN A STATEMENT that they have surrendered the keys. If the eviction is already scheduled, even if the tenants have surrendered their keys, it is best to follow through with the eviction with the sheriff on site, providing you with a legal document verifying the eviction was completed legally.
- STEP 3: The Eviction Day
You or your representative must be present on the day and time when the Sheriff is scheduled to for the eviction. Depending on the jurisdiction, they may be on time or they may run late. The landlord or representative must change the locks on the property and take back possession. If the tenant is present and has the Right to Redeem with the monies owed stated in the warrant of restitution, the Sheriff will require the landlord to accept payment and he will cancel the eviction. Some Sheriff’s jurisdictions have a policy for requiring a minimum number of landlord workers on site at the time of the eviction. Check our Blog on Landlord Eviction Responsibilities for more details. If the tenant doesn’t have the monies owed, the Sheriff will expect the landlord to provide proof of the required notices. Provide a copy of the notice and certificate of mailing. (Baltimore City Only: provide a signed affidavit by the person who posted the eviction notice on the property. Refer to the Baltimore City Sheriff’s Office Landlords: Eviction Procedures document) There is a presumption that the notice was actually received by the tenant. If all goes smoothly, the Sheriff signs the Writ, marks it appropriately, and your representative signs it, and the landlord has the right to change the locks. You now have performed a Legal Eviction. See the section below on what may stop or cause an eviction to be delayed.
- STEP 4: Property Disposal during the Eviction
After the locks have been changed, you have regained possession of the property. Depending on the jurisdiction, regaining possession can happen before or after tenant property is removed. In Baltimore City, tenant property is considered abandoned as soon as the locks are changed; the belongings left behind are no longer the tenant’s property. Other Jurisdictions require you to remove everything from the household. Do not leave the previous tenants curbside. Inspectors obtain eviction rosters for the day, and later in the afternoon, they will drive by and issue a citation for illegal dumping, subject to a hefty fine, in some instances a $1,000 per day. Hire a crew to take it to the landfill, or donate it to charity if it is in good condition.
- STEP 5: Reporting illegal activities
An attempt by the former tenant to gain access to the unit after an eviction should be reported to the police by calling 911 as a criminal matter.
Other Questions You May Have
- How long does the eviction process take? If everything goes perfectly, 2-4 months depending on the Jurisdiction. The FTPR hearing is usually 2-4 weeks from the date of the filing. Then you are allowed to file the WOR five (5) days after the FTPR judgement (assuming it is in favor of the landlord). Then, the Sheriff has to receive the WOR paperwork, usually another 5-10 days. Then the eviction can be scheduled by calling the Sheriff’s office. Depending on season and time of the month, it may be another 3-4 weeks before an eviction is scheduled. NOTE: this timeline can vary significantly. We had one eviction case in Prince George’s county when the Sheriff’s office had a 6 month backlog, it took 8 months to evict that tenant, this was a $2,400/month single family home rental owned by a military family.
- What conditions or situation might stop or cause an eviction to be re-scheduled? Depending on the jurisdiction, the rules are open to interpretation by the local authorities. In most cases, the following are examples of what may occur to stop or cause an eviction to be delayed:Snow or Rain: The weather is a factor. Regardless of temperature, the eviction will be cancelled and you will need to call and reschedule if there is a greater than 50% chance of rain or snow forecasted in the 24 hour period leading up to the Eviction day. Yes, this is open to interpretation by the Sheriff or Constable.
- Temperature: If the forecast calls for temperatures of 32 degrees or below on the day of the eviction, it’s likely you will need to reschedule.
- Court Ordered Stay or Delay: It is possible that a tenant may go to the district court and plea with a judge to get a “stay,” which is an extension. This can happen as late as one day prior to the eviction. It happens. A judge may grant a delay of one week, or a Stay until a new hearing date.
- Sheriff Ordered Delay: There are tenants who are very convincing with their stories, and they can sometimes be successful at creating doubts about the non-court procedures, such as challenge whether the notices were properly sent. The Sheriff may be uncertain and will refer the issue to the Judge for decision that afternoon. *At the hearing, the judge will make a ruling. The tenant is either evicted immediately, it is cancelled/vacated, or it will be Stayed for another hearing date. If the Judge vacates the Writ, the landlord must apply for a new WOR with the court and provide new notices to the tenant if the landlord wants to proceed again with an eviction.
- Other Situational Factors: Many things can happen where there are no rules or precedents clearly written. The sheriff will do their best to exercise judgement. We once had a situation where a tenant had snakes and lizards as pets. Although it wasn’t freezing, it was too cold to put them out (this was before the rules changed regarding tenant possessions being kept inside in Baltimore City). The Sheriff had to call Animal Control, luckily they arrived quickly, otherwise the eviction may not have taken place. *In Baltimore City, an example is posting the eviction notice on the door. The tenant may claim it never happened. A landlord is required to have a signed affidavit attesting to the date and time of posting of the letter of eviction dated at least seven days prior to the day of eviction. Some companies still also take a photo with a date/time stamp of the posting on the clearly marked door as proof to bring that to the eviction for the Sheriff.
- Landlord Responsibilities: In addition to the Non-Court Procedures above, the landlord still has numerous responsibilities for an eviction, depending on the jurisdiction in Maryland. Check out our blog post on Landlord Eviction Responsibilities. You may have to hire a moving crew and/or tow trucks if the tenant has vehicles.
Citations: 1, http://mdcourts.gov/legalhelp/housing.html; Issues for Landlord, How do I evict a Tenant?, How to give notice?; February 12, 2016