If Your Tenant Breaches The Lease, What Can You Do?

Last week we wrote about the limited options that tenants have when faced with eviction. This week we will look at eviction from the landlord’s perspective.

By far the majority of landlords are business people who want their tenants to be satisfied and understand that it is in their best interest to provide safe, comfortable, habitable  places to live and work. Their frustration is justified when tenants don’t pay their rent in a timely manner, or at all.

Criminal vs. Civil Eviction

Arkansas is the only state in the union with a criminal eviction statute. Some counties refuse to enforce the criminal statute though. In Pulaski, for example, the sheriff and prosecuting attorney’s offices will not enforce the criminal eviction statute, so landlords must use the civil option—unlawful detainer.

Before you get into the rental business, you should consider and budget the cost of eviction. After all, it is only a matter of time before you have to evict someone for not paying rent!

 Must I Use A Lawyer to Evict?

So, can a landlord evict without a lawyer? Yes. We have an article to be posted soon that will provide some guidance about whether and when to use a lawyer.

If you do use a lawyer, how much does it cost?
The unlawful detainer process is cumbersome and a little confusing. It’s also very expensive! Your out-of-pocket costs alone will be over $400-$500, and that’s if you don’t use a lawyer and handle the process yourself.

How Quickly Can I Evict A Tenant?

How long does it take? The law says that a writ of possession (enforceable by a sheriff) can be issued five days after service of the Notice. That’s five business days so really a week.

 Realistically, with the coordinating and different filing deadlines, it takes about two–three weeks to get someone evicted.

What About Commercial Evictions?

Is the process the same for residential and commercial. Yes!

Self-Help Tactics

Can you change the locks? No!

The law says no, the reality is anyone can do anything they want to do until someone stops them, but using self-help tactics like changing the locks opens you to liability from a tenant for violating the law and converting (stealing) their personal possessions. If I were a landlord, I wouldn’t do this. It could be considered a crime! If you handle evictions yourself, it is important to understand and follow the legal process.

The Tenant Trashed My Property

Okay, now the tenant is evicted and you discover damage. Maybe because they didn’t take care of the place or maybe because they intentionally destroyed your space out of anger!

If you filed correctly then you can continue on with the case to get a judgment for damages against the past tenant. Such a judgement which will follow them around for years and years. It reports on their credit and background checks and will prevent them from renting other places even if you are not able to collect money they owe. The judgement accrues interest too!

What About Property The Tenant Left Behind?

If, after eviction, the tenant abandons their property, what are your rights and obligations?

You will have to keep the property safe during a waiting period, after which it is considered abandoned and you and you may dispose of it or sell it in a commercially reasonable manner. Any proceeds you realize from the sale are applied to the past due rents/damages.

And What If I Would Rather Use A Lawyer?

At Leigh Law we are experienced in evictions of tenants for nonpayment of rent or other breaches of the lease contract.

Our prices are low. We can offer

  • Full-service eviction, or
  • Limit our role to consulting with you. We will provide forms and explain the process so you, as landlord, can handle it yourself.

Remember before you lease to thoroughly investigate your tenants so you can prevent an eviction situation in the first place. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes.

Call For A Free Case Evaluation

Case evaluations are completely free; our fees are flat and affordable. Call Leigh Law today at (501) 227-ROAR or Email Us to set up a free consultation.