Obviously, evicting a tenant is not a thrilling part of real estate investing for the tenant or the landlord. What follows is a description of the eviction process itself (especially as it pertains to what can be expected in Ohio), pepered with some of my personal comments with regards to how I typically handle evictions.
Generally, if I've not received rent monies from a tenant by the 8th or 9th of the month, I call the tenant. My leases stipulate that the tenant has a grace period until the 5th of the month to mail rent monies without being charged any type of late fee. As long as the envelope is postmarked by the 5th – no late fee. Asking 3 or 4 days (from the 5th) for a tenant's payment to arrive is pretty liberal and plenty of time to allow for the monies to be received from cross-town mail.
If upon a call to the tenant I believe we're going to have problems, I immediately deliver a 3-day notice to the property. A copy of the notice is made before delivering. The 3-day notice is posted (taped) on the front door of the property if the tenant or other occupant is not there when it's delivered. Any tenant that reaches this point (the starting of the eviction process), is advised that the 3-day notice is simply being posted as a way to protect my interests in the event the tenant does not make good on the outstanding monies due.
Attaching a 3-day notice to the tenant's door does not negatively affect the tenant's public record. It's not until the 3-day is basically filed that it becomes public record. The landlord can not file for eviction until 3 business days have passed from the point the 3 day-notice was placed on the property. Once the 3 business days are up, the landlord can begin the formal eviction process. How does this start? You will take your paperwork, including a copy of the 3-day notice, and file to have an eviction hearing. I use an attorney to process all of my evictions. Specifically, one specializing in handling evictions. I personally prefer using an attorney that will try to remedy the situation with the tenant before the case is even heard. You do not have to use an attorney – you can do a lot of this yourself and save a few bucks, but I recommend you use one. If you've never been to your local court system to witness eviction hearings, I highly recommend it. You'll soon get a flavor of what takes place during these hearings and will know what to expect ahead of time should you ever get to the point of processing an eviction on one of your own properties.
You can expect it to take approximately two weeks before your hearing is scheduled. It's important to note that I always keep the communication line open with the tenant through this whole process. I think this is extremely important. I want the tenant to know that I do not like going down this path just as much as the tenant does not. It's not my goal just to boot a tenant out of the property. In fact, I try very hard to work out payment arrangements or even payment assistance resources with the tenant in an effort to get him or her back up on their feet. Yes it may take a little hand-holding and some of your extra time, but I'll say eight out of ten tenants going through this extra hand-holding will appreciate your trying to help and will absolutely clear their overdue balances with you. You walk a very fine line here with the tenant in that he or she may also be taking advantage of you. It can be a tough call. At times it can simply come down to relying on your gut feeling with the situation.
If judgment is taken (in your favor) at the hearing, the judge will give you permission to "red tag" the door. A red tag is just that – it's bright red and has marked on it the date that possessions will be moved out of the property if the tenant has not vacated. The tenant has five days from tagging to get out of the property. It will usually take 2-3 business days after the court hearing for this tag to get placed on the front door of your property. Again, I keep the tenant abreast of my intentions during this process. You as the landlord call the shots with regards to whether or not any possible set-out occurs. I mention to the tenant that I still do not desire to set property out at the curve, and if payment arrangements can be made, the set-out can be averted. You will again have to make the call here. Do you want to accept only partial payment for what is owed and try to arrange a plan for payment on the extra monies? Or do you feel the tenant is just not going to make it, and in this instance, follow through with the eviction process?
The final step is the dreaded set-out. It's extremely rare that I ever have to get to this point. If it comes this far, frankly the tenant desires it. I've given them every opportunity within reason to try and remedy the situation or move out on their own accord. If the tenant has not moved out by the date stipulated on the red tag, you as the landlord have the right to order a set-out with the bailiff. Again, an attorney that specializes in evictions really helps here. In Columbus, Ohio, you only have a two hour window Monday-Friday to request and schedule a set-out. Additionally, the set-out must be scheduled within ten days following the red tag, or you have to order a supplement red tag (more money).
When the set-out is requested (it's generally a day and time agreed upon by you and the bailiff), you will be expected to have at least four people dedicated to setting furniture and belongings out of the house. You will also be required to have trash bags and boxes to pack items before removing them from the house. Good maintenance workers will be handy to have when you get to this point.
As you can see, evictions can be a rather drawn-out process that generally take a good three to four weeks to run their route. This is why I believe it's very cruel to always maintain good communication lines with your tenant and try and be as professional as possible in handling the situation. It will be frustrating! … but try and keep an open mind into ways you can help your tenant get through this. A good positive attitude can go a long way to making this process less stressful to both you and the tenant!