- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 4, 2005

Chris stroked his beard and shook his head, saying, “It’s not fun.” He was talking about having to walk up to the door of one of his rental properties recently with an armed sheriff and serve eviction papers to one of his tenants.

The couple had been living there about a year, and suddenly the rent check didn’t come. He gave notice, per the lease, and the check still didn’t come. After meeting with the husband, he was given assurances that the back rent would be paid and that future payments would be on time.

A month later, Chris knew he was going to have to evict this man, his wife and their children — not a comfortable thought.

All Chris wanted to do was rent out good, clean, affordable properties to good tenants, and now he was having to exercise the “heavy” part of the lease: Tell the renters they were no longer welcome to live there, change the locks, put all the furniture outside and go to court for money owed — even though he knew he probably never would see it.

What followed was an emotional explosion from the wife toward her husband — she thought he had settled the debt.

If you ever must face evicting a tenant, all sorts of thoughts float through your mind. First of all, an investor never wants to believe that the person they were so happy to rent their dwelling to a few months before is someone they will be walking up to the door with law enforcement and telling — not asking — to leave.

Second, because most investors have properties leveraged with a mortgage, you start worrying that you won’t be able to make the payments on the mortgage and that the lender will start making some threats of his own.

Third, as you enter the property, you are clinging to a thin strand of hope that maybe, just maybe, the house doesn’t need a lot of repair, which would cause even more financial setback.

The eviction process differs state by state, even county by county. In Chris’ case, five days after the rent check was due, he filed paperwork with the court to set the eviction process in motion. From that point, he had to wait three weeks before the court met to hear the case. In the meantime, the sheriff called and set up a time to visit the tenant’s house to serve notice of the court date.

By the time all this comes to pass, the tenant may be two months behind in rent, which could leave you two months behind in mortgages.

Between the filing and the court date, Chris tried to work out finances with the tenants, as eviction day loomed.

Once the court date came and the judge gave approval for the eviction, Chris joined the sheriff and walked up to the door to change the locks and inspect the property.

In this case, the worst happened — all the furniture and belongings were still in the house, and the wife didn’t know what was happening. Chris was the one to break the bad news. She sat there and cried and apologized profusely, promising to pay him back. (And payments have begun.)

Nevertheless, the furniture had to be moved out and repairs made.

As you consider investing, be sure to look at the good, the bad and the ugly. Look through your lease carefully, especially the sections outlining your rights as the landlord and the process for taking back ownership of your property and evicting the tenants. Know the tenant-landlord laws in your jurisdiction. Although they are created to protect the housing rights of both tenant and landlord, they also can cost you a lot of money, and you need to be sure you’re able to pay.

M. Anthony Carr is the author of “Real Estate Investing Made Simple.” Post questions or comments at his Web log (http://commonsenserealestate.blogspot.com).

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