There are two broad categories of reasons to evict a tenant. One category is failure to pay rent, and the other category is every other reason to evict a tenant.
Evicting a tenant for failure to pay rent is fairly straightforward, and is discussed elsewhere in this video series. We generally know how the judge is going to rule in a failure to pay rent case. How the judge will rule in any other case, such as destroying the property, loud parties, unauthorized pets and so forth, is another matter. We may be able to prove that the tenant has violated the terms of the lease for loud parties, but especially in the liberal counties of Fulton and Dekalb, the judges in landlord- tenant court often serve as advocates for the tenants, and as a landlord you really have to prove your case. Another way to say this is that the court outcomes in cases where the tenant has not paid rent are pretty consistent. In cases where the tenant is current with the rent but has violated the lease in some other way, we never really know how the judge is going to rule.
Here is how to evict a tenant for a default other than not paying rent. Let's say the tenant's lease prohibits pets yet the tenant has a pit bull which he or she refuses to get rid of. If your lease prohibits pets, then the tenant is in default. Here are the steps to take for evicting a tenant for an unauthorized pet. These same steps apply to every reason to terminate a lease other than failure to pay rent. I'm going to refer to four form letters, all of which are available for download for free in our DIY landlording library.
- The first form letter is the "Notice of Violation." You would use this to inform the tenant that you know he has a dog, that this is a violation of his lease, and he needs to get compliant with his lease by getting rid of the dog.
- Assuming he doesn't get rid of the dog, you would then send the tenant a "Notice of Default." Tell the tenant specifically what you want him to do, in this case get rid of the dog. Give the tenant a reasonable amount of time cure the default, such as a week. Explain that the consequence of not curing the default will be lease termination.
- Terminate the lease in writing if the default is not cured by the date specified. Use the "Notice of Termination of Lease" letter for this.
- One day later send the tenant our "Demand for possession after lease termination."
- Now (and only now) you may file go to the county courthouse and file a dispossessory warrant.
Note that there is a legal "gotcha" here that you have to steer clear of. Step 2, terminating the lease in writing, and step 3, demanding possession of the property after lease termination, can be accomplished in very short letters. The main body of the letter may be just a brief paragraph. A long time ago I found myself myself following this checklist to evict a tenant for a non- financial lease violation. I was preparing two very short letters: One letter terminating the lease and one letter demanding possession. I thought, "This is stupid. Why send two one-paragraph letters, two envelopes, two stamps, when I can just send one two-paragraph letter instead, and save an envelope and a stamp?" So I wrote one combo letter with two paragraphs, one terminating the lease and the other demanding possession.
Later, in court, the judge studied my letter and gave a judgement for the tenant because I hadn't followed the rules. I had sent one letter with two paragraphs. I should have sent two one paragraph letters. I am not making this up. I had to start all over on that one with two letters and go to court again.
So, now, I always use two letters, and I even make sure I date and mail them on different days just to make sure I don't lose in court on this point.
Good luck with your own evictions! If you decide you want professional help with this, please find us at atlantapropertymangaement.com.