The 7 Keys of Eviction
Many property management customers come to Real Property Management Chicago with a tenant problem. Generally the tenant is continually late with the rent or has not paid in some time. The property owner comes to our company looking for help. We almost always have an eviction in process because of this. Over the years, I’ve developed three key functions to best manage the risk of eviction with your rental property.
- You get what you screen for. This refers to the qualification process used. Do you have a systematic process in place to ensure you get qualified residents? A survey conducted by Liminality, Inc. “found that 21 percent of DIY landlords sometimes or never conduct background checks on their prospective tenants.” Beyond background checks, do you know the full story behind why your prospective resident is moving? Here are some questions you can ask:
- Why move now?
- What’s wrong with where you’re currently living?
- If I were to call your landlord, would they give you a good reference?
- Is there any urgency? Why or why not?
- We verify you have at least 2.5 – 3 times the rent in gross monthly income. Is that a problem?
- Keep detailed records. One of the first questions we ask is to see a rent ledger. This doesn’t have to be complicated – a copy of a page where all rent payments are recorded is sufficient. Many landlords use spreadsheets. The same goes with work requests. When were they requested, when were they completed, and by who? When a complaint is raised in court, usually the defendant responds with a motion for discovery. They ask for all of these records. If you don’t have them, it’s hard to move your case forward.
- Make sure your behavior is beyond reproach. Are there mice in the unit? Is there an illegal living situation? Did you look the other way when it comes to lead notification? Did you handle the security deposit correctly? It is much more difficult to enforce your legal rights if you are violating others’. The first step is to bring your rental property into compliance with all laws and regulations.
- Decide your recourse in advance. It’s more difficult to decide to send a 14 day pay or quit notice when you’re in the middle of dealing with your tenant’s reasons for not paying. It’s a lot less difficult if you’ve already decided how you’re going to enforce the contractual agreement between the two parties. This isn’t to say every action can be done with compassion and caring for what may be a tough situation. It is to say you can create your policy for how you’ll deal with late rent or lease violations before you start renting. This makes it easier when you can explain that you decided long ago how you’ll handle these matters when they come up.
- Be prompt and consistent. We review eviction status on a weekly basis. Our office process is to send out notices on the 6th business day of the month. This puts us on track to file for a hearing by the end of the month. While it shows our tenants we take lease agreements seriously, it also helps them to quickly work with our office staff to come to an agreement so both sides can stay out of court.
- Use an attorney. While individuals are allowed to handle eviction matters in Illinois, the process can be confusing and complicated. An entire process can be reset because someone missed a filing or stated something the wrong way. It may feel expensive at the outset, but using an attorney is one of the surest ways to move your disagreement to conclusion as quickly as possible.
- Stay positive amidst challenges. Illinois is one of the toughest states in the nation to uphold landlord rights. Still I have yet to see a time where property owners did not rightfully prevail if they took their landlord responsibilities seriously, were timely in addressing all issues, and used appropriate legal counsel.