Minimizing the Cost of Evictions

on 07 December 2015

What do you do to improve your position once you have filed a dispossessory warrant?   Many landlords simply buy time waiting for the court date, or the appointment with the sheriff for the set-out.  

This can be an unnecessarily expensive course of action.  There is another possibility.

Often times, landlords make the mistake of assuming that tenants understand the consequences of their own actions.  But few really understand the eviction process.  Some errantly believe that once it starts, it has to finish in court—and that if they don’t win, then inevitably in a horrifying set-out.  Others believe that it is a big bluff, or they are simply delusional and don’t think it could ever happen to them—these are the scary ones!  Some think they are actually buying good time by answering the warrant, despite their meritless defenses.  Such deep thinkers may have a point there, unfortunately. 

The only advantage to owners in going to court is that they might get a money judgment.  But even this may not be an effective strategy.  If that is the sole reason for waiting to go before the judge, and the money judgment fails to bring them any money (way too often the case), what’s the point of it?Too often times, judgments are uncollectible for a whole host of reasons.  We might justify our actions and claim some success when they at least get summarily removed from the premises.  But is that what we waited for?

In most cases, time is not on the side of the landlord during eviction processing.  If for no other reason, there is the lost opportunity cost of collecting no rent while waiting.  But the main reason a quick settlement is attractive, is that the longer the eviction process lags on, the more disgruntled and maybe even outright angry the tenant becomes.  Generally that anger is misplaced, but regardless its virtue, the hostility that percolates up out of the pool of strife can result in horrific damages inflicted on the property at the hand of a vindictive tenant.

About 9 out of 10 times, these cases are settled in mediation just prior to going before the judge.  So it might be possible, and certainly preferable, to settle this long before the court date.  If such were the case, the tenant would be anxious for a lesser amount of time, and therefore also less likely to arrive at the malicious notion of destroying the property out of revenge.

My remedy begins with enclosing a well thought out, and very simply written memorandum with the demand letter—one that explains tenant options during the eviction process.  This is not posed from the point of view of a legal defense.  In fact, it really is not guidance at all.  It merely describes the horrible consequences that are inevitable if settlement is not reached, and admonishes them to meet as soon as possible to talk about better options.  It is a frank discussion, which paints a pretty gloomy outcome if an early settlement is not reached.  This memorandum is then followed up with a phone call or email (or both).  Reaching out in this way can be extremely effective.  The idea is to conduct a less formal mediation now rather than weeks down the road.

The next time you have an eviction staring you in the face, try taking a few minutes and talking to your tenant.  Find out what’s happening in their lives and see what can be done to salvage the relationship.  It may be the some of the most profitable minutes you ever spent.             

Daniel R. Wilhelm
Managing Broker
3 Options Realty, LLC.
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The author of this Blog is not an attorney. Nothing written should be construed as legal advice. Conclusions conveyed are outcomes based upon practical experience and should not be depended upon to be a common outcome of other similar circumstances.