Evicting a tenant isn’t as simple as telling them to leave. The process can be complicated and time-consuming, especially when a tenant overstays their welcome and won’t vacate the property. When this happens, property owners can find themselves frustrated and worse — with dwindling finances.
To avoid holdover tenants from hurting your South Florida rental property’s bottom line, we’ve compiled a couple of common scenarios and what you can do to handle them.
What is a Holdover Tenant?
A holdover tenant is an individual that refuses to move out of the rental unit after their lease has ended. By law, a holdover tenant is allowed to continue staying in the unit, however, the landlord has the right to evict them if they refuse to continue paying rent. There are two types of holdover tenancies: “tenancy at will” and “tenancy at sufferance”.
A holdover tenant can be considered a tenant at will. This is a type of tenant that occupies a rental unit without a lease contract, but with the consent of the property owner. In this scenario, the tenant can choose to leave at any time, and the landlord can also choose to evict them at any time. On the other hand, a tenant at sufferance occupies a rental unit past the end of their lease without the consent of the property owner.
It’s important to note that laws regarding landlord-tenant relations can vary depending on where you live. Hence, you should always consult with a lawyer who concentrates on this specific aspect of real estate. Alternatively, you can hire a South Florida property management company that is well-versed when it comes to these laws.
Why Won’t Tenants Leave After Eviction?
If you’ve decided to evict your tenant, you should start by serving them an eviction notice. Unfortunately, not all tenants will leave even if they’ve been served. You may feel sympathetic toward tenants that won’t leave, but remember that holdover tenants can be bad for your business. Below, we’ll outline the common reasons why tenants continue to stay in their unit, as well as what you can do to move the eviction process along.
#1 Tenant Receives the Eviction Notice But Refuses to Leave
Sending the eviction notice is step one of getting your tenants to move out. There are several types of eviction notices, such as the three-day notice to pay for nonpayment of rent, five-day notice to quit for lease violations, 30-day notice for a month-to-month lease that’s coming to a close, and so on. Eviction notices vary by state, so you consult your property management company’s legal counsel to ensure compliance.
If the tenant does not respond to the eviction notice or vacate the property, here’s what you have to do:
- File for eviction with the courthouse
- Gather evidence to support the tenant’s violation
- State your case at the court hearing
Should you win a writ of possession, the sheriff’s department will remove the tenant from the unit.
#2 Tenant Does Not Agree With the Cause For Eviction
Let’s assume that you serve your tenant an eviction notice because they haven’t been paying their rent. They could say that the cause for eviction isn’t reasonable, considering that the payment terms weren’t clearly outlined in the lease.
The first step you should take is to talk to the tenant. Explain to the tenant why you served them the eviction notice and hear their side of the story, as well. You may be able to work things out without going to court. However, if the situation escalates, you will have to file a court hearing where you can present your case.
#3 Tenant Needs More Time
Even if you win the eviction hearing, the court can award the tenant with a “stay”. This provides the tenant with more time to move. A “stay” is usually granted to tenants that are having a hard time moving such as the elderly. The period allotted for the stay is decided in court.
In this situation, there’s not much you can do. However, you can challenge the court’s decision if you find that the stay is unreasonable.
#4 Tenant Ignores the End of the Lease Agreement
So, you’ve sent your tenant a 30- or 60-day notice to remind them that their lease is nearing its end. They don’t get in touch with you so you assume that they won’t renew. However, on the day that they’re supposed to leave, you discover that they don’t plan on moving at all.
To handle this, you’ll have to proceed with the eviction process. Alternatively, you could try providing your tenant with monetary assistance to help them vacate the property sooner. Chances are that they simply can’t afford to find another place to stay.
What Shouldn’t You Do When a Tenant Refuses to Leave?
Now that you’re aware of what you should do, let’s go over what you shouldn’t do. If you’re dealing with a tenant that won’t vacate the unit after eviction, remember that you should never remove them through illegal means.
- Never change the locks. Remember that the eviction proceedings are still ongoing. While you wait for the decision of the judge, do not attempt to take matters into your own hands.
- Never shut off their utilities. You should not force your tenant out of the unit by shutting off their water, electricity, etc. This is illegal in all states.
- Never destroy or remove their belongings. Without a court order, you cannot dispose of the tenant’s things even though their lease has ended.
- Never intimidate a tenant. The court may order you to provide them with the communications you’ve had with the tenant. Unprofessional conduct (i.e. harassment) could put you in hot water. Hiring a property management company can help ensure that your correspondence is cordial at all times.
How Can You Avoid Holdover Tenants?
To avoid dealing with a holdover tenant, you should remind your tenant that their lease is about to end at least 60 days before it is terminated. It’s also a good idea to screen your tenants to guarantee that they won’t stay past the lease agreement. That way, you won’t have to go through the long eviction proceedings.
A property management company such as Luxury Property Care can screen your applicants to ensure that responsible tenants end up staying in your South Florida property. Our licensed property managers will review each potential tenant’s records to ensure that they have no history of eviction. That way, you can receive your rent on time and avoid dealing with the eviction process.