The dos and don’ts of eviction

When it comes to eviction, the landowners need to be aware of the potential outcomes of their actions. Evicting tenants is not a simple process. There are certain dos and don’ts dictated by law that all landlords should be aware of in following the correct procedure and having their tenants permanently removed from the property.

Definitely DON’T do this

No matter the behaviour of the tenant that a landowner wishes to evict, it is vital that the landowner does not take matters into his/her own hands. Doing so can result in serious legal trouble.

Throughout the entire eviction process, the landowner cannot legally:

  • Change the locks on the residence or add additional locks to prevent the tenant from entering or exiting.
  • Shut off utilities (e.g. water, electricity) for the property.
  • Forcibly remove the tenants or intimidate them verbally or physically. This is considered harassment and can take the situation from bad to worse.
  • Remove the tenant’s possessions from the property. Just because their belongings are inside the landowner’s property, he/she does not own them.

When a tenant is in breach of the contract, landowners should first make sure that the tenant is served notice to rectify the breach as stipulated in the lease agreement. If nothing is done to rectify the shortcoming, a landlord can terminate the lease agreement and start the legal process to evict the tenant if they are showing no signs of leaving on their own.

DO: Get a court order

Landowners can’t evict tenants themselves. While this process does cost money, the departing tenant should be obliged to reimburse your legal fees as well as any outstanding rent money, at a later stage.

DON’T: fail to properly respond to maintenance requests

While a landlord may be in the middle of an eviction process with a tenant, he/she is still responsible for properly maintaining the premises. If someone gets hurt because of the landlord’s failure to upkeep the property, he/she can be sued. Any failure to respond to a tenant’s request for maintenance can be used as a defence in the course of the eviction.

DO: avoid verbal communication with your tenant

It is advised that landlords avoid verbal communication with the tenant if possible. Written communication should be done so concisely and professionally, leaving out emotions. Using emotional wording may feel relieving in the moment, but in the long run it can exacerbate an already hostile situation.

Communicating mainly or only through writing also protects landowners legally. They are able to show the court or police how frequently they attempted to make contact with their tenants. It also provides proof of what was said and corresponding through certified letters also proves that the tenant received the messages from the landowner, which may be to the landowner’s benefit in court should they have a misbehaving tenant.

Read more about a tenant’s rights.