The True Cost of Eviction is More Than $5,000

Written on July 17, 2015 by , updated on April 21, 2016

Cost of EvictionHindsight is 20/20, and when you’re in the middle of an eviction, it’s easy to say “I should have screened better”.

Simply put, eviction it’s the act of removing a tenant by force and it’s generally quite expensive for the landlord.

But how expensive is it really?

There are two common ways of evicting a tenant. One method is legal, the other is not.

Formal Eviction (Legal)

eviction-3

The formal eviction process varies from county to county, but it generally looks something like this:

  1. Give proper written notice to the tenant to remedy the situation (i.e. pay up), or vacate. Notice requires vary by state.
  2. Terminate the lease after the tenant does neither.
  3. Immediately file an “unlawful detainer” action with your local county court system.
  4. Serve the tenant a summons to appear in court (if the court doesn’t do that for you)
  5. Attend the hearing, win the eviction judgment (and a financial judgment, if allowed)
  6. Get a “writ of possession”, which is a court order allowing you to hire the Sheriff to remove the tenant by force.
  7. Wait for the Sheriff to pencil-you-in, and show up at the property at the scheduled day/time.
  8. The sheriff will remove the tenant (by force if necessary), but then you are usually left to remove the belongings (also varies by state).
  9. Change the locks so the tenant can’t get back in.

Related: How to Evict a Tenant – The Eviction Process in 8 Easy Steps

Potential Costs of a Formal Eviction:

  • Lost Rent: $3,000
    Unpaid rent before, during, and after the eviction proceedings (3 months)
  • Lawyer: $500
    Legal fees to an attorney, if you hire one.
  • Court Costs: $150
    Court filing and administrative fees (varies by county).
  • Sheriff: $50
    Fees to hire the Sheriff to execute the Writ of Possession.
  • Locksmith: $150
    To change the locks on the day of the eviction.
  • Repairs: $1,000
    Malicious damage and junk removal – although less since you didn’t lock them out.
  • Cleaning fees: $500
    Do you really think they are going to clean if you evict them?

Cost of Formal Eviction: $5,350

Obviously, these numbers will vary depending on your rent price, county, and whether or not your tenant vacates willingly. From what I’ve heard from other landlords, tenants do less malicious damage if you go through the court system.

Self-help Eviction (Illegal)

Self-Help Evictions

Not just anyone is allowed to evict a tenant. In fact, in most states, landlords and managers are prohibited from taking matters into their own hands.

When a tenant refuses to pay rent, it’s extremely tempting to change the locks and shut off the essential utilities – especially if the landlord is paying for them. But this is called a “self-help” eviction, and it’s illegal in almost every state (except Texas, I think).

Potential Costs of a Self-help Eviction:

  • Locksmith: $150
    Because you decided to change the locks while your tenant was at work.
  • Broken Window: $150
    Caused by tenant regaining access when you weren’t looking.
  • Lawyer: $700
    To help you get out of hot water when the tenant takes you to court over a “self-help” eviction.
  • Court Costs: $1,000
    Because the Judge ordered to you pay the tenant’s court costs and legal fees.
  • Lost Rent: $3,000
    3 months of lost rent while you try to evict him the legal way.
  • Court Costs (again): $200
    To go back and do it again. This time you win the judgement.
  • Locksmith (again): $150
    The locksmith chuckles as he changes your locks again.
  • Repairs: $2,000
    Malicious damage and junk removal.
  • Cleaning fees: $500
    Do you really think they are going to clean if you evict them?

Cost of Self-Help Eviction: $7,850

Evictions Never Pay-Off

With the costs of formal evictions being more than $5,000, I’d rather just do a better job screening on the front-end. But if a tenant is a dead-beat, you need to get them out of the property, and find a tenant who will actually pay.

Again, hindsight is 20/20.

I’d rather just do a better job screening on the front-end.

Sure, you could win a judgement against the tenant for your losses, but winning a financial judgement and collecting on it are very different things. Are you really going to be able to collect from someone who can’t even pay rent? Maybe…. but probably not immediately.

Even so, professional collections agencies typically only have a ~17% success rate.

Do you think you can do better? I wouldn’t be able to.

Wage and tax refund garnishments are useful in some situations, but impossible if the tenant doesn’t have a job or documented income. Further, I think Federal employees are exempt from garnishments.

How to Prevent Evictions

The best way to deal with a bad tenant is to make sure they never move in.

If you do a thorough job screening tenants up front, you’ll prevent 99% of your evictions before they happen.

Personally, I run a credit report and background check on every applicant. I’m putting my asset on the line, and I need to make sure that whoever moves in will take care of it.

Potential Screening Costs

  • Traditional companies or property managers: $25-$300/applicant
  • Online screening companies: $10-$60/applicant
  • Integrated Screening Tools: Free for Landlords

I prefer to use Cozy for full detailed credit and background reports, because it integrates with online applications and rent collection.

Cozy is FREE for landlords, and only costs $24.99 for the applicants per report. I simply tell my applicants that there is no other application fee apart from paying for the screening directly through Cozy. It’s nice not to have to handle application fees anymore.

Related: The Landlord’s Guide to Tenant Screening

Next Steps

CozyYou have a choice. Will to take the time to screen well up front, or pay for it later? If you think that tenant screening takes too long, learn how it do it in less than an hour.

  • Formal Eviction: >$5,000
  • Quality Screening through Cozy: $0

Start Screening Better Tenants, Try Cozy

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I’m really curious, how much do you spend on tenant screening?

Let me know in the comments below.

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Topics:
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32 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • William Dorough

    Lucas,

    Great article, many people think they can just evict tenants when they end up with bad tenants from lack of screening. But many of them do not see those cost associated with the eviction. I hope this article will provide landlords an idea of conducting full screening to avoid those possible cost.

    Thanks,

    William

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi William
      Thanks for the comment. What method of tenant screening do you typically perform?

      • William Dorough

        Lucas,

        I typically perform their a background check and a credit check with an agency.
        Also calling for reference, previous landlords, an employer are must.
        If I see anything odd with those checks then further investigation may be conducted.

        Thanks,

        William

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    • Anne

      I was a tenant for around 13 years. To this same apartment
      I was evicted because of being victim of circumstance, but my opinion ex-landlord are greedy, and cold hearted and little dishonest and inflate prices and extra fees to ex-tenants. I have been there for around 13 years in the same apartment and new apartment owners bought this place around 3 or 4 years. I was not mean to them. This apartment hold bad memories, it started very be very ill when around near Thanks giving and again few months afterword very sick that I had to be hospitalized of total 10 days each time then my friend took the temp. of my frig and it was 55 degree and I have yogart. Yogart gets bad.It’s a nightmare. And events in my life situation also.My opinion.

      • joe blizzo

        Wow anne. Thats an amazing story. Were you evicted for eating warm yogurt. 13 years. In the same apartment. Thats a long time to live with bad memory’s. Exlandlords are the worst.

  • Rick Banez

    Great article! Thanks Lucas!

    As a property manager, we are aggressive about screening and getting the right tenants into our properties. It saves time and money on the back-end.

    • Lucas Hall

      Thanks Rick!

      Tenant screening is extra work, but oh so necessary.

      I’ve always thought that refusing to screen properly is like eating a pan of triple fudge brownies. It sounds like a good idea at first, but you’ll regret it later.

  • Jennifer

    The first time I rented my property to someone I knew personally. He never would have made it past a screening if I did a real screening back then. He lived there for many years and generally paid the rent on time.

    I recently rerented it. I didn’t do a background check, but did check credit, bank account, current income and spoke to former landlords. I have great tenants now and they pay through Cozy.co.

    I’ve learned more about tenant screening recently, and will have future tenants apply through Cozy.Co when the time comes. I’ve been lucky so far, but wont count on luck in the future!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Jennifer

      I too have rented to friends or family, despite my own advice not too. It’s always tricky, and when I did, I had to go into it knowing that I had to create some distance if I wanted to keep the relationship. It worked out okay (sort-of), but it did change the relationship forever, even though they did pay on time. They now see me as an authority rather than an equal, and it’s more difficult to spend time together.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying using Cozy. The product/service has single handedly saved me hundreds of hours a year, and I’ve not had a single late payment since using it, and my tenant’s absolutely love it. It’s a win-win.

      If this is helpful to you, I invite you to check out my free guide to tenant screening: https://www.landlordology.com/guides/landlords-guide-tenant-screening/

      Best of luck to you Jennifer, and please stay in touch!

  • Anita

    This whole idea of landlord having all the access to screening for potential tenants My sever the purpose them getting good tenants who can afford the rent. However,It seems a bit one sided,the point of landlords wanting good tenants and their abilities to pay rent is one thing,one the tenant side of the coin there is no way for tenants to have that access to landlord information. However,every situation for renters are not center around the needs of the landlord. Allowing the landlord the upper had after the fact that tenants are accepted and move in seems unreasonable. If the rental is accepted under a lease provision?,say under a housing assistance program who is responsible for the protection of tenants while under the lease?.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Anita,

      Are you suggesting that tenants should have the ability to run background and credit reports on landlords?

      I think you’re forgetting one very important thing. Landlords are providing the asset – often times a property that is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. A landlord needs to assurance that the renter will not destroy or devalue the property. A tenant gets 100% of the property on the first day of the lease, but the tenant only provides a relatively small reimbursement (monthly rent) which is spread out over time. That’s the main reason why the scrutiny is on the tenant, and not the landlord.

      • Anita

        No I’m not suggesting that tenants should run back ground checks on landlords. What I’m concerned with is that some landlords May appear to be in favor of a tenant for reason that are solely on their personal interest. All tenants are not looking to rent based on the needs of landlords. If landlords are only interested in get income from their rental property shouldn’t there be some consideration for the interests of the tenant in choosing a good landlord?. My situation turned out to be based solely on the interest of the landlord when the value of the property has been exceeded by years of consistent rent payments. The conditions of the unit are the same as when I moved in with no regular maintenance or over all improvements.

        • Lucas Hall

          Hi Anita,

          You bring up a good point. There are housing authorities and code enforcement depts at the county level who ensure that properties are inhabitable. But much of the non-critical maintenance is left to the discretion of the landlord.

          If a landlord doesn’t treat his/her tenants nicely, or doesn’t upkeep the property, they won’t be able to find good tenants – or they won’t be able to command top dollar. The bad landlords eventually go out of business – just like any other industry.

          • Jennifer

            * sorry I ran out of space.
            In any event, Anita has a good point; where I live in NY, It’s not like there’s a ‘network of tenants’ where word will get around that certain people are bad landlords. Bad landlords are always in the money! I know quite a few who cycle through renting then evicting tenants, as much as 6 times a year! The owners wife is a court clerk for the town so she knows all the laws inside out, and she knows EXACTLY how to get away with it.
            And think about it; if a tenant has a couple thousand dollars laying around to pay for an attorney, why wouldn’t they buy a house?
            I’m not saying that all renters are poor, but it can be argued that -overall, a lifetime renter has less resources (and possibly education, or maybe…

            • Jennifer

              ** (sorry ran out of space, and my comment is all out of order)
              ….Their immigration status/not native English speakers etc may put renters at an unfair disadvantage.
              So I’m just saying- I have an interesting perspective of the topic, and in my experience, for every 1 bad tenant, I’ve met 9 bad landlords.
              … Maybe New York is the problem. Haha.

      • Anita

        Perhaps landlords should consider the tenants as valuable assets as well especially when they expect their rent. I have much respect for my landlord. For allowing me to rent The apartment,and for being a good landlord however,after 10yrs of consecutive rent payments it seems that the only interest was the housing assistance payment to the sole benefit to the landlord. The apartment should have never been approved under housing assistance. I just couldn’t find a reason to just move when the place has future potential. Yet the landlord has proved that they really have no other interest making improving to my unit. Even if I could get the improvements done at little or no cost to her. She refuses to do any repairs or improvements. Ten years later

      • Jennifer

        Lucas- I enjoyed a few of your articles, but I have to disagree with you here; although I may have a biased perspective- I live in New York…
        I just bought my first multi family house, but for the past 10 years have been renting/cohabitating, and helping friends as a makeshift lawyer (like yourself actually.. Haha) in my experience, Landlords get away with daylight robbery! :
        -9 out of 10 times ) The landlords don’t give back the security deposits *(at least not without a fight).
        -Not to mention- my tenants pay my mortgage!!! It’s unreal.. I got an FHA loan, put down 3.5%, and I will be living for free- with the rent I collect from my tenants. 30 years from now, I’ll own a house, and they will have nothing! It just feels really unfair.

      • Cassandra smith

        Actually that is correc. I do believe us as tenants should be able to SCREEN the landlords as well. I recently moved into a house that I didn’t know had a lot of code violations. I paid my rent and code enforcement came and said this house is illegal to rent and we would all have to leave. I have a lawyer. My thing is if I was aware that this fake “landlord” didn’t actually own this house and he was renting out rooms illegally then I wouldn’t have waisted my time. Also come to find out he was arested for assault on a female and possssion of marijuana. Safe beautiful quiet peaceful neighborhood outside of Orlando Florida. I would have never knew !

  • Anita

    I have been under termination and eviction more then once while participating in housing assistance. Both times for unreasonable circumstance that were beyond my control both landlord and housing authority ignored the entire cause of the reasons and proceeded to terminate and evict me without just cause. I had to get legal help at one point to prevent housing authority from termination based on neglect in address the causes of my situation. The problem was caused due to the utilities service continuously excessively over charging me for services I had not used. I’ve been in the unit and nothing has ever been done to remedy the problem. The only benefit of the housing assistance was to the landlord.

    • Lucas Hall

      I’m confused, isn’t the benefit of housing assistance two fold? The landlord has a governmental third party to ensure rent is paid, and the tenant gets help with housing costs? That sounds like it benefits both sides, no? What am I missing?

      • Anita

        So if the benefit is two fold then where is the quality of life for the benefit of tenants when hundreds of thousands of dollars are only invested in the interest of the landlord?. Not the property itself. What I’m trying to understand is that if my housing assistance is accepted by a landlord should that include the the improvement of the property and quality of life for tenants as well?.

        • Lucas Hall

          Hi Anita,

          A tenant has a right to a habitable dwelling and quiet enjoyment. Yes, the landlord should be making reasonable repairs to upkeep the property. But no, the landlord doesn’t have to do everything the tenant wants him/her too.

          A landlord should NEVER lock out a tenant from property. Each state does have their own statutes to protect renters. You can research yours here; https://www.landlordology.com/state-laws. Many states put a hefty fine on landlords that lockout tenants.

          I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

      • Anita

        Just want to thank you for your service. I just think that it’s unfair that renters have been lock out of the property value by allowing the landlord and the law to dictate the terms of rental agreements or leases. When they have statues and laws to protect tenants but do my require states to adopt them to the benefit of renters. That to me seems beyond unreasonable. Renters should not be determined by they ability to pay without ensuring that they will get good landlords. Some landlords accept a tenant base solely on the ability to pay but end up with bad tenants anyway. I don’t consider myself a bad tenant when I have ensure over 10 yrs of consecutive housing assistance payments by remaining a participant in the program. Thank you

        • Thomas Pouncey

          I don’t really get or understand your point about receiving some benefits from being the renter, I don’t see what you are trying to get out of it. I think that if you want to receive something then you need to buy a home and experience both sides before you complain about the part that is taking all the risk, all the responsibility, and making the payments. I am not trying to be argumentative but I just don’t see how you will ever make your point when the point doesn’t make much sense.

  • Cindy Fetch

    Question:
    Should I require background/credit report before showing property to potential renter?
    Thanks! Love this site (and Cozy)!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Cindy,

      There’s no absolute answer to this question. I’ve found that most applicants (especially the good ones) won’t want to give up their sensitive information, nor pay for screening reports, prior to seeing a property – simply because they don’t know you nor do they know if they will even like the place. They may see the property and decide that they don’t like it.

      The only time it makes sense is if you have a line of applicants waiting to apply. Then you can demand it. Otherwise, you’re just going to scare them away because the whole situation seems like a scam.

      I always require the screening reports at the time they submit the application. By then, they’ve seen the place and are confident that they want it.

  • Linda

    I am confused on the comments above from the woman who received housing assistance for rent and thinks that some how the landlord is reaping benefits because the rent was paid. People buy property to rent as an investment. It is not fun or easy to be a landlord. Keep in mind there is a mortgage to pay, taxes, utilities and maintenance. How much does she think is left over after rent is paid? Maintenance and upkeep are mandatory but why would they generously Re-do your apartment with new things? You got what you rented there is nothing more to it. The law favors renters of there are real issues. You don’t like your landlord then you move. It is a business and the landlord has their own bills, etc they aren’t indebted to you.

    • Lance

      Linda,

      The only valid argument I noticed in the situation that was mentioned previously is if the tenant was being billed for utility usage that wasn’t theirs. I’ve personally seen a few apartments where the electric is not restricted to the apartment being rented and the renter actually ends up paying for more than their share.

      I’ve also seen a few slumlords that seem to get away with not doing their work to ensure the house is habitable. Tenants just need to learn the process with getting government agencies involved to force the upkeep of the property. If its habitable though, get out if you don’t like it. My situation is different since I bought property to be able to take care of family so I don’t have to worry too much about. :)

  • jim flaig

    my name is Jim needing a miracle I’m on the flip side of this coin I’m a renter I’m asking if somebody landlord Brotherhood aside for just a moment I recently Got a visitor at my door stating that they had bought the house that we were renting I did not receive a hundred and twent days notice that they were selling the house of course this came at probably the most worst time that it could have I was out of work for 5 months do to my rotor cuff being torn that doesn’t work well with being a painter and wife working only part-time first time ever i Saw The inside of a food bank. Im 53 I collect no state or Gov.Assistance my wife and I over the 13 years we’ve lived here have collected quite a bit and so with no safety nets or family well

  • Carla

    My agent placed the tenant in my property, a single mom with 3 kids, but 8 people lived now. I reported to my agent about this, and he told me the company could not tell how many people live in my property according to law, not sure what kind a law they are talking about. I told him that I will have them to evict the tenants, the agent resigned and didn’t want to take care my property anymore. Please guide me what am I supposed to do here?

  • Tim

    Why do you include lost rent revenue when the tenant has already stopped paying you? Should be titled “total cost of choosing a bad tenant”. Many tenants leave before it gets as far as the writ or very soon after you file for eviction. But, point well taken about the cost of bad tenants.

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