Evictions are troublesome not only for tenants, but for landlords as well. As a tenant, an eviction on your record could mean several things: money judgment against you in favor of a landlord, difficulty in obtaining future tenancies, potential immediate homelessness, and loss of property. For landlords, evictions mean time spent in court, money spent for attorneys fees and court costs, and loss of rent while trying to re-let the premises.
In order to avoid evictions, a landlord can do several pro-active things. This process should begin before the tenancy, through a screening process. One of the easiest screening methods is to run a background check on the potential tenant(s). The cost for this check can be directed back to the tenant as a cost associated with the application process. A background check will alert you to the tenant’s criminal history, if any. Another way to locate the potential tenant’s history is to run a check on the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access Page (CCAP). On CCAP, you will find the tenant’s criminal, traffic, forfeiture, civil, and small claims history, including evictions. Be mindful, some of the records may not have resulted in convictions, therefore it is important to run a thorough search of each record. Additionally, on CCAP you will be able to see if the tenant has outstanding court and probation costs due and owing, as well as any money judgments that he/she is currently paying on. These situations are important to note because if a tenant has other current monetary obligations, he/she may have difficulty making rent payments on a consistent basis. Lastly, talk to the tenant’s prior landlords. As the landlords questions about the tenant’s payment history, any damages to the premises at move-out, and any other problems the landlord may have experienced with the tenant. Although landlords are potentially competing for business, a landlord will never shy away from telling you details about a problem tenant.
Prior to entering into a lease with the tenant, you need to be sure your lease meets the specific needs for the tenancy. Included in your lease should be specific provisions regarding the tenant’s default and the steps that will be taken for you as the landlord to terminate the lease. Although boilerplate leases are often used, it is important to spend money have a lease drafted for your situations, to ensure you’re complying with your state’s landlord/tenant laws. If a lease is poorly drafted, several provisions might be void, opening you up to potential liability. You can approach an attorney to either draft the lease for you, or advise you about the lease you’re currently using.
Once the lease has been signed, work hard at maintaining a good relationship with your tenant. Maintaining a good relationship with your tenant does not mean being friends on social media sites or going out for drinks on the weekends. Instead, maintaining a good relationship means having open, consistent communication with the tenant. You want your tenant to feel comfortable coming to you with issues and/or concerns, and you want to be able to approach your tenant and attempt to amicably resolve any problems before they become an issue.
As you can tell, avoiding evictions takes time, but it is time well spent. In the long run, spending time preparing for and participating in eviction actions costs more money than the time it takes to implement the above-listed tools into your business as a landlord.