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Moving a Tenant Out of a Property

Written by Connor Swalm

Jaime: Hi there! My name is Jaime Swalm and I’m here with Connor Swalm, and we are hosts of the Landlord Resource, brought to you by Swalm Property Management. Where each week we provide practical content to educate and empower landlords just like yourself.  So Connor, what you been up to?

Connor: I’ve been managing some property and beating you at some golf.

Jaime: Yeah, well let’s just talk about the property management part and we’ll just leave the golf aside. Yeah that was a rough outing. So as you know, as a landlord, there are times that you need to move a tenant out of a property for whatever reason and how you move that tenant out is enormously important and so we had a recent experience of moving a tenant out and we kinda put together a process as a result of that so we’re gonna talk a little bit about that process today. So Connor, briefly describe the experience we’re talking about.

Connor: So in this case, we had an experience with a tenant where they have stopped paying rent and instead of moving forward with the eviction process, we reached an agreement where the tenant would move out of the property willingly. And so were in the process of moving the tenant out of the property, willingly, and we didn’t have a set process or set system of things that need to be done. We knew we need to do little things like the move out checklist, take pictures and whatnot, notify the owners, get some information from the tenant. But we didn’t have a set process that we were going to follow to move this tenant out of the property. It applies to not just tenants you’re having to evict, but we realized that we needed a move out process for every single time we move a tenant out of a property. So that was basically the experience that I had, I came to the conclusion that we didn’t have this process nailed down in stone, couldn’t reference it anywhere and I realized we needed to create it actually pretty badly.

Jaime: So would you say the most challenging part of the process was actually not having a process to follow?

Connor: As weird as that sounds, yes it was. So everything that we do at Swalm Property Management is designed and dictated from a system. So whenever we need to do a daily task or a monthly task, or yearly property inspections, it’s all 3 systems. So the scheduling of that, the handling of that, the communication to all necessary parties is all handled by a system that we created and so when I went to reference the system for moving a tenant out of a property and having the property change hands from a tenant to us, I realized that we didn’t have that and  so actually, you’re right, the toughest part was not having the process and having to create it at the same time.

Jaime: Absolutely. And the most important thing that we learned was we didn’t yet have a process for this that was documented and so we created the process and then we documented it and so now from then on out, now we use the same process. So Connor, why don’t you describe the process we put together?

Connor: So real quick, the 5 step process that we have is designed to protect the homeowner, and the landowner, and the landlord, and the tenant, right? And it’s all based around documenting so perfectly, so that if a claim arises from the tenant or if a landlord tries to make a claim against an owner, this protects them as well. So it’s just documenting the process so that all of the facts are all kept straight and nobody can argue with them at all. So the first step of that process that we came up with is actually having all financially responsible tenants to the lease say that they are willingly terminating their lease and vacating the property. Now, a lot of landlords have an addendum or a section in their lease, any ways where a tenant stops paying rent, the lease is terminated automatically.  In that case, I would still want to get this document signed by the tenants, stating that they willingly are terminating their lease because that is a formal notice that they are vacating the property. If they terminate their lease, they have no right to live there and if you get their signatures, they are recognizing that fact and so it protects the landlord from any claims that you evicted a tenant unwillingly or unknowingly. Because at that point, they gave you notice in writing that they knew that they were vacating the property. The second step is that the tenant hands you all keys to the property and then you get in writing that they handed you all keys that they have in their possession. So sometimes we provide 2 copies of every single key to a tenant when they move in so anytime a tenant moves in we give them 2 copies, sometimes you don’t get all those copies back and sometimes they just either forget to give them to you, they lose it or they just don’t want to give it to you for whatever reason. So this actually is another step in the process that shows they are vacating the property and they know they’re doing it and they’re willingly doing it. Because how could a tenant claim that you evicted them improperly and that they had no clue what they were doing when they were giving you all the access they had to the property at that time, right? They were giving all the keys that they had in their possession, that they knew they had in their possession. Step 3 is make sure all of the possessions that the tenant are either outside the property so they can pick it up , if they’re gonna pick it up later that day or already moved out by the time you get to the property. So another big thing I hear about especially when I talk about with other landlords is, you move the tenant out, and they leave some stuff behind. Sometimes it’s just junk, sometimes it’s trash, sometimes they leave a scratched up coffee table and then 3 months later you get a letter saying that that was a family heirloom and it was worth $8,000 and now you have to pay that, right? So if all of their property is outside the doors, or if they have signed a statement saying that they moved all the property that they wanted out already, they can’t claim that. So you remove all that risk of that happening. So you just want a tenant to state that nothing of value of theirs is left within the property. So that protects the landowner, and the landlord, and it also protects the tenant  at that point as well. Also, I would highly suggest getting pictures if they leave anything in the property, always take a walkthrough video, get a picture of anything that’s left in the property that you can reference in case any claim like this pops up. So if they say, grandma’s gold earrings that were worth $15,000 were left in the property, you have pictures of everything that was in the property and that’s not the case, right? There may have been a couple of paperclips but grandma’s gold earrings so that definitely helps you out in that case. The fourth step we have is take a walkthrough video of the entire property inside and out, narrating any damage that the tenants caused. So you should always have your move in checklist right there with you, you should be filling it out at the same time pretty much. You have your move in checklist so you know of any damages that exists beforehand and any damages that are new that had to have been caused by the tenant need to be narrated in a video. Also, if the tenants are still at the property, make sure you get them in the video because then that is another step in the process. It shows a timeline that the tenants were at the house when all of their stuff was moved out, that the tenants moved it out, that you didn’t force them to move it out and that they were there willingly. So it’s just another piece of information that collaborates the landlord’s story that a tenant moved out willingly. That’s all you wanna do, you wanna have all the information together so that the tenant cannot claim for any reason that they unwillingly moved out of the property. And if you have 5 pieces of information of video, 3 signed documents, the copies of all their keys, the document that says all their stuff was out of the property, they can’t claim anything at that point. They can’t claim that they left anything at the property that they wanted, they can’t claim that you moved them out of the property against their will because they signed all of these documents and they willingly moved out, so it’s just another piece of information to protect you. And the 5th step, and I highly recommend if you don’t follow any of the other steps, follow this step: change the locks when the tenants move. So there is company called Landlord Locks that a lot of landlords that we know use where you can just change the inner workings and your master key will still work on the lock. Highly suggest looking at that or you could go to Lowe’s, buy a $15 quick set and just change the lock and it comes with like 3 or 4 copies and you just change the lock right then and there. But you do not want to leave that property without changing the locks because we heard stories all the time, a tenant that hates the landlord for evicting them for not paying rent and they come back and they get access to the property and they just trash it and then everyone’s out at that point. Maybe that homeowner has insurance, maybe the homeowners insurance doesn’t cover it, who knows, but it’s just a big waste of time and a big waste of money. So if you don’t follow any of those steps, always follow that 5th step: always change the locks at the property that you have evicted the tenant on, always protect the home, always protect the homeowner, and that is the best way to do it. So those are the 5 steps that we came up with and actually it was a much larger process that we have whittled down to those 5 steps. We combined a couple of things, we also have to make sure that we will work within our legal rights to ask a tenant to sign all of these and through talking with some of our representatives and some other property managers realized that we were, and came up with that 5 step process.

Jaime: Yeah, and that’s a great process and so everytime we move a tenant out now, we follow that process as we just described it now. Now if one of our landlords that’s watching this wants to get a hold of our process, modify it, use it, so where can they do that?

Connor: You could visit our blog online, you could go to swalmpropertymanagement.com/blog. You’ll see our blog right there, it’s called Moving a Tenant out of a Property, and it’s a pretty quick read, spend 5 or 10 minutes looking it over, take that process, use whatever parts you want of it, see whatever works with how you guys who are watching this do business but always follow those 5 steps. I can’t really think of any other step that I would add or any step that I would remove because I really all 5 of those steps right in there and I would highly suggest using all of them.

Jaime: Yeah, so we would highly encourage you to log on to our site to take a look at that process. Use it as is for your own move outs or adapt it for your own purposes. If a landlord wanted to take a look at the supporting documents that we use as well, how will they get a hold of those?

Connor: So if you go to swalmpropertymanagement.com/content, every document that we use that is not proprietary is right there online. Examples of 5 and 7 day letters, documents that you need from the government to file for some repossession, all sorts of things are on there. I would highly suggest using those even if you have your own, reference those if you need to see what you’re missing or which you’re not or what you’re including that you shouldn’t and just get an idea of what professionally made documents look like.

Jaime: Yeah, so lots of resources on our site to help you, just give you practical content to really help you as a landlord. So any final thoughts before we go ahead and head out?

Connor: No, that’s pretty much it. I would highly recommend making your own process, this is the process that works with us, for the systems that we use, all of our software that we use. Just have some type of process bare minimum, and if you don’t follow any of the steps but one: change the locks on a property when a new tenant moves out. It’ll save you headaches, months and months of headaches, and thousands of dollars in damages from tenants that don’t like you for doing your job and I would highly recommend following it, it’s $15 set of locks for possibility of months of headaches and thousands of dollars.

Jaime: Alright. Well thanks for taking this time with us on The Landlord’s Resource, and we will see you next time.