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Dealing with a problem tenant? Don't help yourself into trouble

Sooner or later in your career as a landlord, you'll face a problem tenant that stops paying.

It's frustrating to go through the formal eviction process, especially because it can takes weeks or even months to complete -- which is a lot of time to go without more rental payments. However, no matter how tempting, don't engage in any sort of "self-help" evictions. They're illegal, and you can end up in more trouble than your tenant in the long run.

Self-help evictions include any sort of behavior or action that forces the tenant to move without the due process of eviction. That includes any number of possible (and sometimes creative) things that desperate landlords have done in the past:

-- Waiting until the tenant is at work, church or grocery shopping and changing the locks.

-- Turning off any utilities that might be deemed necessary to life, like the water, gas and electric. Even if these are included in the rent and you pay them, this is illegal.

-- Parking outside the tenant's building for hours on end, forcing him or her into a confrontation every time you can.

-- Going to the tenant's neighbors and telling them the problem to try to embarrass the tenant into leaving.

-- If it's a residential tenant at an apartment complex or other rental property, going to their place of work to confront them.

-- If it's the tenant for a retail space or business office, parking outside and telling his or her customers or clients that your tenant is a deadbeat.

-- Physically or verbally threatening the tenant.

-- Going inside the occupied building and putting the tenant's possessions on the curb.

If you do any of these, your tenant can actually take you to court. If the tenant is still in the space, it will delay your eviction proceedings and possibly net you a fine. If you forced the tenant out, you can end up having to pay your tenant damages.

Since evictions are complicated processes, it's smart to engage the help of an attorney. If you're dealing with a non-paying tenant in a residential or commercial space, talk to a real estate attorney today.

Source: FindLaw, "Illegal Evictions Can Get You In Trouble for Landlord Harassment," accessed May 17, 2017

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