Starting Off on the Wrong Foot with Your Eviction Attorney
I love it when a landlord calls me and tells me they have a written lease agreement with tenant who stopped paying rent. For me, these are typically very easy cases. This means my odds of having a very happy client will be high. But then the landlord hits me with the nine words I hate the most: “I already handed my tenant a notice to vacate.” When I hear this, I can instantly hear the voice of a certain corpulent cartoon character saying, “Doooh!” Never do this. Never hand deliver a notice to vacate. Doing so instantly turns your very low-risk eviction into a very high-risk, high-stakes eviction trial.
Why You Should NEVER Hand Deliver a Notice to Vacate – Two Problems
Problem number one is the content in the landlord’s notice to vacate. Often, these landlord-generated or internet-generated Notices to Vacate state something along the lines of, “I’m evicting you because you have left a car on cinder blocks in the front yard for the last four weeks.” Well, what happens when I appear in court and the tenant produces a picture of the property showing no such car? The judge is going to dismiss the lawsuit because the landlord pigeon-holed me into evicting for only the one reason. It is not at all expensive when my office sends off a Notice to Vacate for you. And when we do it, we won’t limit our options for evicting your tenant.
Problem number two is that if you hand deliver a Notice to Vacate, you give your tenant an opportunity to lie to the Judge. When your tenant lies about you hand delivering a notice to vacate, the Judge will almost always dismiss your eviction lawsuit. If it is your word against your tenants, the scales of justice can’t budge! The judge isn’t going to believe you over your tenant for no other reason than the fact you are a landlord. Never hand deliver a notice to vacate!
A Real World Example
I recently witnessed this scenario with an apartment community in a suburb of Fort Worth. It occurred to me that this apartment community almost certainly belonged to an association that contributed heavily to the Judge’s election campaign. But those substantial election contributions did not help the apartment community! The Judge MUST have some reason to rule for one party versus the other. When it’s your word against your tenant’s, the Judge simply has nothing to work with.
If you would like to learn more other common errors my potential new clients make, check out my book, Eviction Dismissed!.
Why You Should Let Your Attorney Handle the Notice to Vacate
Don’t be cheap about your Notice to Vacate! You’re not going to save yourself a lot of money if you handle your own notice to vacate. And you’re only going to make your case much riskier if you hand deliver a notice to vacate. Plus, when your eviction attorney sends the Notice to Vacate to your tenant, the notice will be delivered on your attorney’s letterhead. Think of the psychological effect that has on your tenant! Any eviction attorney who knows what he is doing will deliver your notice to vacate in a manner that makes it impossible for your tenant to weasel out of.
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