How to avoid an eviction action

A recent article stated that 19,000 evictions were filed in Franklin County, Ohio over a one year period. That number is short by about half. As of December 1, 2016, over 37,000 evictions have been filed in Franklin County. Evictions are a huge problem in Central Ohio. Neither landlords nor tenants want to do deal with an eviction action.

For landlords, evictions are a significant expense of time and money. They have lost a month or more of rent, must pay court and attorney fees to proceed with an eviction, after re-taking possession, must get the rental until ready for re-renting, and find a new tenant.

For tenants, an eviction action means uncertainty, loss of a place to reside, a negative mark on their credit record, a possible money judgment against them, and difficulty in finding another rental arrangement.

As a tenant, what can be done to avoid an eviction action from the outset?

1. Make paying rent your highest priority. I’m always amazed when I run into a tenant who justifies nonpayment of rent by claiming she had to pay other expenses before her rent. I once dealt with a couple on a land installment contract who failed to pay December rent because they had to buy Christmas presents for their children. Their monthly payment was around $1500+ and, if memory serves, they owed more than just December’s rent at the time. Really? You had to lavish your children with almost $2000 in gifts and that took priority over paying your rent? Besides health/medical expenses, paying to keep a roof over your head is a very high priority.

2. Establish a history of paying your rent on time. If you have a history of timely paying your rent, you will likely have more leverage with your landlord when you do have a problem. If, however, you are always late on rental payments, your landlord is less likely to give you a second chance because he/she has already given you several second chances to timely pay your rent.

3. Create a good rapport with your landlord from the get-go. Don’t be a jerk every time minor issues arise at the rental unit. Some tenants immediately become extremely hostile towards the landlord about insignificant issues. Remember that you may need your landlord to do you a favor later. Try to keep him/her on your side throughout the landlord-tenant relationship and even beyond.

4. Communication. Many tenants drop off the face of the earth after becoming late on rent. A landlord is forced to file an eviction because he/she simply can’t get in contact with the tenant. You are better off anticipating the rent shortfall, contacting the landlord in advance of the problem, and trying to work out a payment plan.

5. Anticipate rent shortfall and seek help from community organizations. Here’s a list of agencies and the like that you can contact to help with rent deficiencies in Central Ohio. Do this in advance of the rent due date and inform the landlord of the steps you are taking to get help paying the rent. Don’t show up at the eviction hearing and indicate that you are going to do this. You should’ve already done so.

6. In addition to the resources listed above, seek rent payment help from family and friends.

7. If you still can’t pay the rent on time, attempt to negotiate a move-out date with the landlord to avoid the eviction action entirely. Remember that landlords are unlikely to give you a month or more to vacate if you are already behind in rent. You should attempt to move out within two weeks or less. If you can’t negotiate a move-out date, vacate the rental unit prior to the landlord filing the eviction; return the keys to the landlord; and notify the landlord in writing that you have moved out.

I’ll add more suggestions on avoiding evictions with time but these should provide most with a start for doing so.