What to Do if You’re Facing Eviction

Unfortunately, during this real estate downturn, many people have found themselves in places they never expected to end up — sometimes even being evicted from their home.  Evictions can be the result of job loss, which leads to foreclosure or other some misfortune that has added to the statistics of this troubling U.S. economy.

While it’s never nice to be presented with an eviction notice, there are ways to deal with it gracefully.  Even though eviction laws vary from state to state, and every situation is different, there are some things you can do if you find an eviction notice taped to your door.

  1. Don’t ignore the notice.  Whether the notice is considered a legit, court-ordered notice posted by the sheriff or an “empty threat” note posted by an angry landlord, you MUST respond.
  2. Respond with common courtesy.  If you feel that the eviction is unfair, then the beauty of this country is that you can have your say in the matter in front of a judge.  However, if you really are behind on your payments and/or have broken some sort of agreement to pay (i.e., a lease or mortgage agreement), then you will likely need to have a really good reason for non-payment.  But you can’t go screaming, yelling or cussing at the landlord or the judge.  Be professional, you’ll get farther with both and maybe find some leniency that is fair.  Just be sure that you have your ducks in a row and have documented everything.
  3. Initiate a conversation with the landlord and propose some sort of payment arrangement.  Maybe you can’t make the entire $1,000/month payment, but you can make it in pieces.  Chances are your landlord doesn’t want another vacancy, so maybe they would be willing to make arrangements in which you would pay $500 at the beginning of each month and $550 in the middle of the month for a short term.  If possible, show good faith by offering to pay a little more to the landlord (call it capped late fees) for their efforts.
  4. Follow through.  Whether you make payment arrangements or some other sort of agreement, you must follow through.  If you can’t keep the arrangement that are agreed to, then ask the landlord if they have another rental that is less expensive for you to move into that will meet your budget.
  5. Accept that truth is truth.  Maybe there is no way of working something out and you must really vacate your home before the landlord and sheriff physically move you and your stuff to the curb. There is nothing wrong with downsizing until you get back on your feet.  Your landlord knows that sometimes people fall on hard times and chances are they are not completely heartless, especially if they see that you are trying.  Therefore, be cooperative and when you are back on your feet, you may still be able to use the landlord as a future reference.

Notice that every single one of these tips are related to some sort of communication.  Evictions aren’t pretty, but if you do find yourself in one then take a deep breath and let all the parties know what is going on.  Whether it be an exit plan on how and when you are moving out of the property or a payment arrangement plan, good communication will make a sour situation easier to handle.

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Jessica Hickok is a REALTOR® Broker and Property Manager/Landlord with Dizmang Properties, Inc. (www.getpaul.com) in Springfield, Missouri. She can also be found on Twitter as @SugarCube.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.