October 7, 2023

JF3320: How to Evict With Compassion | Bonus Operations ft. Slocomb Reed




Bonus Operations is a series hosted by apartment owner/operator and Best Ever Show host, Slocomb Reed. In each five- to ten-minute episode, Slocomb provides his top takes for executing your business plan and maintaining cash flow.

In this episode, Slocomb Reed discusses the significance of evicting tenants with compassion and professionalism, emphasizing clear communication, advance notice, and assisting with rental assistance. Treating tenants respectfully not only benefits them but also leads to quicker resolutions and profitability for property managers.

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Slocomb Reed:
Best Ever listeners, welcome to a bonus operations episode. I'm Slocomb Reed. Today's episode is brought to you by Presario Ventures, a private equity real estate firm based in the booming Austin, Texas market. To learn how you can invest in the future of Texas with Presario Ventures, visit info.presarioventures.com forward slash best ever. That link is in the show notes.

In these bonus episodes, I give you my top tips for executing on your business plans and maintaining cashflow. Today's going to be a bit of a different Operations episode. This is a topic I am very passionate about. I want to talk about how to evict with compassion. I don't have a bunch of detailed notes, a script that I'm following here, just a few bullet points to keep my ADHD brain on track as I discuss something I've spent a lot of time thinking about here.

Let's start with this. I believe that all people deserve to be treated with compassion. I know that's something that a lot of people will say. I also know it's much harder to actually live out when you're dealing with people in an antagonistic relationship. For example, prescient examples in this case, tenants who don't pay rent or tenants who do things like move their registered sex offender son into their apartment against their lease and put your property on the sex offender registry. Or they get 911 called on them multiple times because of drug overdoses. So you have ambulances and fire trucks showing up at your property to Narcan someone who's your tenant causing serious lifestyle issues for not only the neighbors in the building, but the neighbors on the block. It is not easy. I don't know anyone who would claim that it is easy. to treat people who aren't paying their rent or who are causing major issues for you and their neighbors with dignity, respect, and compassion.

Before I move on, obviously this is going to be an episode about how it is that I try to live this out with the properties that we manage. Before I get into that though, let me say that treating people with dignity, respect, and compassion in this business is profitable. Profit is not the reason why I'm recording this episode, but I want you to hear this upfront, that treating people the way they deserve to be treated, specific to the negative situations that I'll be discussing here, like the eviction process, it leads to faster conclusions to these negative situations. When you lead with dignity, respect, and compassion, people will recognize that in your behavior. If this isn't just something that you say, that you put in the company documents to make it sound like you care. When you actually care, people recognize that and they are more willing, more ready to go ahead and get out of an apartment when they haven't been able to pay the rent or when they recognize that their behavior has been behavior that does not suit your place where they've been living.

So a couple of things here. How is it that I treat someone with dignity, respect and compassion when evicting them from an apartment that I manage. First of all, let me say that everything I'm about to explain with you, I have reviewed with my evictions attorney, the person who will be standing next to me in court in Ohio and Kentucky. So my processes are fairly Ohio and Kentucky specific. And of course, when you're looking at implementing a process that you need to be ready to have litigated, you need to be consulting with your attorney on your process it will involve the state and possibly local or regional level of law and regulation. So please don't just copy paste what I'm saying here and take it to you. Please do copy paste my sentiment though. That's what's important here.

So the first thing that I do or that I did when I was setting up my processes was I tried to put myself in the shoes of the person whose lease I was terminating, the person who is being asked to leave their home, whether they'd been there for 10 days, 10 months, 10 years, how is it that I would want to be treated in a situation where I hadn't paid rent for six months? Skipping over the obvious, let me continue to live rent-free kind of thing, recognizing that the landlord needs a resolution to the situation, putting myself in those shoes. How is it I would want to be treated? if I had to be told to leave my home, if I had to be litigated against.

Another note here for putting yourself in the other person's shoes is make sure that you're making space for volatile emotional reactions. Obviously, wherever you live, this is inevitably going to have to be delivered in writing. Please make room in your process for people to have emotional reactions to these kinds of notices and please make sure that your process gives them room to cool off before you get into conversations about logistics, like how they're going to get all of their stuff out of a place that they don't want to leave. Please give room for people to have emotional reactions. I'll get into that in just a minute.

I want to give you a step-by-step process that we use, but to summarize it first, I want to say... When putting myself in the shoes of the people I am asking to leave and then telling to leave and then using the court to make leave, we communicate everything we are doing, everything we are going to do in advance with detail. Again, in the manner that has been approved by the attorney who would be standing next to me in court. Let me go ahead and give you the step-by-step process.

So the first thing is, All evictions can fall into one or two buckets. It's either an eviction for monetary reasons or for behavioral reasons, either someone hasn't paid rent, or they are conducting themselves in a way that is disturbing the quiet enjoyment of the property by their neighbors or causing other issues. Either way, we communicate in writing upfront when there is an issue, and we communicate in writing upfront when we will be put into a position where we need to deliver a notice. So our tenants should be expecting to see it on their door. The actual posting of the notice. In Ohio and Kentucky, it needs to be posted on the door. There are other ways to deliver, but that's our preference. Small detail here, we post it on the door, fold it over and taped in a way that not everyone who walks by can see that someone is being given a notice of termination. You have to open it up to see what it is, but it's still posted on the door. And again, per my attorney, that is valid delivery of notice that still respects the privacy and dignity of the tenant who's being told that they have to leave.

Also, we, whenever possible, avoid personal contact at specifically this point in the process because the receipt of this notice by anyone, put yourself in these shoes. I suspect listener, that if you received a notice saying that you had to leave your home in a very short period of time, our notice in Ohio and Kentucky says three days, you're not going to act rationally. So what we do is we take a picture of the notice in advance, signed, filled out, everything, post it on the door, again, fold it over so that you have to open it to reveal what it says so it's not just anybody walking by who can see it. We take the pictures we need and we bounce. We're out of there and then I have sent those pictures to my tenant relations coordinator who remotely immediately sends them via text message to the tenant with the explanation of what they are and the explanation of what will happen with the next steps. 

The reason why we do that way is to avoid the possibility of confrontation. You can't punch someone who is halfway across the city or halfway across the world when they send you a text message. So we're making space for people to have volatile emotional reactions to that notice. In that message we explain exactly what's going to happen on day four if they're not out by the end of day three that we will be filing with our attorney.

Moving back into the step-by-step process, as soon as we file with the attorney and the attorney has a court date for us, we go ahead and give it to the tenant. Now I will say there are a lot of attorneys and there are a lot of landlords who will tell you to just turn off communications as soon as you posted that notice. Do not respond to anything from the tenant that's not an emergency and do not send any sort of correspondence because it could be used against you in court. I struggle to find the dignity, respect and compassion in that procedure. So again, attorney reviewed. We have scripted messages that we are sending our tenants to make sure they are aware of what is going to happen next. We are going through with this process. We are going through this process in a very professional manner. While we're not saying that directly upfront, it's very clear, especially as next steps occur and what we have told them actually happens. It's clear that we're serious. It's clear that we are still trying to treat them like people even when asking them to leave their home.

The first example of this would be after we file and we receive a court date, again, Ohio and Kentucky specific, when the bailiff sends someone to deliver the notice to the tenant individually and either hand it to them or leave it on their door, that's something that we told them was going to happen. And the notice they received from the bailiff reflects what we've already told them at least via text message about when the court date is, when they're expected to be there. 

Prior to the court date, we will notify the tenant that if they are not in a position to resolve the issue for which they are being evicted, either paying the past due rent or curing the behavioral issue, such as getting their sex offender registered son out of their apartment and getting the apartment building off of the registry, we communicate with them to see whether or not they're going to be able to get out of the apartment prior to the court date and we make sure they are aware that our preference is to dismiss the eviction hearing and receive the apartment back from them. Of course, vacant, empty, keys returned. We do want to dismiss the eviction proceedings instead of going to court if they can either pay the rent that's owed or give us back the keys and the apartment either empty or with things in it that are abandoned.

Important note for profitability here. I don't know how it works for you in your state in your process But I'm saving myself at least a month By getting the tenant out before we have court again. I believe this is best for everyone involved the Eviction hits a tenant's criminal record the moment we file Actually, I should have said this before we make sure that they are aware of that when we post the three-day notice that if we file it will end up on their criminal and in their eviction history which will be background checked by future property managers. At least though if we have to file and we can come to a resolution prior to court, we can make sure that eviction filing on their background check shows up as civilly dismissed. That is still advantageous to the tenant as well as of course giving us the ability to recover the apartment at least a month faster. A month faster is a month less vacancy. It allows us to get whatever we need to done to that apartment a month sooner so that we can get it rented a month sooner and get back to having revenue from that unit.

Assuming we do end up in court, I'm standing next to the attorney doing exactly what the attorney told me to do. As soon as we get out of court though... In every case that I have been to court, we have, of course, I don't want to call it winning, but the judge has ruled that the tenant needs to be out after seven days. As soon as that ruling has come down, we notify the tenant in writing, whether they were at court or not, most often not, we notify them in writing that the court ruled that they have seven days to vacate the unit. And on the eighth day, we call the bailiff to have them forcibly removed. 

Again, the vast majority of the time, we don't get to this point because of how clearly we've communicated and how clearly we've communicated not only our desire to have them out of the apartment as seamlessly as possible or to be able to collect the rent that is owed, but also they should have known that this was coming again.

It doesn't always work. I have had to set tenants out with the bailiff before. but only after having taken several steps to protect them as well as to protect us and avoid the prolonging of the vacancy, at least economic vacancy of the unit, and to avoid putting a person, let me say that again, avoid putting a person in a position where they have to frantically find some place to live with the 10% of their stuff that they were able to carry with them when my people had to set everything to the curb under the oversight of the bailiff. That's the situation that we most want to avoid. Again, I struggle to find the dignity, respect, and compassion in setting people's stuff on the curb. There is a contractual obligation that these tenants have to perform based on their lease agreement. And of course, that is what we are looking to have honored here. Again, also looking to... avoid this because of how long it means that we have been without revenue from the unit and how much longer that potential damages could have been caused to the unit causing me or causing my client in the third party management circumstance additional expense piled on top of that loss of revenue.

To resummarize the process, what I want you to hear is that we communicate everything and we make sure that we add the necessary details in a manner that demonstrates our professionalism and our ability to act on what we are putting in writing that we are going to do in large part because that's the way that I would want to be treated if I were in this other person's situation. A couple more things here. Please make sure you're making space for volatile emotional reactions to the notices and the communications that you are delivering. A big reason why we use text messages as much as possible in this process.

First, the states of Ohio and Kentucky, per the advice of my attorney, again, please consult your own, Ohio and Kentucky treat text messages as legal written notice, so it holds up in court, but also it doesn't put me or any of my employees in a position where they have to receive that volatile. reaction that we have come to expect from these messages. It's clean, it's simple, it's to the point. If you have the appropriate script then you are delivering the information that is necessary in a manner that hopefully makes the people receiving it feel recognized through this process.

And one more thing I should have added earlier, again I'm working off of bullet points here, speaking as much if we are posting a notice for nonpayment of rent, then we are giving the tenant contact information for any organization that we know has paid us in the past. We won't reach out on their behalf. That to me feels like a bridge too far for a handful of reasons I don't have time to get into here. But the moment our tenant has a case manager... for receiving their rental assistance, we become very proactive in working with that case manager to make sure they have everything they need from us. Often, frankly, bypassing the tenant to work directly with the case manager to make sure they have everything they could possibly need or request to get rental assistance approved and get it approved as quickly as possible.

Again, because that's in our best interest as well as in the tenant's best interest. And... Frankly, it is what I would want if I were the tenant who had fallen behind on rent. I would want a property management company who was helping me get that assistance after I had reached out for it. Time for me to land the plane here, best ever listeners.

In conclusion, treating your tenants with dignity, respect, and compassion, even and animosity, antagonism, conflict, tenant not paying rent, tenant having other behavioral issues that are negatively impacting the property, the tenants, the neighbors, and thereby the landlord. Treating these difficult tenants with dignity, respect, and compassion is profitable. It leads to concluding negative situations faster. so that your units can return to generating revenue for you more quickly, which leads directly to your bottom line, to your NOI, regardless of your business plan. That said, it's not really the point of why I'm recording this. I believe, and I think you should too, that all people deserve dignity, respect, and compassion. Please use my experience to profit by treating people the way they deserve to be treated.

Best Ever listeners, I do sincerely hope and believe that you have gained value from this episode. If you agree with me, please do subscribe to our show, leave us a five star review, and share this episode with a friend who you know we can add value to through this message about how to evict with compassion. Thank you and have a best ever day.

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