How to Evict a Problem Tenant

by Shilpi Paul

How to Evict a Problem Tenant: Figure 1

Seeking out tenants with high credit scores and glowing reviews from previous landlords is ideal, but every so often a landlord encounters a problem tenant who makes their life difficult. Whether they are delinquent on their rent, trashing the home or running a drug den, an eviction occasionally becomes necessary.

We put together a quick guide to evicting a problem tenant in the District with help from the Washington, DC Tenant Survival Guide and Rick Gersten from Urban Igloo. Rules vary by jurisdiction and these are specific to DC, which is known for it’s particularly tenant-friendly laws. Of course, it will be helpful for both parties to have legal counsel in these situations, but UrbanTurf thought that this could be a start.

  • Be as specific as possible when drawing up the lease. Gersten also recommends doing a thorough inspection of the home with the tenant before he/she moves in, affirming that the condition of the house, the appliances and the systems is good. Take a photo with a newspaper, with the date visible, to verify the date that the inspection happened.
  • Make sure your paperwork — the Certificate of Occupancy and Basic Business License, for example — is in order for the rental unit, and that the unit meets all housing code requirements.
  • Prepare an initial notice to vacate. The notice should include the basis for the eviction and provide the tenant a description of how to fix the problem.
  • For violations including nonpayment of rent, violation of the lease or committing an illegal act in the home, you must give your tenant 30 days notice. If you simply don’t get along with the tenant, but they are paying rent and abiding by the rules of the lease, it will be extremely difficult to evict them. (For reasons that come from the landlord, like selling the home or undertaking major renovations, the tenant has a larger window of time. The rules are outlined well in the guide.) If your tenant has turned your home into a “drug haven,” you’ll be able to move faster.
  • If the tenant does not leave, you can start the official eviction process. File a suit of possession at the Landlord and Tenant Branch of the Court. Bring a copy of the notice to vacate. You are usually given a court date within three or four weeks (“Drug haven” cases will get an earlier court date.)
  • Deliver your notice of eviction in person, or post it on the door. Your tenant should have clear knowledge of the court date.
  • Meet your tenant in court.
  • If your tenant loses the case, file a “writ of eviction,” which will officially authorize the eviction. The writ, via the U.S. Marshal Service, will arrive at the address by mail. The cost for filing is $100. If the tenant owes you money, you can also file a money judgement.
  • With the writ of eviction, you have permission to take possession of the unit. A Deputy U.S. Marshal will be present. In DC, evictions cannot be scheduled on rainy days, or days when the temperature will drop below 32 degree Fahrenheit.
  • The landlord is responsible for bringing any equipment or hiring service-people to help. For example, landlords may want to rent a truck or hire a locksmith. The U.S. Marshals suggest hiring an eviction crew and bringing ample plastic bags and boxes.

Have any readers ever dealt with a problem tenant? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

See other articles related to: landlord, how to

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/how_to_evict_a_problem_tenant/5663


  1. Property buyer said at 10:05 pm on Wednesday January 29, 2014:
    I am thinking about buying a 5+ unit property in DC and it has tenants that are way below market rent. The building does not have a Certificate of Occupancy, is there a way to buy the building and evict the tenants since the building is operating illegally without a CofO?
  1. homebuyerpost.com said at 5:18 am on Friday June 24, 2016:
    I am having a similar situation. I am buying this SFR where the tenant is not paying rent for 4 months, nor does he have a signed lease. I will be renovating the house, and I will be sending him a notice to vacate after closing.

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